~ August 18, 2010 ~
Just A Short Break...
Whew, what a relief! A break from the heat for a couple of days and a bit of rain. I am loving it but know it is short lived -
it is still August after all. Tomorrow's temperatures are supposed to soar back into the high 90's. I am sure that we will
have a few more 90 degree days before August is over and it is not unusual for us to have a few in September. So, if you are
ready to rid yourself of all those tired looking annuals, just remember that fall and cooler temperatures may be a couple of months away.
I was talking with my friend Jeanne Johnson, owner of
Johnson Farms, and we were chatting about how once there is a little break in the
heat everyone wants to start planting mums and pansies. I told her, "Sure, and I am one of them!" The key to planting mums is to buy
those that are not already in full bloom. Or, you can do what I have done in the past, buy them in stages. Buy some now that are in
bloom and then buy another round later that are not open so that they will carry you into fall. Either way you will have color throughout
October which is when it is fun to decorate with mums, pumpkins and gourds. And don't forget about colorful fillers! You can use grasses,
millet, pansies and kale. All will help to spruce up pots where spindly annuals now reside.
Have you noticed all of the leaves falling? UGH! The trees are stressed from the heat hence the early leaf drop. Time to get out the rake.
Seems a bit early but you do want to keep those big leaves off the turf. Once those fallen leaves get wet, allowing them to lie around can smother and kill the grass, so do your best
to stay on top of the raking. Always something to do!
Heirloom Tomato Seeds...
Many Savvygardeners are now growing Heirloom Tomatoes in their gardens. Saving
seeds from these oldies-but-goodies is a great idea but maybe not as simple
as you think. First of all you need to take some precautions to prevent cross-pollination
from other tomato varieties nearby or the seeds may not produce the tomato you
wanted. If you grow more than one variety of tomato, they should be planted at least
20-25 feet apart. In addition, a tall barrier crop (corn, pole beans, fruit trees, etc...),
or a continuous pollen-producing crop (squash) should be planted between varieties
to distract the bees. These precautions will prevent most wind caused cross-pollination,
and cause bees to visit only one tomato variety at a time before returning to the hive to
clean off their collected pollen.
Save the seeds from healthy plants with the best fruit quality. Pick the fruit when ripe,
scoop out seeds and pulp into a bowl with a little water then leave to ferment for 4 days
(no longer or some heirlooms will begin to sprout). Separate out seed from pulp, rinse the
seeds, then dry them on paper towels or a screen in a warm, dry place with good air circulation
(try outdoors on warm summer or fall days). After 5-7 days, place seeds in airtight containers
and store indoors in a dark, cool, dry place. If properly stored, your seeds should remain viable
for 3-5 years.
Mums are a gardener's best friend in the fall. As the latest blooming flowers
they provide color and beauty to a garden that has otherwise been worn out
for the season.
When choosing mums from your local retailer buy healthy looking plants that have
been taken care of - no broken stems, wilted leaves, etc... Plants with existing
blooms will be limited in their ability to provide much more flowering. Those with
buds about to bloom will provide you with flowers into the fall. We usually buy
several plants in bloom for immediate gratification and quite a few more that we
expect to bloom over the coming weeks. What a great exclamation point at the end
of the season!
If you're harvesting potatoes remember that they will
continue to grow as long as the tops are green. So dig only as
many as you need for immediate use. The ones left in the ground
will actually keep better there than in your home.
Blister Beetles On Tomatoes...
This time of year gardeners may find some tomato plants virtually stripped of foliage
by Ashgray Blister Beetles. Blister beetles vary in size (often between 0.5-0.75 inch
long) and color (such as black, gray or brown-striped), but most are recognized by their
elongated, narrow, cylindrical, soft bodies with middle body part (thorax) narrower than
the head or wing covers.
Hand picking is certainly an effective nonchemical method for controlling these large insects
but not without its own dangers. You see, these beetles contain a substance called cantharidin an
irritant capable of blistering internal and external body tissues exposed to the chemical. On
tender human skin, body fluids of adult blister beetles may cause large, erect, watery blisters.
Chemical control of blister beetles is also possible. Carbaryl (Sevin) is labeled and effective
but has a three-day waiting period. However, Sevin can encourage spider mites and so if you have
spider mites or have had them in the past, you may want to consider lambda-cyhalothrin (Spectracide
Triazicide) as it will control both blister beetles and spider mites. This product has a 5-day
Making The Cut...
When your plants fall victim to disease one of the first courses of action is the
removal of the diseased portions. Careful! The same pruners that you use to cut
away diseased foliage can then transfer the disease to otherwise healthy plants.
A one in ten solution of bleach and water can be used to disinfect pruners between
cuts. Rather than keep a bucket of solution nearby try mixing the solution in a small
spray bottle. Carry it with you and spray your pruners after each cut.
Keep your basil, parsley, mint, and sage, producing by pinching out the seed pods.
Herbs can be used fresh, frozen, or dried. Wait until the dew has dried to cut a
few stems, tie a string around this little bouquet, and hang in a cool, dry place
until completely dry. Crumble and place in a jar for use during the winter.
Wake Up Sleepy Turf...
If all or parts of your cool season lawn have gone dormant this summer you should prepare
for a fall comeback now by starting a deep watering program. Make sure your lawn gets a
morning soak twice a week and you will be rewarded with stronger, more lush growth later
"The bird a nest, the spider a web,
~ William Blake