Missouri Organic

This Week's Timely Tips from the Savvygardener

July 20, 2011

In This Issue
Bitter Cucumbers?
Revitalize Herbs
Thump Goes The Melon
The Cutting Gardener
Plucking Petunias
Autumn Blooming Bulbs
Too Tall Turf

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This Week's Phots



Walking outside this afternoon is like walking into the mouth of a fire-breathing dragon. HOT! My goodness, I have had quite enough of this. Would it be too much to ask for a few days in the 80's? This weather makes me hot, tired and cranky. What's to like, really? It is hard to get excited about too many things. Most of my potted plants are barely hanging on. They're alive... but pretty really isn't the word I would use to describe them right now. I am to the point of dreading having to venture outside. Me, the person who lives for being outside. I apologize for the whining but this excessive heat is just cruel. 

My dear Savvygardener friends Rick & Gayle Boyd brought over one of their seedling tomato plants for me a few weeks ago. I was so excited. I had sort of given up on growing vegetables due to the frustration caused by the many varmints that roam our yard. In past years I have lost tomatoes, cantaloupe, watermelon and many other crops to the neighborhood animals. So this year, I potted up my little tomato seedling, picked out a nice sunny spot on the patio, watered it, watched it and sure enough it was loaded with fruit. I was thrilled until the other day I went out to check on it. Sure enough,  a couple of nice size tomatoes that had set on were gone! It was awful. I was so upset. I am pretty sure it was the chipmunks (or maybe the squirrels). They are everywhere and quite annoying. I am sad to say that this year is going to be like past years with regards to harvesting tomatoes. I am sure that many of you have a story similar to mine. I have said this many times. Gardening, it's just not that easy.
~ Shelly
Bitter Cucumbers?
sunny hot

A bitter taste in cucumbers is the result of stress that can be caused by a number of factors, including heredity, moisture, temperature, soil characteristics and disease. Most often this occurs during the hot part of the summer or later in the growing season.


Two compounds, cucurbitacins B and C, give rise to the bitter taste. Though often only the stem end is affected, at times the entire fruit is bitter. Also, most of the bitter taste is found in and just under the skin. Bitter fruit is not the result of cucumbers cross-pollinating with squash or melons. These plants cannot cross-pollinate with one another.


Often newer varieties are less likely to become bitter than older ones. Proper cultural care is also often helpful. Make sure your plants have the following:

  • Well-drained soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5.
  • Plenty of organic matter also helps.
  • Mulch helps conserve moisture and keep roots cool during hot, dry weather.
  • Adequate water especially during the fruiting season.
  • Disease and insect control.



Revitalize Herbs...
good idea

If your basil and thyme look like they need an extreme makeover you can revitalize them by cutting them back severely. This will stimulate a clean new flush of growth, free of any insect and disease damage incurred since spring. 

Thump Goes The Melon...


Watermelon growers may have some pretty big fruit by now. You don't want to harvest your melons too early! Just check for these tell-tale indicators of ripeness:


  • The underside ground spot turns from whitish to creamy yellow. 
  • The tendril closest to the melon turns brown and shrivels. 
  • The rind loses its gloss and appears dull. 
  • The melon produces a dull thud rather than a ringing sound when thumped. 
The Cutting Gardener...


When gardens are blooming the way they have been lately it's a shame not to spread the beauty around. How? By bringing some of it inside! Before you try it yourself there are some procedures to follow if you really want to do it right:

  • Start when flower stems are full of water - either early morning (6 to 8 AM) or late evening (7 to 9 PM).
  • Carry a clean bucket filled with very warm (100 to 120 F) water.
  • Always use sharp, very clean scissors or pruners when cutting. 
  • Immediately place any cut flowers in the bucket of warm water.
  • When you bring the flowers in, re-cut each flower under water.  This pulls water into the stems more quickly.  Flowers that are not re-cut immediately after picking can lose up to 60% of their vase life.
  • Place the bucket of re-cut flowers in a cool area, such as the basement and allow them to hydrate or harden for at least one hour (although overnight is best).
  • Arrange, display, enjoy!



Plucking Petunias...


Deadheading petunias is a sure-fire way to keep them blooming all summer long. But sometimes gardeners have trouble knowing which ones stay and which ones go. Spent blossoms often look very much like unopened petunia buds. If you're unsure just remember that spent petunia blossoms are shrunken and have little substance to them and come off with a gentle tug. Immature buds feel full and hang on a little tighter. 

Autumn Blooming Bulbs...


The savviest of Savvygardeners know that there are a number of autumn-blooming bulbs that really perk up the fall garden and landscape. Autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale) also known as meadow saffron, mysteria, or naked boys produces pink to lavender crocus-like flowers in the fall and there is no foliage present when the plants are in bloom. Dark green leaves will emerge in the spring, remain until summer, then turn yellow and die to the ground. After which, the flowers magically appear in the fall again.


Colchicums should be planted immediately after purchase or delivery in August or September or they will start to bloom in their packaging. Plant the corms in clumps, 2-3 inches deep in well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade. Pretty!

Too Tall Turf...


If you've been away on vacation and your lawn is extra tall be careful about cutting too much at once. As a rule you should cut no more than one-third of the grass height at a time. If necessary, try setting your mower height to the highest setting for a first cutting. Then wait two-three days and cut again at a reduced height. 


"Some beach, somewhere.
There's a big umbrella casting shade over an empty chair.
Palm trees are growin' and a warm breeze a blowing.
I picture myself right there, on some beach, somewhere."

~ Blake Shelton

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