Missouri Organic

This Week's Timely Tips from the Savvygardener

June 1, 2011

In This Issue
Critters On Your Cukes?
Dividing Daylilies
Monitor Those Melons
Give 'Em Room To Breathe
New Trees From Cuttings
Dividing Ornamental Grass

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Seeds Indoors
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Shrub Pruning Calendar
~Pruning Clematis 
~Gardening in the Shade
~Summer-Flowering Bulb Care
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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


Haven't these past few days been delightful? Since the sun came out on Sunday it has been blue skies and warm days. A nice treat. I love that the humidity has been so low. I'm sure it won't stay that way for long so I'm taking advantage of it for as long as I can. I have kept myself busy outside planting pots, (yes I know it's the first of June and I'm still planting pots) and doing menial things like edging the entire back yard with grass scissors. Most everyone in my family thinks I'm crazy, probably more truth to that than I'm willing to admit. The sense of accomplishment I feel after doing something like that is immense. I try to explain to members of my family that it is often time the littlest things that make us the happiest. So far no one has offered up their time or willingness to take on the same task. Surprised? Me too!

Ten yards of Premium 1 mulch was delivered today from Missouri Organic. Looks like it will be enough to keep us busy for awhile (photo). Notice how I said us and not me? Spreading mulch is a family affair at our house - whether you like it or not. Kevin and I used to spread it ourselves but now we have three strong healthy kids to help. I'm so glad; spreading 10 yards of mulch is a lot of hard work. I will make sure to post the before and after pictures.

~ Shelly
Critters On Your Cukes?

The striped cucumber beetle is a serious threat to cucurbits, such as squash, cucumber, melon and pumpkin. The larvae will cause severe damage to roots and beetles can do a real number on an emerging plant by feeding on the lower surface of its leaves. These menaces also spread bacterial wilt, cucumber mosaic, and squash mosaic virus.


Although there are several insecticides that control the cucumber beetle, only a few chemicals can be used on cucurbit plants because of their sensitivity to chemical injury. Hand-picking is an organic approach and should be done in the early morning when most feeding occurs. These beetles are easy to kill but reinforcements arriving on the plants make this a very time consuming job.


Insecticides labeled for vegetables containing pyrethrum, rotenone, methoxychlor, or carbaryl (Sevin) should control the beetles. As always, follow directions and warnings carefully when using chemicals.


Dividing Daylilies...

One of the reasons we love daylilies is their fuss-free nature. Generally they don't need to be divided as often as many other perennials. However if you want to increase the number of your favorite cultivars you may want to divide them once in a while. Savvygardeners should be able to get four new plants from a healthy, 4-year old daylily. Divide them immediately after flowering, and replant them right away. 

Monitor Those Melons...

good idea

 Recent and upcoming warmer temperatures are sure to give watermelons a growth boost. Keep an eye on them! As vines from different plants begin to intermingle, and the canopy becomes thicker, the chances of developing anthracnose increase. It's a good idea to scout watermelon patches once or twice a week for this disease. Look for multiple small brown to black spots on leaves. These spots are typically associated with leaf veins. As the spots coalesce and dry out, the leaf may appear tattered.


Crop rotation and the use of resistant cultivars are your best non-chemical preventive measures against anthracnose. If you want to use chemicals it's a good idea to implement a preventive fungicide spray schedule, especially during rainy periods. Available fungicides change yearly so check with your local garden center and follow the directions carefully.

Give 'Em Room To Breathe...


Just because your plant is wilting don't assume it's due to lack of water. Plants can wilt from lack of oxygen too! Soil can become over-compacted and cause root systems to suffocate. The problem is often made worse by assuming the plant is thirsty and adding water unnecessarily.

Improving the soil for better air and water circulation is easy. Simply add peat moss or other loose organic material in and around the root area of your plants. Everyone will breathe easier! 

New Trees From Cuttings...


Now is a good time to start new trees and shrubs from existing ones. Many ornamental trees and shrubs can be reproduced by taking cuttings from new growth that occurred this spring. Though these softwood cuttings root relatively easily, they are susceptible to wilting and need close attention to watering and relative humidity.

  • It is best if cuttings are taken after a rain or several hours after the plant has been well watered.
  • Stems should be mature enough that they snap rather than bend when placed under pressure.
  • Cuttings should be about 6 inches long with cuts made at an angle just below a node, the area where a leaf joins the stem. The angle provides a larger cut surface and more area for the cutting to callus and root.
  • Strip off the lower leaves and place the cutting in a moist rooting media after it has been dipped in rooting powder. Several rooting mediums are suitable including sand with peat moss, sand with vermiculite, perlite with peat moss, and perlite with vermiculite. A suitable medium should provide good moisture-holding capacity and be open enough to provide good aeration to the roots.
  • Relative humidity should be kept at a high level by enclosing the container or containers in a plastic bag. Use wooden dowels or a similar object to keep the plastic off the top of the cuttings.
  • Place the rooting container in bright, indirect light and check often for watering needs.

Though some plants can be rooted directly in water, roots formed in water do not adapt well to soil.  When roots are about 1 inch long, cuttings can be removed from the propagation chamber and potted.


Dividing Ornamental Grass...


If large clumps of ornamental grasses such as maiden grass have hollow centers, this is a sign they need dividing for best growth. Large clumps can have massive roots and be quite heavy, so we find it easier to just divide pieces off the sides rather than to lift the whole clump. A square-tipped spade works best for this. You may even need to get such divisions started with a hatchet!


Disappointing Turf?


If the appearance of your lawn after mowing is not what you expect there are a few things worth evaluating.  


  1. Check your mowing height. You should mow as high as possible for the specific grass type (2 to 3 inches is a healthy height for most lawn grasses).
  2. Consider your mowing frequency. A higher mowed turf will need to be mowed less frequently and scalp less often than a closely mowed turf.
  3. Probably most importantly, check the sharpness of your mower blade. Dull or damaged mower blades do not cut cleanly and leave ragged leaf tips. These ragged wounds are very stressful to the turf plant, and provide an excellent opportunity for some disease pathogens to penetrate and infect the plant. 

"Many herbs and flowers
with their fragrant sweet smels doe comfort,
and as it were revive the spirits
and perfume the whole house."

~ John Parkinson

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