~ June 23, 2010 ~
A Waning Spirit...
June has been one wet month. We have had an unusual amount of rainfall and now that summer has
officially arrived we are dealing with extreme heat and humidity. These last few days have been very
uncomfortable. I have tried to work outside for short periods of time (usually first thing in
the morning) but find myself giving in to the comfort of air conditioning. It is just too hot
to be out during the day. If you are going outside to work make sure you dress appropriately,
wear sunscreen, spray yourself with bug repellent, keep something on your head and stay hydrated,
preferably with water. A lot to remember but all of these things will help when working outside
in conditions like we're having.
I'm afraid that my gardening spirit is waning right now. I can't seem to be outside for more
than an hour. There are perennials that need dead heading, shrubs that need pruning, and of
course there are always weeds that need pulling. I am going to sit tight for a few days and
wait for a change in the weather. It looks as if the ten-day forecast is calling for temperatures
to drop back into the high 80's. For now it looks like we are stuck with this weather throughout
the weekend. So I will continue to water my pots and save the more arduous chores for a cooler day.
Beat The Heat...
It's been a rough week for heat and humidity. Gardeners (and everyone for that matter) should be
careful when doing anything outdoors in this kind of weather. Here are some tips to help you beat the heat:
- Tasks that occur outdoors in sunny areas should be done in early
morning or late afternoon whenever possible, not during the
midday heat. Most watering, pruning, dead heading, etc., is
better for plants when done in early morning. Many chemicals,
especially insecticides, are better applied late in the day
when the wind is down and beneficial insects are not present.
- Allow yourself to acclimate to the heat slowly. Over a period of a
week or two, gradually increase the amount of time spent in hot, still
areas or in direct sun.
- Be sure to stay hydrated, drinking as many liquids as possible. Don't
wait until you are thirsty to have a drink, as thirst is an indicator that
your body is already dehydrated. Water is preferred, except when heat cramps
occur (then drink a lightly salted beverage like a sports drink). The water's
temperature should be cool, not cold.
- Though tempting, do not work in the yard in a tank top or without a
shirt due to the potential for sunburn and skin cancer. Wear loose fitting,
light colored clothes. Keep the fabric content high in cotton to aid sweat evaporation.
Neckbands, headbands, wristbands, visors, and hats can increase evaporation to keep
the body cool.
- Lastly, take frequent breaks to reduce the amount of time spent in the sun or heat.
After working for an hour, take a break to cool down and have a drink in the shade to
reduce the build up of heat stress on your body.
Hey Bud, Get Outta' Here...
One of the most common pests of petunias is the budworm caterpillar. These small
green worms appear in late June and July and feed on the flower buds, making small
holes in the buds and the leaves. You won't often see the worm itself. Instead,
you'll see the droppings, which resemble small, black seeds. Because of their size,
removing them by hand may not be practical. If you are so inclined, Dipel, Thuricide,
Talstar and Scimitar are reasonably effective insecticides. Sevin and Diazinon aren't
effective, because budworms have become resistant to them. If left unchecked, the
presence of the caterpillars will cause your petunias to stop blooming.
Seen Any Spittlebugs?
The spittlebug derives its name from the white, frothy "spittle" the nymphs
produce. Adults are large, black leafhoppers about 1/3-inch long with two
red stripes that go crosswise across the back. The eyes and abdomen are bright
red. Though the nymphs resemble the adults, they are smaller and wingless. Color
varies from yellow to white to orange, but the eyes are always red.
Spittlebug nymphs suck plant juices like aphids, but they remove so much
water and carbohydrates that excess fluid is produced. They cover themselves with
this fluid and then produce the spittle by bubbling air from the tip of the abdomen
into the liquid. The spittle mass helps protect the nymphs from drying and from
Spittlebugs normally do not achieve high enough populations to cause damage.
If they do, forcefully hosing the plants several times should achieve the level
of control needed.
Trees Shedding Bark...
Trees naturally shed bark as they grow. The amount of bark
shed varies significantly from one year to the next and is
usually not noticeable. But some trees, such as sycamore, London
Planetree and silver maple, shed bark in large patches or
strips. During a year with heavy shedding homeowners may become
concerned that the tree is sick or dying. Such usually is not
the case. Sycamore and London Planetree normally show a bright
green color on the branches when the bark first falls off but
soon return to normal. Maple reveals an orange color after
shedding but it, too, soon returns to normal. There is nothing
wrong with the tree as long as the shedding bark simply reveals
underlying bark rather than bare wood.
Timely Tomato Tips...
Tomatoes are growing vigorously now. However, the end of spring and the onset of
hot, dry weather can lead to several problems in tomatoes. Tomatoes that experience
early vigorous growth often drop some blossoms during the transition to summer
weather. Don't worry. New blooms should develop rapidly to replace the fallen ones.
Also, tomato plants may be subject to leaf curl where the leaves roll up from the edges.
This is a short-term condition that develops as the tomato is trying to reduce it's leaf
surface to allow the roots to develop.
Beware Brown Patch...
Brown patch is showing up all over the area. This turf disease is favored by
warm night temperatures and extended periods of leaf wetness. If you go outside
in the morning and the lawn is covered with dew and the temperature is in the
high 60s and above, it means that conditions are right for brown patch. During
severe outbreaks, the fungus may invade the lower leaf sheaths and crown and kill
plants. But in most cases the turfgrass can recover from brown patch. This recovery
may take two to three weeks depending on weather.
Unfortunately there is no way to eliminate brown patch from a lawn as it will persist
indefinitely in the soil. In almost all cases, the limiting factor for brown patch
development is the weather. Although you can’t eliminate the fungus, cultural practices –
especially irrigation – can help control it.
- Don't water in the evening; instead,
water early in the morning. This will help decrease the number
of hours the leaf tissue remains wet and susceptible to
infection. The frequency of irrigation is not as important as
the time of day you do it.
- Don't overfertilize, and certainly don't fertilize when brown
patch is active.
- Make sure your seeding or overseeding rates are not too high.
Ozone, Mow Zone...
Small gasoline engines like those found on lawnmowers, weed whackers and leaf blowers lack pollution
controls. According to the
Mid-America Regional Council
the average lawnmower produces as much pollution in one hour as forty late-model cars!
Do yourself, and your fellow gardeners, a favor by not mowing on
days. If you have to mow, try to do it after 7 PM.
"Touch the earth, love the earth,
honour the earth, her plains, her
valleys, her hills, and her seas; rest
your spirit in her solitary places."
~ Henry Beston