Missouri Organic

This Week's Timely Tips from the Savvygardener

February 23, 2011

In This Issue
Feeding Bulb Upstarts
Springtime Splitters
Just Can't Wait
Peas Be With You
Crown Jewels
Warm Season Weeds
Head 'Em Off At The Pass

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This Week's Phots


I was noticing how awful our lawn looks, particularly the area closest to the curb. It is gray in color and not very attractive. It looks as if it is suffering from snow mold and other maladies. I am not going to panic as I expect the lawn to bounce back with a little bit of rain and warmer temperatures. What caused it? Too much salt, sand and de-icers. And to top it off, colder than normal temperatures and record breaking snowfall amounts. It has been a brutal winter and as we head back outside into the gardens we are sure to find plantings that did not fare so well. Notice how I talk about winter as if it's in the past. Even though the colder temperatures are hanging around I am hopeful that we will not get anymore snow. I am wishing for nothing but sun shiny days ahead with an occasional rainfall in between. I'm not asking for much, just perfect gardening weather.

If you have spent any time outside recently you have probably noticed signs of spring in many different places. The robin is back, there are several trees with buds on them and there are bulbs peeking out of the ground (photos). The stirring has begun. I have been outside looking underneath the blanket of leaves covering my beds and to my surprise there are perennials stirring as well. It is a little early for most but exciting nonetheless. I will keep everything covered for awhile longer as uncovering them would be detrimental to most of them. The warmer days do make it hard to not be over zealous when getting things done but unfortunately patience is key. Wish I had some!

~ Shelly
Feeding Bulb Upstarts...

If you have spring bulbs in the ground we'll bet that at least some of them are poking up through the soil by now (photo).  Last week we talked about moving any leaves or compost out of the way to make room for their growth.  This week we tackle their care and feeding.

"You need to fertilize as soon as the foliage pokes up through the ground. That's when the bulbs' roots are most active," said Ward Upham, horticulturist with Kansas State University Research and Extension. "If you wait until or after they're flowering, you're basically wasting time and money."

Blood meal is the traditional choice and still an excellent fertilizer for spring-flowering bulbs, Upham said. Its application rate is 2 pounds per 100 square feet or 1 teaspoon per square foot.

Springtime Splitters...

Now would be a great time to think about dividing select perennials. We say this in the fall also. Don't be confused. Just use the following logic: Divide fall-blooming plants in the spring and spring-blooming plants in the fall. Plants to divide now include asters, mums, shasta daisy, and yarrow (to name a few). 

Just Can't Wait...

If you are just dying to do something in the flower garden try sowing the seeds of asters, bachelor buttons, calendulas, delphinium, dianthus, larkspur, and snapdragon. These hardy annuals should weather the remaining cold days and get your flower garden off to an early start. As insurance against really cold weather you can always sow smaller quantities at weekly intervals. 

Peas Be With You...


Peas should be among the earliest crops you plant in your garden, and can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked. They love cool weather, grow quickly, produce abundantly for a few weeks, and then succumb rapidly to our summer heat. More pea stuff:

  • Some varieties, especially snap peas, require trellising, but many modern varieties do not. Seed catalogs or packets usually will indicate whether this is required.
  • Because plants don't stand very well on their own, peas may benefit from being planted in double rows 6" apart that will allow plants to support each other.
  • Peas should be planted 1 inch deep and 2 inches apart with about 2 to 3 feet between the double row. If trellised, space rows 4 to 6 feet apart.
  • Plant several varieties to make sure you get each type, and to enjoy a succession of harvests.



Crown Jewels...


Once the soil is suitable for digging you may be thinking about planting some asparagus crowns. Don't dig too far down when planting them. Yields improve dramatically when crowns are set at a depth of 5 to 6 inches - not the commonly advised 12 inches. Contrary to the standard practices of deep planting and not harvesting for up to three seasons, recent studies show that harvesting shallow-planted asparagus after the first year boosts yields 40 percent over three years. 


Warm Season Weeds...


Warm-season grasses (bermudagrass, zoysiagrass and buffalograss) need a different set of instructions than those for more common cool-season grasses (bluegrass and fescues). If you have warm-season grasses you can use the month of March to spot-treat broadleaf weeds. Make sure to spot-treat on a day that is 50F or warmer. Rain or watering within 24 hours of application will reduce the effectiveness of your efforts. 

Head 'Em Off At The Pass...

good idea

Though cultural practices are the most effective crabgrass controls, herbicides are often necessary to really get the job done. Crabgrass can be controlled through an application of a pre-emergence herbicide between mid-March and mid-April. The herbicides available on the market have been shown to be very effective crabgrass controls, but often control suffers when the product is not applied correctly or when the lawn is not maintained properly. When using pre-emergence herbicides, keep in mind:

  • Maintain a healthy dense lawn.
  • Closely read and follow all label recommendations.
  • Apply the herbicide accurately and uniformly over the lawn.
  • Apply the herbicide early because they will not affect crabgrass already germinated. Early would be mid- March in the greater Kansas City area.
  • After application, apply enough water to move the herbicide off the leaf blades to the soil surface for maximum control.
  • Do not apply these products over newly-seeded areas or try to seed into areas where these products have been recently applied.



"I think that no matter how old or infirm I may become, I will always plant a large garden in the spring. Who can resist the feelings of hope and joy that one gets from participating in nature's rebirth?"

~ Edward Giobbio         

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