Missouri Organic

This Week's Timely Tips from the Savvygardener

January 19, 2011

In This Issue
Pelleted Perfection
Heave, Ho
A Gentler Approach
Care For Amaryllis
Viability Verification
All Set For Onions
Anxious For Asparagus

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Feature Articles
~All About Composting
~All About Mulch
~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


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This Week's Phots

Here we go again!  Monday's warmer temperatures allowed some much needed melting only to be overshadowed by talk of another snow storm.  They say we can expect another 6-7 inches today into tomorrow.  The kids started making plans last night for another snow day. I'm thrilled (for those of you who don't know me, that is sarcasm).  Temperatures are going to plummet into single digits with a chance of more snow on Friday and Sunday.  Not many good things to say about the weather.  It's cold and snowy, there I'm done.

We have added two new members to the Marsh family.  Three month old kittens that we adopted from Wayside Waifs.  They are too cute and are often times quite distracting.  They love attention and follow me around the house like puppies. Their names, D.O.G. (pronounced de-oh-gee) and Duke.  They are best friends and love to play and nap with one another.  Sam Parker, the family beagle is not yet used to sharing the attention.  He wants to play with the kittens but they do not seem a bit interested.  I forget how much fun it is having a new pet.  The kittens are a nice addition and we are all so glad that we were able to offer them a home with lots of love.  It breaks my heart to see so many animals without homes.  If you are thinking about a getting a pet, please visit our friends at Wayside Waifs.  You are sure to find a cat or dog that will love you as much as you love it.  

You may have noticed a few format changes in this week's newsletter. Our main goal was to increase readability across multiple platforms. The new layout also provides easier social media sharing (Facebook, etc...) at the top of the page. Hope you like it.  Let us know either way! 
~ 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...

seedsSo, 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: 

Brussels Sprouts3-5Peppers2-3
Corn, Sweet2Squash, Summer3-4
Cucumbers5Squash, Winter4
Lima Beans3Turnip4-5

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...

shovelOnions 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...

seedlingsWant 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.


"To me, the garden is a doorway to other worlds; one of them, of course, is the world of birds. The garden is their dinner table, bursting with bugs and worms and succulent berries (so plant more to accommodate you both)."

~ Anne Raver

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