Missouri Organic

This Week's Timely Tips from the Savvygardener

July 6, 2011

In This Issue
Invigorating Irises
Lawns Becoming Forests
When Is A Tomato Ripe?
When To Pick A Pepper
Fall Crops Begin Now
Dormez Vous Fescue?
Shady Characters

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Feature Articles
~All About Composting
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~When to Start
Seeds Indoors
~Seed Starting Indoors
~ Vegetable Garden Calendar
~Seed Starting Tomatoes


Shrub Pruning Calendar
~Pruning Clematis 
~Gardening in the Shade
~Summer-Flowering Bulb Care
~Drought-Tolerant Flowers for KC
~Preparing for a Soil Test
~ Changing the pH of Your Soil
~Growing Herbs
~When to Harvest Vegetables
~ 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


Kevin and I hauled the family to Chicago this past weekend to celebrate the 4th of July. We did the usual touristy stuff. Took in a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, visited the well known Willis Tower, (formerly known as Sears tower) and dared ourselves to walk out on the skydeck. For those of you unfamiliar with the skydeck, it is a glass ledge that is 1,353 feet in the air. It is enclosed but is still not an easy thing to do particularly if you are afraid of heights. We all took the big step and found ourselves a bit unnerved when looking down. We also visited the John Hancock Observatory, Shedd Aquarium and had the opportunity to watch the Royals lose to the Sox at the bottom of the 9th inning at US Cellular Field. 


I do love the city.  There are many reasons to like Chicago.  It is less intimidating than New York, it sits on the banks of Lake Michigan and the shopping and dining is outstanding.  I have often thought that becoming a "urban dweller" might be something I might like to do someday. Living in a high-rise doesn't give you much gardening space but as I walked around Chicago I was pleasantly surprised by all of the beautifully landscaped green space. I suppose if I chose to live downtown Chicago I could certainly find a community garden that would benefit from my love of gardening. Don't worry, I'm not packing any boxes. I would have to live somewhere else in the winter. I can't see myself being too thrilled about the large amounts of snowfall and the blustery, cold winds blowing off the lake. Just dreaming for now. Happy in my Kansas home, with my very own gardening space.


~ Shelly
Invigorating Irises...

To promote growth, vigor and optimum flowering, iris clumps may be raised and divided every three years or so. Dig up the rhizomes carefully to avoid damage to rhizomes and their roots. Examine them for the presence of worm-like insects called iris borers, which may seriously damage or destroy the plant. If they are found, remove them, cut out the affected tissue and dust with a garden insecticide, such as Sevin, before replanting. Select sound rhizomes with two or more growing points. Rhizomes may be cut apart with a sharp knife, or snapped apart by hand. Be sure to preserve as many rhizome roots as possible. The best time to divide iris is in mid-summer while the plants are dormant. Late July through mid August is preferred. 

Trees Shedding Bark...

Trees naturally shed bark as they grow. The amount of bark shed varies significantly from one year to the next and is often not noticeable. But some trees, such as sycamore, London planetree and silver maple, shed bark in large patches or strips (photo). During a year with heavy shedding homeowners may become concerned that the tree is sick or dying. This is rarely the case. Sycamore and London planetree normally show a bright green color on the branches when the bark first falls off but soon return to normal. Maple reveals an orange color after shedding but it too soon returns to normal. Bottom line: There is nothing wrong with the tree as long as the shedding bark simply reveals underlying bark rather than bare wood.



When Is A Tomato Ripe?


Early July starts tomato ripening time in Kansas City. We've all heard of 'vine ripe' flavor but does a tomato have to remain on the vine until it is completely ripe? The answer is no. When a tomato reaches a full size and the fruit becomes a pale green, it begins the ripening process which is regulated by an internal gas produced within the fruit called ethylene. After the tomato reaches a stage when it's about green and pink (called the 'breaker stage'), a layer of cells forms across the stem of the tomato- sealing it from the main vine. At this point there is nothing moving from the plant into the fruit. At this stage the tomato can be harvested and ripened off the vine with no loss of flavor, quality or nutrition.


Red pigments in tomatoes don't form above 95F so tomatoes ripened in extreme heat will have a orange-red color. Tomatoes held at cooler temperatures will ripen slower. You can speed up or slow down the ripening process by raising the temperature (to an optimum of 85F) or lowering the temperature (to a minimum of 50F). Tomatoes develop their optimum flavor, nutrition, and color when the tomato is in the full red ripe stage but this doesn't have to occur on the plant!



When To Pick A Pepper...


Depending on what variety of bell pepper you are growing and what color you want it to be you have different guidelines to follow for the timing of your harvest. Green bell varieties are usually picked when they are fully grown and mature - 3 to 4 inches long, firm and green. Colored bell peppers start out green but should be left on the plant until they develop full flavor and ripen fully to red, yellow, orange or brown. 


Fall Crops Begin Now...


A fall harvest of cabbage, vine crops, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts means setting transplants in late July.  For lettuce, radish, carrots, beets, turnips, kale, and spinach, you should sow seeds in late July to early August.

Brussels sprouts are especially good fall crops as their flavor is enhanced by a mild frost.  They are hungry little guys so make monthly applications of 5-10-10 fertilizer at a rate of cup per square yard from the time the plants are 4 inches tall through harvest.

Dormez Vous Fescue?


This time of year many cool-season grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, fescue and perennial rye will naturally go dormant and turn brown due to lack of water or too much heat. Remember, the lawn is not dead - it's only dormant and will green up again when the weather is more favorable in the fall. Mow it regularly to about three inches and water during extended dry periods.


Now, we've been around long enough to know that most of you can't stand the idea of brown grass all summer. If you wish to keep the lawn green you will need to follow a regular watering routine before the lawn begins to brown. Once the lawn goes dormant watering will not generally green it up until fall. You will need about 1 inch of rain or irrigation per week. It is better to give the lawn a good soaking (to a 6 inch depth) once a week than frequent light watering. Always water early in the day to reduce disease occurrence.

Shady Characters...

good idea

Looking for a good, low exertion chore for the hot weather? Try inspecting your shade trees and the grass below them. They may be getting so full of branches that not enough sunlight filters through to your grass. If your grass is just not making it under a particular tree you can stand in its shade and make some notes for future pruning. You'd be surprised how well grass will respond to even a moderate amount of increased sunlight. 


"What a delight it is 
When, of a morning,
I get up and go out
To find in full bloom a flower
That yesterday was not there."

~ Tachibana Akemi

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