Missouri Organic

This Week's Timely Tips from the Savvygardener

June 8, 2011

In This Issue
When Good Mulch Goes Bad
Is That A Volcano In Your Garden?
Black Spot On Roses
Minimize Mosquitoes
Dealing With Storm Damage
Fruit Dropping, Branch Propping

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~Pruning Trees
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~Planting Trees
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~Trees that Survived the Storm
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This Week's Phots


Sunday wasn't the coolest day of the year but the 10 yards of mulch delivered to us last Friday by Missouri Organic was distributed to all the garden beds just the same. A special thanks to the very hard working Marsh boys! Kevin, Noah and Jake worked for hours in the heat shoveling wheel barrow after wheel barrow full of mulch. It was fun having most of the family helping out (photos). Our daughter Morgan was the only member not present (lucky her). Our youngest son Jake would look at the pile after shoveling for awhile and say, "It doesn't even look like we have made a dent!" But after a couple of hours I think that both Noah and Jake were pleased by their progress. Jake wanted to know why we mulch. Of course I gave him the gardening spiel about how its good for the plants, maintains moisture, temperature etc... I also told him that it looks nice. He looked at me with the cutest smile on his face and said, "No offense mom but I really do not see a difference." I said, "No offense taken, I think it looks nice."

I am the official family mulch spreader. I enjoy being on my hands and knees and really getting close to the soil. It is not an easy job and since I am extremely particular I am more than happy to take on the task. Kevin is always great about asking if he can help and I kindly tell him that I would rather do it myself. Not that he couldn't do it, it is more about me being too picky. I have my own way of doing things. It may take a little more time to get things done but I always seem to enjoy the results. Some people work all their lives and never become the official family mulch spreader. How lucky am I?

It looks as if we are going to see a break in this hotter than hot weather by Friday. Such great news! Heat indices into the high 90's and heat advisories before summer is even officially here? Too hot too soon. Mid to upper 70's for this weekend. I'm ready for a little reprieve. Perfect mulch spreading weather!  
~ Shelly
When Good Mulch Goes Bad...

It's not uncommon this time of year for Savvygardeners to have a pile of mulch delivered just to have it rained on in a big way. If you don't get that mulch covered be careful. Hardwood mulch can become a real problem if left too long in a damp pile. Not only does it smell bad once it "sours" it can adversely affect plants that it comes in contact with. Symptoms look like fertilizer or pesticide burn or water stress. Damage can be severe enough to actually kill plants - yikes! Depending on the extent of the injury, plants are often able to recover. Savvygardeners should water affected plants during hot, dry periods to prevent further stress.  


Mulch that has soured can still be used if it is "mellowed" before application. Simply spread the mulch in shallow layers and allow it to air out for several days until it no longer smells.

Is That A Volcano In Your Garden?

Speaking of mulch... When mulching try to avoid creating "mulch volcanoes" at the base of your trees. Unfortunately it is quite common to see trees mulched in this manner - a ring of mulch that gets progressively deeper as it approaches the trunk. While this is better than no mulch at all the University of Missouri Extension advises us that there are some real problems to consider:

  • When mulch is placed more than about 4 inches deep, roots tend to "migrate" up into the mulch during rainy periods or when the area is irrigated. Then, when drought conditions occur, the plant may come under severe stress because many of its roots are growing in a material with much less water holding capacity than real soil.
  • The surfaces of the mulch volcanoes can become hydrophobic due to fungal activity and will act as very effective umbrellas, shedding water to the surrounding turf. This could easily kill a young tree by depriving it of much needed water.
  • Other possible problems with mulch volcanoes are promotion of fungal canker diseases by constant moisture around the lower trunk, stress from poor gas exchange by the cells in the bark and damage from rodents that may take up residence in the volcano.


Black Spot On Roses...

good idea

A common disease of roses is blackspot, a fungal disease that can cause defoliation of susceptible plants. Look for dark, circular lesions with feathery edges on the top surface of the leaves and raised purple spots on young canes. Infected leaves will often yellow between spots and eventually drop. The infection usually starts on the lower leaves and works its way up the plant. Blackspot is most severe under conditions of high relative humidity (>85%), warm temperatures (75 to 85 degrees F) and six or more hours of leaf wetness. Newly expanding leaves are most vulnerable to infection. The fungus can survive on fallen leaves or canes and is disseminated primarily by splashing water.

Cultural practices are the first line of defense.

  1. Don't plant susceptible roses unless you are willing to use fungicide sprays. Follow this link for a list of blackspot resistant varieties.
  2. Keep irrigation water off the foliage. Drip irrigation works best with roses.
  3. Plant roses in sunny areas with good air movement to limit the amount of time the foliage is wet.
  4. Remove diseased leaves that have fallen and prune out infected rose canes to minimize inoculum.

If needed, gardeners can protect foliage with a regular spray program of effective fungicides. Recommended fungicides include tebuconazole (Bayer Disease Control for Roses, Flowers and Shrubs), myclobutanil (Immunox), triforine (Funginex), thiophanate methyl (Fertilome Halt) and chlorothalonil (Broad Spectrum Fungicide, Garden Disease Control.


Minimize Mosquitoes...

watering can

One of our least favorite parts of summer is the arrival (or re-emergence) of mosquitoes. This year is no exception. Eliminating sources of standing water is the most effective way of keeping mosquito populations in check but it is sometimes impractical for gardeners. Here are some good tips for dealing with standing water that can't be removed. 

  • Drain or empty the water in dog bowls, wading pools and birdbaths at least once-a-week. This will ensure egg-stage mosquitoes never have time to reach maturity.
  • Irrigate lawns and gardens carefully. Where soils have high clay content, for example, irrigating slowly or irrigating several times lightly will allow the clay to absorb the water, rather than causing puddles and runoff.
  • Stock ornamental ponds with mosquito larvae-eating fish, such as goldfish.
  • Remove in-water plants from the edges of garden ponds to allow fish access to the larvae living and developing there.
  • Using a retail product to control mosquito larvae will be more effective and less costly than trying to control the flying adults.
Dealing With Storm Damage...

tree The Kansas City metro has been hammered by storms recently. As always, some areas are hit harder than others. If your trees were victims of wind, hail, or lightning you'll want to make sure to act quickly and appropriately to ensure proper recovery. Iowa State Extension has published a great article called Managing Storm Damaged Trees. You can view the PDF here.

Fruit Dropping, Branch Propping...


Don't be alarmed if tree fruit is dropping this time of year. It's just Mother nature's natural thinning process designed to prevent excessive loads. Just in case the branch loads remain too heavy you should thin remaining fruit by hand or prop up heavy branches to avoid breakage. Most fruit should be spaced 6 to 8 inches apart on a branch.


Taxing Time For Turf...


The next few months will likely be very taxing for your fescue or bluegrass lawn. Long, hot and humid days, with little rainfall can make even the greenest lawns wilt. While it's probably not possible to keep your turf looking perfectly lush and green all summer you can prepare it for the heat by raising the cutting height of your mower. Fescues and bluegrass should be cut at a height of 3 to 3 inches. Determine your mowing frequency by cutting no more than one-third of the blade height with each cutting. This means cutting when it reaches 4 inches or so.

"Should a garden look as if the gardener worked on his knees? I ask you."

~ Lincoln Steffens

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