This Week's Gardening Tips from the Savvygardener
Missouri Organic Mulch, Compost, Bulk Soil
In This Issue
~ Totally Tulips ~ Whiteflies Everywhere ~ Needle Drop on Pines
~ Diggin' On Trees ~ Beyond Soil Tests ~ New Turf Tips
~ Make Green Tomatoes See Red   ~ 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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~ September 15, 2010 ~

Forecasting Folly...
Ok, so I was a week late with the rain forecast. I never said I was a meteorologist nor should I make attempts at forecasting huge amounts of rain. I couldn't believe that the rain we were supposed to get from Hermine skirted us. That's what I get for watching the weather so closely. Oh well, it looks as if we are playing catch up this week. Monday night's storm brought us 3.5 inches and as I sit here in my office this morning it has started to rain - again. The rain we are getting today is my favorite type, slow and steady. Monday's thunderstorm led to torrential downpours in a matter of hours which led to heavy amounts of runoff. I suppose this all sounds pretty silly, me talking about rain in the negative sense. But as gardeners you all know what I'm talking about, right?

Kevin and I spent a few days away this past weekend in Las Vegas. We stayed at the Wynn Hotel and I must say it was quite nice. I enjoyed staying at this property for many reasons but one of the biggest reasons was the grounds. They were immaculate! I loved the plantings, the sheered boxwoods, roses and the many annuals planted. It was truly beautiful, an oasis really. The weather was warm but dry, the sky was the prettiest color of light blue and the evenings were delightful. Our evenings were spent dining outside where the air was cool and there was not a bug to be found - one of the many aspects I enjoy when visiting the desert. Can you imagine not having any bugs around? Imagine a summer without pesky mosquitoes or flies. Wouldn't that be great? I am always thinking about living in another place. I'm sure that every state comes with its own set of gardening challenges so for now I'll stop my complaining and enjoy what I have. Fall is nearly here!

~ Shelly   

Totally Tulips...
When spring arrives there's nothing like a garden full of colorful tulips. By making smart decisions now you can extend the blooms in your landscape. Tulips come in many varieties with bloom times from early to late Spring. We've summarized what you need to know in our feature article, Totally Tulips. Check it out.

Diggin' On Trees...
Fall is the preferred time to plant many trees and shrubs. Warm soil, moderate air temperatures and autumn rains all help a tree adjust to its new environment and set down roots with a minimum of stress and shock. If you are transplanting deciduous trees and shrubs, wait until their leaves have dropped or at least changed color.  Evergreens and conifers, however, benefit from early planting in fall. In either case watering (1 inch weekly until the ground is frozen) and mulching the root zone are crucial to success.

Make Green Tomatoes See Red...
All this cool weather means green tomatoes are not likely to ripen on the vine. And what's worse, if a rogue frost comes our way it's game over. Here are two approaches to getting those green tomatoes to ripen out of harm's way:

  • Remove the whole plant, roots and all, and hang it upside-down in a cool, dark area indoors or in a garage. At temperatures in the 60's those tomatoes should ripen nicely. Just pull them off the vine as they are individually ready.
  • If the above method is a bit messy for you try picking the green tomatoes and individually wrapping them in newspaper. Place them in a paper bag or cardboard box and store in a cool, dark place. Keep an eye on them periodically. When they start to redden up unwrap them and let them finish ripening at room temperature. Hint - If you're in a hurry place an apple in the bag with the wrapped tomatoes. It will really speed the ripening process.

Tasty red tomatoes won't be far away!

Whiteflies Everywhere...
A common sight this time of year is whiteflies on outdoor plants such as annuals, tomatoes and other vegetables in our region. Whiteflies do not overwinter well in the Kansas City area but can build up later in the season due to migration from more southern climes and introductions from transplants.

For a pretty safe means of control try an insecticidal soap or a neem-based product. These products are much more effective if used before the population builds up. Chemical controls for ornamental plants include Bayer Rose & Flower Insect Killer, malathion, pyrethrin, and Ortho Rose and Flower Insect Control.

Pay special attention to houseplants that have spent the summer outside. Check carefully for whiteflies before bringing inside for the winter. If whiteflies are present, use a product labeled for houseplants. All the products listed above but malathion are labeled for houseplant use.


Beyond Soil Tests...
Though soil tests are useful for identifying nutrient deficiencies as well as soil pH, they do not tell the whole story. In addition to issues related to water and sunshine here are some factors that can affect plant growth that are not due to nutrient deficiencies or pH.

  • Too much phosphorus: While most Kansas City area soils are naturally low in phosphorus, soils that have been fertilized for a number of years may have phosphorus levels that are quite high. Too much phosphorus can interfere with the uptake of some micronutrients such as iron, manganese and zinc. High phosphorus soils should only be fertilized with fertilizers that have relatively low amounts of phosphorus.
  • Poor soil physical characteristics: Roots need oxygen as much as they need water. A tight clay soil can restrict soil oxygen levels as well as make root penetration of the soil difficult. Increasing the organic matter content of clay soils can help break them up. Add a 2-inch layer of organic matter and till it in.
  • Walnut trees: Walnuts give off a natural herbicide that interferes with the growth of some plants such as tomatoes. Vegetable gardens should be at least 50 feet away from walnut trees if possible. 
  • Tree roots: Trees not only compete with other plants for sun but also for water and nutrients. Extra water and nutrients may be needed.
  • Shallow soils: When new homes are built, the topsoil is often stripped off before the soils are brought to grade. Though the topsoil should be replaced, it sometimes is not or is not replaced to the same depth as it was originally. You are left with a subsoil that usually does not allow plants to grow well due to a lack of soil structure. Adding topsoil to a depth of 8 to 12 inches would be best but this often is not practical. In such cases, try to rebuild structure by adding organic matter and working it into the soil.


Needle Drop on Pines...
It's not unusual for Savvygardeners to start seeing noticeable needle drop on some of their pines. This is a process where 2 to 4-year-old interior needles turn yellow, then brown, and eventually drop off. Don't be alarmed! This is a natural phenomenon that occurs every year and does not hurt the tree. However, some years it is much more noticeable than others. Still worried? Be sure to check that only the older needles are affected (the needles on the tips of the branches should look fine) and that there is no spotting or banding on the needles that are turning yellow.


New Turf Tips...
Many of you recently planted grass seed and have new grass coming in. Here are a couple of good reminders for you:

  • Keep it cut to about 2 inches. Just be careful that mower wheels don't tear the grass from the soil.
  • Don't apply any herbicides or insecticides until the new grass has been mowed three times.  

"Fall-not spring-is the great planting season for woody things. If, in other words, you had thought of lolling in the warm weekends admiring the chrysanthemums and the dogwoods turning red, congratulating yourself perhaps that the weeds are losing heart, let me cheerfully remind you that you should be exhausted (not lolling) since this is the busiest of all garden seasons. When you are not planting bulbs, digging up bindweed roots, rooting out pokeweed, soaking bamboo, there are still other tasks. Thousands of them. You are terribly behind. The very idea of just sitting about in the sun!"

~ Henry Mitchell



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