~ 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.
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
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
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
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