This Week's Gardening Tips from the Savvygardener
Missouri Organic Mulch, Compost, Bulk Soil
In This Issue
~ Will Potted Plants Survive? ~ Evergreen Watering ~ Don't Leave Those Leaves
~ Iris Clean-Up ~ Salvaging the Season ~ Cure For The Common Crabgrass
~ Soil Rejuvenation   ~ Inspiration
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Feature Articles

~ 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 14, 2009 ~

The Uninspired Gardener...
Last evening's rain added to the cold, dank weather we've been experiencing. Combined with the wind it was not fit for man nor beast outside. So, instead of having to run from one activity to another we were able to relax and enjoy the warmth inside. I find this weather absolutely uninspiring. Sam Parker, the family beagle, took me for a walk yesterday. He was invigorated by the colder air and pulled me along hoping that I would share his enthusiasm. It is hard for me to enjoy myself when I am impersonating Nanook of the North. It looks as if it could be a long winter.

The only annual I have lost thus far due to the colder temperatures is my basil. I noticed it yesterday and it was not happy. The leaves were black and curled - obviously bitten by Jack Frost. My impatiens and begonias are still hanging in there. I am tired of them so if they are stricken by the frost, they will not be missed. After all, they have been in the ground since May. I have moved onto preparing my beds for winter. Cutting back perennials, mulching leaves and covering beds. Deep watering evergreens and yes, still pulling weeds (a full time job). The leaves are continually falling so make sure you stay on top of keeping them off your lawn. Wet leaves will smother the lawn so once it dries out, get outside and get busy. Leaf raking, another full time job particularly this time of year.

~ Shelly   

Will Potted Plants Survive?
This time of year many readers ask whether potted plants can survive outdoors through the winter. This depends on so many factors. The size of the planters and the thickness of the planter material are important. If the pots are big enough to keep the soil from freezing then some cold-hardy plants will survive. The other factors include:

  • The particular winter. Mild winters will favor plants in large pots.
  • Microclimate - Sunny locations will allow the soil (and concrete) to heat up and keep the soil from freezing.

As a rule in the Kansas City area, choose plants that have a cold hardiness of at least Zone 3. Also make sure there is adequate moisture available through the winter.

Iris Clean-Up...
Iris are known for a couple of very common problems: a fungus disease known as iris leaf spot and an insect named iris borer. Though both cause problems in the spring, now is the time to start control measures. Both the fungus and eggs of the borer overwinter on old, dead leaves. Removing iris leaves and other garden debris from the iris bed this fall reduces populations of these pests. This can significantly reduce problems next spring.


Soil Rejuvenation...
Fall is the time to prepare garden soil for next spring’s vegetable garden. The spring season is often wet making it difficult to work soil without forming clods that remain the rest of the season. By contrast, fall is usually drier allowing you more time to work the soil when it is at the correct soil moisture content. Even if you work soil wet in the fall and form clods, the freezing and thawing that takes place in the winter will break them down, leaving a mellow soil the following spring.

More benefits:

  • Insects often hide in garden debris. If that debris is worked into the soil, insects will be less likely to survive the winter.
  • Diseases are also less likely to overwinter if old plants are worked under.
  • Garden debris will increase the organic matter content of the soil. Working the debris into the soil is often easier if you mow the old vegetable plants several times to reduce the size of the debris.
  • Organic matter (leaves, rotten hay or silage, grass clippings) can be more effectively added now than in the spring because there is more time for it to break down before planting.

As a general rule, add two inches of organic material to the surface of the soil and till it in. Be careful not to overtill. You should end up with particles like grape nuts or larger. If you work your garden into the consistency of dust, you have destroyed the soil structure.


Evergreen Watering...
Make sure your evergreens are well watered as we ease into winter. If we go 10-14 days without significant rain you'll want to give them a good soaking. This will go a long way to helping them survive a long cold winter.

Salvaging the Season...
As the temperatures start a free fall, many Savvygardeners find themselves with tomato plants still loaded with green or ripening fruit. The goal of course is to keep those tomatoes for as long as possible. Here's some help.

As tomatoes cannot be stored at temperatures below 50°F. You need to find a location that is above 50°F but as close to 50° as possible. For most, this will probably be the coolest part of your basement. On the afternoon before the first freeze is forecast pick all the fruit on the plant that are full-sized (regardless of color). Discard any with severe cracks, disease spots, bruises, or that are otherwise defective. Divide them into three groups:

  • Those that are full-sized and still green,
  • Those that are showing some color,
  • Those that are mostly red or nearly red.

Plan to use the red group first. Layer the other two groups in a box or carton separated by newspapers so you can remove tomatoes without having to disturb others in the box.

As you need tomatoes, bring some from the "turning color" group to your kitchen counter for a few days to allow them to develop their full ripe color. After this group is used up, begin to use those from the mature green group. Keep your eye (and nose) out for tomatoes that are starting to rot and discard them. The newspaper will absorb juice from rotted tomatoes without damaging those nearby.


Don't Leave Those Leaves...
Those leaves that are falling all over the region are pretty but leaving lots of them on your lawn can mean trouble. When they are dry they shade your grass from much needed fall sun. When wet they can smother grass turning it yellow and possibly killing it. Just keep the leaves raked up a few times per week and you should be fine. Better yet, mow and bag them in your lawnmower and use the shredded leaves in your garden or compost pile (photo).

Cure For The Common Crabgrass...
As you view your October lawn you may see a horrifying crop of crabgrass. Much of it has already gone to seed and the rest will soon follow. The good news is that crabgrass is an annual. The bad news is that it reseeds freely. All that stands between you and a lawn of pure crabgrass next year is pre-emergent herbicide. Be ready to apply this in April or whenever the weather indicates.


"The tints of autumn - a mighty flower garden blossoming under the spell of the enchanter, Frost. "

~ John Greenleaf Whittier



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