Missouri Organic

This Week's Timely Tips from the Savvygardener

June 29, 2011

In This Issue
Timing Is Everything
Lawns Becoming Forests
Shake It Up
Nurturing Natures Nightlights
Better Blackberries
Too Hot To Handle?
Battling Brown Patch

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This Week's Phots


Yesterday's weather must have been the calm before the storm. Kevin and I took advantage of  it last evening and took a nice long walk after dinner. We weren't the only ones. There were so many people out walking and riding bikes. Everyone knew that there was going to be a change in the weather and sure enough, change it did. Sizzling hot weather has arrived and it looks as if it will be following us into the holiday weekend. The next three days will bring summer-like temperatures with heat indices climbing into the mid 100's. An excessive heat watch has been issued for many counties in the area until late Saturday evening. Please be cautious when outside gardening or doing any other activities. Remember to take breaks often and drink plenty of water. The chance for rain between now and Sunday is slim so make sure you keep and eye on pots and anything else that looks like it might need a good drink. Hopefully we will see some relief on Monday or Tuesday of next week. Thank goodness for air-conditioning! 


Seems like I am in the car most of the day taking kids to and picking kids up from different places. I keep myself busy by listening to NPR. Great piece on How Industrial Farming 'Destroyed' The Tasty Tomato yesterday on Fresh Air. Host Terri Gross interviewed Barry Estabrook, author of Tomatoland. Very interesting. If you get a chance, listen to this piece.   


Have a safe and Happy 4th of July!

~ Shelly
Timing Is Everything...

Some of us are morning people, others need more time to get going every day. The same is true for garden vegetables! The time of day you pick your vegetables can actually have a dramatic effect on their taste and texture. For instance, your lettuce and cucumbers will be crispier if picked early - before the hot sun has had a chance to wilt your crop. On the other hand corn and peas will be sweeter if you wait until later in the day when their sugar levels are highest. Yum! 

Lawns Becoming Forests...

This time of year conditions are very favorable for the germination of saplings (baby trees) and there is a profusion of them across the metro. Left alone for a decade or so they will indeed turn a lawn into a wooded lot. Luckily, simply following a normal mowing routine will prevent these upstarts from becoming mighty oaks (or maples, or whatever). The ones in your garden are a bit more challenging. You're going to have to treat them like weeds a remove them individually. Sorry. 


Shake It Up...

good idea

Although tomatoes are self-pollinating, they need movement to transfer pollen. If it is hot and calm for several days you may need to gently shake your plants to assure that pollen is properly transferred. Very hot temperatures can also interfere with blossom set. One solution is to mist the plants periodically throughout the day. Careful here! Wet leaves can promote other diseases. If you choose to mist do it during the day when plants will have adequate time to dry out before nightfall. 

Nurturing Natures Nightlights...


Some things just mean summer to me. Fireflies (lightning bugs to some of you) fit that category nicely. My kids could spend hours catching these magical creatures and putting them in a jar or cage. Before calling it a night however, I make sure they let the fireflies escape. Anglers call it catch and release. We call it good gardening. You see, the larvae of fireflies dine on cutworms, mites, slugs, snails, soft-bodied insects and the larvae of other insects. They apparently have voracious appetites and quietly do wonders keeping pests at bay. 


Better Blackberries...


The exact time to harvest blackberries varies by cultivar, and thorny blackberries normally ripen earlier than thornless types. But there are some general guidelines to keep in mind when harvesting blackberries.

  • Do not pick blackberries too early or berry size and flavor will be sacrificed.
  • Blackberries usually develop a dull, black color with plump, juicy fruitlets as they ripen. The berries soften and produce the characteristic flavor.
  • Full color often develops before the berries separate easily.

Pick the berries by gently lifting the berry with the thumb and fingers. The receptacle, or center part of the fruit, remains in the fruit when blackberries are harvested, unlike raspberries, which leave the receptacle on the bush. Take care not to crush the berries or expose them to the hot sun. When possible, avoid picking berries when they are wet. They'll probably need picking every second or third day. Cool the berries immediately after harvest to extend shelf life. Keep them refrigerated under high relative humidity and use within three to five days.




Too Hot To Handle?


When the weather gets really oppressive (like they're predicting for the next week or so) it's all too easy to want to stay inside and neglect the garden. Instead, try to do your watering early in the morning, take the afternoon off, and do your weeding, dead-heading, etc... in the evening. Remember, in high heat watering must be thorough and deep. If you can't water adequately during hot, dry weather you are actually better off doing nothing at all and I mean nothing. Plants under severe summer stress compensate by becoming inactive. Pruning, fertilizing, spraying or otherwise encouraging growth can do more harm than good if water is insufficient. 


Battling Brown Patch (continued)...


You will recognize brown patch in your lawn by thinning of the turf in clustered, roughly circular patches. The patches will expand as the problem gets worse.


This is a disease that remains in the soil, so you're not going to get rid of it completely. All you can do is prevent it through smart horticultural practices and treat it when necessary with appropriately labeled fungicides.  Smart practices include:


  • Avoiding heavy, early spring and summer fertilization, particularly with soluble nitrogen.
  • Watering in the early morning.  Late afternoon and evening watering should be avoided.
  • Remove and dispose of clippings from infected areas or when conditions are conducive to disease development. (Mulching mowers that chop clippings to   inch or less do not contribute to brown patch development.)

"Winter is cold-hearted,

Spring is yea and nay,
Autumn is a weather cock
Blown every way.
Summer days for me
When every leaf is on its tree."

~ Christina Rossetti

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