Missouri Organic

This Week's Timely Tips from the Savvygardener

March 23, 2011

In This Issue
The Great Divide
Keep 'Em Covered
Proper Pruning
Here Come The Hummers
Scat Cat!
Stopping The Topping
Zoysia Zzzs

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This Week's Phots


Spring is here! Not only does it say so on the calendar but if you take a step outside you can see it everywhere (photos). Sunday was the beginning of the show. Tulips started to break through the soil. Daffodils and jonquils began to open. The forsythia lead the way for spring blooming shrubs with quince not far behind. And the trees... magnolias are flowering and others are leafing out. All in a matter of three days! Such a delightful time of the year and admittedly one of my favorites.

I have taken advantage of the warmer days and have spent most of my time outside. I didn't waste anytime jumping right in. Sunday I was outside all day cleaning out beds. Sunday evening was spent recovering from my day outside. Not complaining, just sore. Who says that gardening isn't exercise? My body will tell you differently. I was in bed asleep early Sunday evening, exhausted but oh, so happy. I really have been enjoying myself but with such lovely weather who wouldn't?

It looks as if the next few days will be cooler, perhaps a bit rainy but good for everything in bloom. The warmer temperatures were great but I am certainly not ready for 80 degree days. Hopefully we will be treated to a few days or maybe even a few weeks of mild temperatures. I would like to think that the snowy days of winter are behind us but I am not ruling out more wintry weather. Mother Nature always has a way of putting us in our place - surprising us with snow and freezing temperatures late March into April. For now I will plant some pansies to add a splash of color into my gardens and wait for the warmer temperatures to arrive for good before I get overly serious about planting.


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The Great Divide...

Dividing perennials is important for the garden and the soul. The garden benefits because many perennials become overcrowded and need to be thinned out once in a while. The gardener's soul benefits because it provides an opportunity to share our garden treasures with other gardeners who will go on to expand their beauty. 


Don't divide the wrong plants! Before you start take a look at our handy guide When to Divide Perennials in our Features section. 

Keep 'Em Covered...

Gardeners anxious to get their yard and garden chores done in spring may be tempted to remove the mulch from their strawberry beds in March or early April. A portion of the strawberry crop may be lost however if the mulch is removed too early in the spring. Removal of the mulch plus several days of warm weather may encourage the plants to bloom before the danger of frost or freezing temperatures is past. Temperatures of 32F or lower may severely damage or destroy open flowers. Since the first flowers produce the largest berries, a late spring frost can drastically reduce yields.


To reduce the chances of frost or freeze damage leave the mulch on until the plants show signs of growth. Periodically examine the plants under the mulch during periods of warm weather in the spring. Remove the mulch from the strawberry plants when about 25% of the plants are showing new growth (it will be white or yellow in color). Rake the mulch to the center aisles between rows. If there is a threat of a frost later in the season during bloom, the mulch can be lightly raked back over the plants.

Proper Pruning...

Part of your spring clean-up may include some tree pruning. Take your time and do it right. In particular don't leave stubs behind when pruning. Stubs usually die and become entry points for decay fungus. Instead cut just outside the branch collar, the slightly thickened area at the base of the branch. As an extra precaution remember that pruning should never be done in damp or wet weather when the fungal spores and bacteria that infect plants through fresh wounds spread easily. 


Here Come The Hummers...


Hummingbirds will be in our area from mid-April through October. Invite these wonderful birds into your garden with a hummingbird feeder and the plants they love:  


Trumpet Vine Catalpa Coralberry
Weigela Nicotiana Petunia
Salvia Hollyhock Columbine
Delphinium Foxglove Gladiolus
Daylily Hibiscus Liatris
Tiger Lily Penstemon Phlox
Sweet William Snap Dragon Larkspur


Scat Cat!


So, your neighbor's cat has decided that your garden is its designated litter box? Here are some tips that might actually work to keep that feline from soiling your garden:

  • Try planting rue. This attractive blue-green herb has a scent that most cats find disagreeable.
  • Modify the cat's behavior. Spray water at the cat when it comes into the garden. If the cat associates an unpleasant shower with your garden it will likely find another place to hang out.
  • Plant a garden just for the cat. By creating a small space that the cat enjoys you may be able to keep it away from the rest of your plantings. Try catnip, catmint, cat thyme, and valerian. 
Stopping The Topping...


Has that tree in the front yard gotten a little too big? If so you need to resist the urge to "top it". Topping, also known as heading or stubbing, is a damaging pruning practice that seriously damages the long-term health of a tree. According to the National Arboretum many homeowners top their trees because of a misconception that large trees are hazardous and that storm debris will be reduced with a reduction in size. In fact, topped trees produce large quantities of water sprouts - shoots that are weakly attached and are easily broken off during storms - to replace the leaves and branches that were lost, thereby increasing storm debris.  

Zoysia Zzzs...

good idea

If you have a zoysia lawn it is still dormant and you should not be applying any fertilizer to it. Any fertilizer added now will just feed the weeds and they're overfed as it is. Be patient. You should be able to fertilize your zoysia lawn in about six weeks. 


"Forsythia is pure joy. There is not an ounce, not a glimmer
of sadness or even knowledge in forsythia. Pure, undiluted,
untouched joy.

~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh           

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