Missouri Organic

This Week's Timely Tips from the Savvygardener

April 27, 2011

In This Issue
Oh Say Can You Sow?
Catkins Fever
Why Lilacs Don't Bloom
Ants In Your...
Cutworms Collared
Ugh, Slugs
The Turfgrass Two-Step

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This Week's Phots


I am always a little baffled this time of year. How is it that one day there are no leaves on the trees and then suddenly there are leaves on all the trees? Every spring I can hardly wait to see the trees in all their glory and before I know it, it's here. In a few more days, all the trees will be fully leafed out. Gone are those lonely, naked limbs replaced by those fully dressed in beautiful shades of green. What would we do without trees? I simply can't imagine.

This weather we've been experiencing has me in a funk. No sun, rainy, cold (ok, maybe not cold but chilly), blah! Good news! The next seven days look a little brighter (thank goodness) and warmer. And may I say that I am so ready? The grass is growing like crazy. It has been so wet and I have yet to plant anything substantial. I plan on getting busy this weekend. I have my lists made. One for fertilizers and miscellaneous needs, one for plants, those for pots and for those going into the ground. It is difficult for me to go into any nursery and stay focused. I could walk around for hours, just ask Kevin. I really want to get busy but I need to be organized. Go in, get what I need, (maybe a couple of things I don't) and get out! It really is not very easy. Who doesn't want to buy one of everything?  
~ Shelly
Oh Say Can You Sow?

Gardeners all across the metro will be out this weekend buying bedding plants, vegetable seedlings, and all manner of transplants for the garden. Keep in mind that some plants actually prefer to have their seeds sown directly in the garden.

Among vegetables these include: beans, beets, carrots, celery, peas, squash, and turnips. 


Among flowers: alyssum, aster, bachelor's button, cosmos, marigold, morning glory, sunflower, sweet pea, and zinnia.

Buy the seeds, read the directions, watch them grow! 

Catkins Fever...

Many, many gardeners are asking about the brownish-yellow, tassel looking matter that is presently everywhere. In the yard, all over flowers, trees, flying about in the air, floating around in our fountain. These are catkins and are essential to the production of acorns. Catkins are the first things that bud out as the oak tree leafs out. They are short lived and obviously quite messy. The good news is that the catkins' cycle is short lived and they'll be gone soon. In the meantime simply sweep, rake, or mow them up and add them to your compost pile! 

Why Lilacs Don't Bloom...


There's nothing quite as frustrating as an otherwise healthy lilac bush that just won't bloom. It's a common problem and here's a rundown of the most common reasons:  


  • Shade
    Excess shade is the most likely culprit when lilacs fail to bloom well. Lilacs bloom best in full sunlight, or at least a half day sun. Anything less will mean fewer flowers developing. When they're in a location that's shaded all day, lilacs rarely bloom at all.
  • Pruning  Any pruning should be done right after the flowers fade in spring. If you wait until mid- to late summer to do it, you may not see many flowers the following year. That's because the flower buds for the following year are set shortly after the plant is through blooming.
  • Nutrients  Lilacs don't need fertilizer to make them bloom. In fact, an abundance of nutrients, especially nitrogen, encourages the lilac to make a lot of leafy, vegetative growth - which may come at the expense of flower bud development.
  • Moisture
    Lilacs grow best in well-drained soil. While wet, poorly-drained soil isn't directly associated with lack of blooms, it is associated with plants that develop roots or generally fail to thrive. If you have a young lilac in a low lying moist location, transplant it to a more favorable site if at all possible.



Ants In Your...


Not your pants, but your peonies! If you have peonies you no doubt have noticed a proliferation of ants scurrying to and fro across the flower buds. Those ants are the source of many "old gardener's tales" that have been handed down over the ages. Here's the deal: The ants are there because of the nectar-like substance secreted by the peony. Chances are that the ants you see on your peonies are already living in your garden - the peonies just draw them out of the soil and make them more visible. In other words, peonies are not increasing your local ant population (which creepily number in the hundreds of thousands or more). Some say that the ants actually help peonies bloom. Most experts disagree but since they do no harm it's best to just let them enjoy your peonies as much as you do. 

Cutworms Collared...

good ideaCutworms can be a real problem for gardeners setting out transplants. Protect your newly transplanted plants with collars. Simply cut strips of cardboard 2-inches wide by 8-inches long and staple them into a band. Place this collar around the plant stem and press it about 1-inch into the soil. Simple and very effective! 

Ugh, Slugs...

heartThere's nothing quite as refreshing as the feeling of walking barefoot on a dew-covered lawn first thing in the morning. Nothing will ruin that feeling faster than stepping on a big ol' slimy slug. Aesthetically these guys have no redeeming properties at all. They can wreak havoc on your garden as well. Young slugs will damage your plants by rasping away the surface of plant leaves for food. They can eat 30 to 40 times their weight every day! The adults chew holes in leaves and leave slime trails on your precious plants. If you don't already have a favorite and effective way to control slugs try these tricks:

  • Slugs like the dark and damp. Place a board over damp ground for a hiding place during the day. Check each morning and destroy any slugs that have gathered on the bottom of the board.
  • Slugs are attracted to and drown in shallow dishes containing beer. Set the top edges of the dish at ground level and cover loosely with a board so slugs can easily get into the brew.
  • If you don't like the idea of killing slugs you can try physical barriers, Slugs will not cross rough surfaces. Sprinkle ashes or special slug barriers around the perimeter of the garden. Stay on top of this method however. If rain, wind, or anything else sweeps the barrier away you can count on the slugs exploiting the breach in your defenses.


The Turfgrass Two-Step...

mowerMost of us are creatures of habit. When it comes to mowing your lawn you probably follow the same back and forth pattern every time you cut the grass. Unfortunately this regular practice will eventually wear ruts in the lawn where the mower wheels repeatedly follow the same path. To avoid this problem try a four-way rotation of cutting patterns. Picture your lawn as a sheet of paper and try these patterns. Next week - tango lessons:

  1. Horizontal - left-to-right, turn, right-to-left across the lawn.
  2. Vertical - top-to-bottom, turn, bottom-to-top across the lawn.
  3. Diagonal 1 - bottom-left to top-right, turn, top-right to bottom-left. Work toward corners.
  4. Diagonal 2 - bottom-right to top-left, turn, top-left to bottom-right. Work toward corners. 

"Why are wildflowers so important to those of us who care
at all for flowers? For me, anyway, it is because they come
like gifts from God (or Nature), and to encounter them in their natural habitat is an extraordinary aesthetic pleasure."  

~ Katharine S. White  

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