This Week's Gardening Tips from the Savvygardener
Missouri Organic Mulch, Compost, Bulk Soil
In This Issue
~ Thwarting Insect Invaders ~ Harvesting Sweet Potatoes ~ November Turf Fertilizing Is Best
~ Press The Squash ~ Leveling The Lawn ~ This Week's Photos
~ Early Mulchers Beware ~ Too Late To Seed? ~ Inspiration
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~ All About Composting
~ All About Mulch
~ Worm Composting
~ Houseplant Care
~ When to Start
Seeds Indoors
~ Seed Starting Indoors
~ Vegetable Garden Calendar
~ Seed Starting Tomatoes


Shrub Pruning Calendar
~ Pruning Clematis 
~ Gardening in the Shade
~ Summer-Flowering Bulb Care
~ Drought-Tolerant Flowers for KC
~ Preparing for a Soil Test
~ Changing the pH of Your Soil
~ Growing Herbs
~ When to Harvest Vegetables
~ Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
~ Organic Pesticides & Biopesticides
~ Cold Frames & Hot Beds
~ When to Divide Perennials
~ Dividing Spring Blooming Perennials
~ Forcing Bulbs Indoors
~ Overseeding A Lawn
~ Pruning Trees
~ Pruning Shrubs
~ Planting Trees
~ Deer Resistant Plants
~ Trees that Survived the Storm
~ Stump Removal Options for the Homeowner
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This Week's Photos

~ October 22, 2008 ~

A Hedge Apple A Day...
It is hard to believe that parts of Nebraska are getting a wintery mix today and parts of Western Kansas are under a blizzard warning until tomorrow. Yikes! I am so not ready for that. Whatever happened to the old gradual switch from one season to the next? You know, something that doesn’t shock us or our plants. I guess the next question would be, “Does a gradual change in the weather make a difference?” I would like to say that it would probably ease the pain but then I would be lying. I dislike winter even though I know how necessary it is. I know that my gardens will benefit from a good winters nap. That doesn’t mean it is any easier to swallow. I might as well deal with what is ahead - shorter, cooler (even colder) days.

What is it about hedge apples? I love them and stopped the car on State Line the other day (I am pretty sure that everyone behind me was happy about this) to pick some up. There were tons of them in someone's yard and the lady who lived there was kindly bagging them up for crazy, traffic stopping people like myself. I brought my hedge apples home and placed them in a white planter (photos). They are so beautiful to look at. The color, shape and size, it makes me want to eat one. They are certainly a nice addition to any pot. You can even bring them inside. Leave it to me to get so excited about something so trivial.

~ Shelly   

Thwarting Insect Invaders...
When cool night temperatures signal that it’s time to bring houseplants indoors a host of insects and their relatives may try to come indoors with them. Once inside they can undergo a population explosion and spread from the plant they came in on to others in your home. Other pests such as millipedes, centipedes, sowbugs and pillbugs, spiders, and earwigs may not harm plants or other materials, but their presence indoors makes them household nuisances.

Repotting your plants in fresh soil will eliminate many of these invaders. The others can be controlled mechanically - by broom and dustpan, vacuum cleaner, flyswatter or sole of shoe applied firmly to floor with the pest sandwiched between the flat surfaces.  The best approach is to inspect plant pots closely before bringing them inside. Shake or tap pots vigorously to disturb beetles, millipedes, spiders and other creatures and encourage them to leave their hiding places. If you find scale insects, mealybugs, aphids or other plant-destructive pests, use a hard stream of water or insecticidal soap to remove them. Quarantine these plants from other uninfested indoor plants and observe them closely. Treat any new outbreaks as they occur and discard any plants that are severely infested.


Press The Squash...
When you harvest your winter squash (Acorn or Butternut) check for maturity with your thumbnail. When pressed with your nail the rind of a ripe squash will not be punctured.  To harvest the squash, cut the stem, don’t break it off. The cut stems will dry and seal the squash so it will last for months in storage.  It is no exaggeration to say the squash you harvest in October and store in a dry place at around 50° to 55° F. can still be good to eat in April of next year.


Early Mulchers Beware...
Did you know that mulches applied too early can do more harm than good? Think about it. The primary function of mulch is to keep soil temperatures constant and prevent frost heaving, not to keep it warm. It is best not to apply protective mulch until the soil temperature has reached about 35°- hopefully at least a month from now!

Harvesting Sweet Potatoes...
Sweet potatoes need to be harvested before the roots are exposed to periods of cold weather, so usually harvest begins about the time of the first fall freeze. Freshly dug sweet potato roots are fairly tender, so the skin can be easily damaged. A process called curing solves this. Curing involves putting the roots in a warm, humid location for 5 to 10 days immediately after digging. A location about 85° to 90°F works best. A small area heated by a space heater and misting the area several times a day is ideal.

The curing process heals over scratches in the skin but also prompts another important reaction - converting starches in the roots to sugar. This improves the texture and flavor of the roots resulting in the moist, sweet flesh we associate with quality sweet potatoes. Always store sweet potatoes in locations where temperatures will be above 55°F. Cold temperature storage causes injury that can be irreversible, shortening storage life, turning the inside of the roots dark, giving them a strange alcoholic flavor, and causing premature rotting.


Leveling The Lawn...
Uneven lawns can really wreak havoc when you're mowing. These "pot holes" make level mowing nearly impossible and even walking through the yard less than ideal. You can fix small low spots in the lawn by carefully removing the turf and filling in the low spot with good topsoil.

Remove the turf by cutting 2 inches deep into the lawn with a flat-bladed spade, then angle the blade under the sod to cut it free, keeping at least 2 inches deep to get most of the roots. If you do it really well you will remove a single piece of sod. After filling the low spot, replace the sod, and keep it well watered until it is reestablished.

Too Late To Seed?
By far the most common question we are getting right now goes like this, "Is it too late to plant grass seed?".  The short answer, Yes, it's too late.

Here's the long answer. Grass seed put down now will have a hard time getting the soil warmth necessary for proper germination. Even if it does germinate it's very unlikely that the roots can get established before the really cold weather arrives. Hopeless? It's never hopeless. An unusually warm November coupled with some very good luck could mean that seed put down now could make it. It is a long shot however.

November Turf Fertilizing Is Best...
Nitrogen stimulates increased photosynthesis and the extra energy derived from this goes directly into growth, respiration to maintain the plant (similar to humans), or into storage. In early November, the temperature is still adequate for photosynthesis, but cool enough to minimize respiration demands and too cold for significant growth. Therefore, most of the extra energy derived from a November application of nitrogen is stored by the plant. Next spring, these storage products are used in green-up of the plant and more importantly, for root growth. It is important for the plant to take up the nitrogen quickly in the fall and store the energy for maximum root growth next spring with a minimum of shoot growth. Though one might think that nitrogen applied early next spring would do the equivalent as November-applied nitrogen, just the opposite occurs and shoot growth is stimulated dramatically with early spring-applied nitrogen. A spring application of nitrogen will never compensate for a missed application in November.


"When Clouds appear like Rocks and Towers,
The Earth’s refreshed by frequent Showers."

~ John Claridge



Tectonic Landscaping

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