This Week's Gardening Tips from the Savvygardener
Missouri Organic Mulch, Compost, Bulk Soil
In This Issue
~ Pelleted Perfection ~ Care For Amaryllis ~ All Set For Onions
~ Heave, Ho ~ Viability Verification ~ Anxious For Asparagus
~ Gentler Houseplant Care   ~ 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
~ More...
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This Week's Photos

~ January 20, 2010 ~

Where's The Rain? Where's The Sun?...
I am sad to say that the rain in the forecast completely missed us. I was hoping for a good, long, cleansing rain. A rain that washes all the ugliness outside away. Isn't it just dreadful out? I mean really. I feel as if we haven't seen the sun for weeks. Everyone I talk to feels the same. I think we have all reached our inside time allotment. The walls of the house are slowly closing in. Sun, please come out! We all miss you desperately!

It has been interesting watching the snow slowly melt away and looking for what lies beneath. I was surprised to see so many branches and sticks lying around. I do remember those high winds we had in December and January. Seems odd to think we are just now, on the 20th of January, getting an opportunity to see what our lawns and gardens look like again. We have probably gone 30 or more straight days with snow on the ground. Yikes! I cannot in my lifetime ever remember a winter like the one we are experiencing. If the winters keep up like this one I will be relocating :-)

~ Shelly   

Pelleted Perfection...
You may find yourself perusing a seed catalog and come across something called pelleted seed. Some mail order seed companies offer pelleted seed of lettuce, carrot, and a few other small-seeded crops.  Pelleted seed is like any other seed except that it has a special coating that makes it larger. While almost anyone will appreciate the convenience of larger seeds it is especially valuable for children and gardeners with arthritic hands, weak eyesight, or poor coordination. When using pelleted seed, plant in moist soil and keep it moist as the coating has to dissolve before the seed can germinate.

Heave, Ho...
We've seen some interesting swings in temperatures lately. While most of us appreciate the days above freezing, our plants may be less than thrilled. The freezing and thawing of the ground can force shallow-rooted plants out of the soil. This is called "heaving" and should not be a problem if you mulched well at the onset of winter. If you see any signs of heaving among your plantings simply replant any that have heaved and mulch with 2 inches of organic material. Those leaves that seem to linger all season are perfect!

A Gentler Approach To Houseplant Pests...
Insects on houseplants are a major pain. Not only are they hurting your plants but control measures using chemicals are pretty undesirable to a lot of homeowners. Here are three control approaches that minimize risk to you and your housemates.

  • Physically pick-off caterpillars, slugs, and other larger pests.
  • Swab pests with a small brush or cotton swab moistened with rubbing alcohol. This method is feasible when plants are small and infestations very light. It is tedious and must be done once a week over a period of time.
  • Plants can also be washed in a diluted mixture of water and insecticidal soap, or gently spray-washed with lukewarm water.  Repeated washings over a period of time are necessary to gradually reduce infestations.  

If the infestation is severe, it may be preferable to discard the plant and replace it rather than attempt chemical control.


Care For Amaryllis...
This time of year our readers often ask about the ongoing care of an amaryllis received during the holidays.  Here are some quick tips:

  1. Remove any spent flowers after blooming.
  2. Place the plant in a bright sunny window to allow the leaves to fully develop.
  3. Keep the soil evenly moist, not soggy.
  4. Feed occasionally with a general purpose houseplant fertilizer.

Viability Verification...
So, you're getting ready to start some seeds indoors and don't know if last year's leftovers are still good. Well, you can start by checking the typical viability of 20 popular vegetable seeds in the table below:

Vegetable Viability
Vegetable Viability
Beans 3 Muskmelons 4-5
Broccoli 3-5 Peas 3
Brussels Sprouts 3-5 Peppers 2-3
Cabbage 3-4 Pumpkin 4-5
Carrots 3 Radish 5
Cauliflower 3-5 Spinach 5
Corn, Sweet 2 Squash, Summer 3-4
Cucumbers 5 Squash, Winter 4
Lettuce 5-6 Tomato 3-4
Lima Beans 3 Turnip 4-5

To be absolutely sure here's a trick we use to determine if seeds are still good:

  • Take ten seeds from the package and place them on a paper towel that you have moistened with warm water. 
  • Fold the paper towel over to cover the seeds.
  • Keep the towel moist and warm (on top of the fridge usually works for warmth) until they start to germinate. 
  • If less than six seeds (60%) germinate you might as well throw the rest away. 
  • If six or more germinate it will be worthwhile to plant the rest. 
  • Don't waste your test seeds!  The ones that germinate should be carefully moved to your preferred seedling container and cared for until ready for transplanting outdoors.


All Set For Onions...
Onions are one of the earliest crops that can be planted in the garden - late March in most of eastern and central Kansas. As they usually require 6 to 8 weeks of growing time before transplanting they should be started indoors now.

  • Plant onion seeds fairly close together - to inches apart in a pot or flat filled with commercial seed starting mix (a lot of onion plants can be grown in a small area).
  • Place the container in a warm (75 to 80 F) location until the seedlings emerge. When the seedlings are 1 to 2 inches tall, move them to a cooler (60 to 65F) location with plenty of natural or artificial light.
  • After the onion seedlings are 2 to 3 inches tall, apply a soluble fertilizer with each or alternate waterings.
  • When they are 4 to 5 inches tall "give them a haircut" by trimming the ends of the leaves to produce a shorter, stockier plant.
  • In early March, move the plants to an outdoor, protected location for a few weeks prior to actual transplanting.

Anxious For Asparagus...
Want to grow asparagus from seed, but hate to wait the extra year to harvest? Try seeding the asparagus indoors in late winter to get two year's worth of growth in one season.

  • Plant seeds 3/4 inch deep in flats, sowing them 1 inch apart in rows 2 inches apart.
  • Provide as much natural light as possible and supplement it with fluorescent "grow" lighting.
  • Fertilize the seedlings every three weeks once they have their true leaves.

"If we persist, I do not doubt that by age 96 or so we will all have gardens we are pleased with, more or less."

~ Henry Mitchell



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