Missouri Organic

This Week's Timely Tips from the Savvygardener

March 9, 2011

In This Issue
To Seed or Not to Seed
Special Delivery
10 Rules for Tree Planting
St. Pat's And Potatoes
Gardening Without A Garden
A Healthy Lawn Diet
The Old Heave Ho

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~All About Composting
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~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
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~ 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


"In like a lion and out like a lamb" is a saying that farmers, gardeners and meteorologists use this time of year to describe March weather. This saying was believed to originate from members of ancient civilizations when it was thought that spirits played a role with the outcome of the weather. Of course you can always say, "In like a lamb and out like a lion" lending a different meaning to the saying. The bottom line, March's weather is unpredictable. In years past we have seen warmer weather arrive too quickly and then other years have brought cold, wet weather lasting way into April. Tuesday was a perfect example of the unpredictability of the weather. Rain was forecast along with an occasional thunderstorm and oddly enough we ended up with snow/rain. All I can say is that the weather has been a little to lion-like for me and I would like to see a little more lamb-like weather for awhile. Maybe I will contact the spirits to see if they can help.

March is such a great month for many reasons. Daffodils, crocus, early blooming tulips, the Big 12 Tournament and yes, the NCAA Basketball Tournament. I must admit to my love of basketball, particularly this time of year. I am a tried and true K-State fan who also loves KU basketball. Our daughter attends K-State so I do feel an obligation to root for an institution where we send our money. I root for the Big 12 instead of the ACC but will always choose a Cinderella team in the tournament. And once March is over I am always a little sad but know that I can now spend more time outside without missing a basketball game. Silly but true...
~ Shelly
Spring Lawns: To Seed or Not to Seed...

As spring approaches you will no doubt start inspecting your lawn only to re-discover that it is less than perfect. Most of us have bare spots or entire areas that are begging for new seed. Reliable sources will tell you that spring is the second best time of year to plant grass seed (the best time being fall). What they don't tell you is that in this case second best may not be good enough at all. We'll try to explain...

Fall is the best time to plant because seeds get the double benefit of warm soil and cooler air temperatures. Fall planted grass also establishes a strong root system even after the grass blades have stopped growing for the season. By contrast spring sown grass seed gets cool air temperatures but not warm soil - making it tougher to germinate. In many cases the grass is not established well enough to take the heat imposed on it by the typical Kansas City summer. More often than not, your new grass is toast by mid-July.

This doesn't mean you shouldn't plant new grass in the spring. You just need to be aware of the risks. At our house we try to limit spring grass seeding to small bare patches and hope for the best. For bigger jobs consider contacting a professional lawn care company (we use Ryan Lawn & Tree) to improve your chances.  

Special Delivery...

Thankfully most catalogs don't deliver your plant orders until it's time to plant them. Sometimes however local conditions are different than "usual" and your plants arrive a bit early for planting. Don't panic, but don't ignore them either! Your mail-order plants do need some care in the time between their arrival and your ability to plant them. Unwrap them immediately and check for specific directions on early care. Lacking this just keep them cool and moist in a protected area until you can safely get them in the ground. 

10 Rules Of Tree Planting...

Planning on planting a tree (or two or three) this spring? Make sure you do it right. That tree is supposed to be around for a long time. Our friends at K-State Research & Extension have helped by publishing 10 Rules for Planting Trees. Check it out here... 

St. Pat's And Potatoes...


While it's traditional to plant potatoes on St. Patrick's Day Savvygardeners should be aware of two assumptions made in setting this date. First, that your soil is consistently 45 or higher. The recent warm-up means sunny locations may be ready.

The second assumption is that the soil is dry enough to be worked. Working in overly moist soil can make a mess that will be hard to correct later. How can you tell? Grab a handful of soil and squeeze. If it holds together like clay it's too wet. If it crumbles like a cupcake it's ready for planting.

Watch the weather and your soil closely. You really want to get those 'taters planted between now and the end of March. 


Vegetable Gardening Without A Garden...

potted plant

 If your outdoor space is limited, consider gardening without a garden. Tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and many other vegetables do well when grown in containers. Barrels, window boxes, cut-off milk jugs, almost any container that provides good drainage will do as long as it is deep enough to support the plant. Minimum depths for some container-grown vegetables:

  • 4 inches - lettuce, radishes, beets, low-growing herbs
  • 6 inches - chard, turnips, short-rooted carrots
  • 8 inches - eggplant, peppers, bush cucumbers
  • 10 inches - cauliflower, broccoli
  • 12 inches - tomatoes, long-rooted carrots



A Healthy Lawn Diet...

good idea

Though advertising for lawn fertilizers is at its yearly high, most lawns don't really need fertilizer now. Do not apply high rates of nitrogen (more than 0.75 lbs N/1000 sq. ft.) to your lawn from March through early May. Too much nitrogen at this time of the year will lead to problems later this summer such as poor root growth and disease. Additionally, since spring rains play havoc with mowing schedules, nitrogen fertilization can further complicate your mowing schedule by causing grass plants to grow too fast. Instead of applying fertilizer now, it is better to wait until mid-to late-May and apply up to lbs N/1000 sq. ft. with a fertilizer that contains mostly slow-release nitrogen. 

The Old Heave Ho...


Temperatures have been jumping around a bit lately but a well deserved thaw in the soil may be a permanent thing soon. Scout around your garden for signs of recent heaving - the forcing of shallow-rooted plants out of the soil due to the freezing and thawing of the ground. Don't tamp the plants or the surrounding soil as this may overly compact the soil. Simply give them a gentle push back into place. 


"First a howling blizzard woke us,
Then the rain came down to soak us,
And now before the eye can focus-

Lilja Rogers   

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