~ September 17, 2008 ~
By this time next week the Autumnal Equinox will have arrived. Cooler temperatures are on the way. You can certainly feel it in the morning.
It is so chilly you can see your breath and then by mid-day the sun is warm, not hot, just pleasantly warm. What a great time of the year
to be outside. Isn't it beautiful?
The burning bush is starting to turn its namesake brilliant red and there are many maple trees whose leaves are turning
(photo) as well.
What is it about those colors that are so awe inspiring? The deep reds, burnt oranges (two of my favorites) yellows and
purples. It is hard to go anywhere without wanting to purchase everything you see. I am ready for the Equinox and will
celebrate its arrival. Winter will soon be upon us but for now I am not going to allow those thoughts to cloud my pleasant memories of fall.
How about the rain we had last weekend. Yikes! I am pretty sure we had over 4 inches in our neck of the woods. We had a small
amount trickle into the basement (Ugh!). I just hate it when it rains so hard and fast. I hate seeing the water run too swiftly over everything
it touches. I hate that it pounds my plants and that they will need a couple of days to recover. I probably shouldn't complain, at least we weren't
dealing with a hurricane. The good news is that we are set for awhile and won't need rain anytime soon.
When spring arrives there's nothing like a garden full of colorful tulips. By making smart decisions now you can extend
the blooms in your landscape. Tulips come in many varieties with bloom times from early to late Spring. We've
summarized what you need to know in our feature article,
Totally Tulips. Check it out.
Diggin' On Trees...
Fall is the preferred time to plant many trees and shrubs.
Warm soil, moderate air temperatures and autumn rains all help a
tree adjust to its new environment and set down roots with a
minimum of stress and shock. If you are transplanting
deciduous trees and shrubs, wait until their leaves have
dropped or at least changed color. Evergreens and conifers,
however, benefit from early planting in fall. In either case
watering (1 inch weekly until the ground is frozen) and mulching
the root zone are crucial to success.
Make Green Tomatoes See Red...
All this cool weather means green tomatoes are not likely to ripen on the vine.
And what's worse, if a rogue frost comes our way it's game over. Here are two
approaches to getting those green tomatoes to ripen out of harm's
the whole plant, roots and all, and hang it upside-down in a
cool, dark area indoors or in a garage. At temperatures in the
60's those tomatoes should ripen nicely. Just pull them off
the vine as they are individually ready.
- If the
above method is a bit messy for you try picking the green
tomatoes and individually wrapping them in newspaper. Place
them in a paper bag or cardboard box and store in a cool, dark
place. Keep an eye on them periodically. When they start to
redden up unwrap them and let them finish ripening at room
temperature. Hint - If you're in a hurry place an apple in
the bag with the wrapped tomatoes. It will really speed the ripening process.
tomatoes won't be far away!
A common sight this time of year is whiteflies on outdoor plants such
as annuals, tomatoes and other vegetables in our region. Whiteflies
do not overwinter well in the Kansas City area but can build up later in the season due to
migration from more southern climes and introductions from transplants.
For a pretty safe means of control try an insecticidal soap or a neem-based product.
These products are much more effective if used before the
population builds up. Chemical controls for ornamental plants include
Bayer Rose & Flower Insect Killer, malathion, pyrethrin, and Ortho
Rose and Flower Insect Control.
Pay special attention to houseplants that have spent the summer outside.
Check carefully for whiteflies before bringing inside for the
winter. If whiteflies are present, use a product labeled for
houseplants. All the products listed above but malathion are
labeled for houseplant use.
Beyond Soil Tests...
Though soil tests are useful for
identifying nutrient deficiencies as well as soil pH, they do not
tell the whole story. In addition to issues related to water and
sunshine here are some factors that can affect plant growth that
are not due to nutrient deficiencies or pH.
Too much phosphorus: While most Kansas City area soils
are naturally low in phosphorus, soils that have been
fertilized for a number of years may have phosphorus levels
that are quite high. Too much phosphorus can interfere with the
uptake of some micronutrients such as iron, manganese and zinc.
High phosphorus soils should only be fertilized with
fertilizers that have relatively low amounts of phosphorus.
Poor soil physical characteristics: Roots need oxygen as
much as they need water. A tight clay soil can restrict soil
oxygen levels as well as make root penetration of the soil
difficult. Increasing the organic matter content of clay soils
can help break them up. Add a 2-inch layer of organic matter
and till it in.
Walnut trees: Walnuts give off a natural herbicide that
interferes with the growth of some plants such as tomatoes.
Vegetable gardens should be at least 50 feet away from walnut
trees if possible.
Tree roots: Trees not only compete with other plants for
sun but also for water and nutrients. Extra water and nutrients
may be needed.
Shallow soils: When new homes are built, the topsoil is
often stripped off before the soils are brought to grade.
Though the topsoil should be replaced, it sometimes is not or
is not replaced to the same depth as it was originally. You are
left with a subsoil that usually does not allow plants to grow
well due to a lack of soil structure. Adding topsoil to a depth
of 8 to 12 inches would be best but this often is not
practical. In such cases, try to rebuild structure by adding
organic matter and working it into the soil.
Needle Drop on Pines...
It's not unusual for Savvygardeners to start seeing
noticeable needle drop on some of their pines. This is a process where
2 to 4-year-old interior needles turn yellow, then brown, and eventually drop
off. Don't be alarmed! This is a natural phenomenon that occurs every year and
does not hurt the tree. However, some years it is much more noticeable than others.
Still worried? Be sure to check that only the older needles are affected (the
needles on the tips of the branches should look fine) and that there is no
spotting or banding on the needles that are turning yellow.
New Turf Tips...
If you planted grass seed and have new
grass coming in here are a couple of good reminders for you:
Keep it cut to about
2½ inches. Just be careful that mower wheels don't tear
the grass from the soil.
Don't apply any
herbicides or insecticides until the new grass has been mowed
"It was a morning of ground mist, yellow sunshine, and high
rifts of blue, white-cloud-dappled sky. The leaves were still
thick on the trees, but dew-spangled gossamer threads hung
on the bushes and the shrill little cries of unrest of the
swallows skimming the green open park spaces of the park
told of autumn and change."
~ Flora Thompson