~ September 15, 2010 ~
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
Monday night's storm brought us 3.5 inches and as I sit here in my office this morning it has started to rain -
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!
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
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.
tomatoes won't be far away!
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
2½ 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
"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