Missouri Organic

This Week's Timely Tips from the Savvygardener

August 17, 2011

In This Issue
Heirloom Tomato Seeds
Colorful Closers
Tater Tidbits
Blister Beetles On Tomatoes
Making the Cut
Herb Helpers
Wake Up Sleepy Turf

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This Week's Phots



Well this is a first. I am writing this week's newsletter from a hospital room at KU Medical Center. I had surgery yesterday (don't panic, just some simple maintenance) and I'm not allowed to go home until Thursday. I'm feeling fine but will be much happier once I'm surrounded by the creature comforts of home. It is true what they say, there is no rest while staying at a hospital. 

I am still reeling from the weekend weather. Saturday and Sunday were two of the prettiest days we have had in months! Kevin and I were busy running errands on Saturday and then spent Saturday evening outdoors at a party. Great food, music, weather and catching up with friends. It was wonderful to be outside with a cool breeze and no bugs. Unusual for mid-August but no one complained. Sunday was the official last day of summer for the boys so we decided to celebrate with a great summer meal. Kevin smoked a pork shoulder. We also had peaches and cream corn-on-the-cob, home grown tomatoes and watermelon. The corn and tomatoes were picked up at the Overland Park farmer's market. Our first time there this summer. The food was delicious and we took advantage of the weather and dined outside. Two super summer days! 

I was thrilled that it rained most of the day Monday. After spending hours cleaning out the beds Sunday they were certainly ready for a good soaking. I've pulled most of my annuals. I'm ready to replace them with asters, mums and pansies. These cooler morning temps have put me in the mood for fall planting. I am ready for change, aren't you?
~ Shelly
Heirloom Tomato Seeds...

Many Savvygardeners are now growing Heirloom Tomatoes in their gardens. Saving seeds from these oldies-but-goodies is a great idea but maybe not as simple as you think. First of all you need to take some precautions to prevent cross-pollination from other tomato varieties nearby or the seeds may not produce the tomato you wanted. If you grow more than one variety of tomato, they should be planted at least 20-25 feet apart. In addition, a tall barrier crop (corn, pole beans, fruit trees, etc...), or a continuous pollen-producing crop (squash) should be planted between varieties to distract the bees. These precautions will prevent most wind caused cross-pollination, and cause bees to visit only one tomato variety at a time before returning to the hive to clean off their collected pollen. 


Save the seeds from healthy plants with the best fruit quality. Pick the fruit when ripe, scoop out seeds and pulp into a bowl with a little water then leave to ferment for 4 days (no longer or some heirlooms will begin to sprout). Separate out seed from pulp, rinse the seeds, then dry them on paper towels or a screen in a warm, dry place with good air circulation (try outdoors on warm summer or fall days). After 5-7 days, place seeds in airtight containers and store indoors in a dark, cool, dry place. If properly stored, your seeds should remain viable for 3-5 years.


Colorful Closers...

Mums are a gardener's best friend in the fall. As the latest blooming flowers they provide color and beauty to a garden that has otherwise been worn out for the season. When choosing mums from your local retailer buy healthy looking plants that have been taken care of - no broken stems, wilted leaves, etc... 


Plants with existing blooms will be limited in their ability to provide much more flowering. Those with buds about to bloom will provide you with flowers into the fall. We usually buy several plants in bloom for immediate gratification and quite a few more that we expect to bloom over the coming weeks. What a great exclamation point at the end of the season!

Tater Tidbits...

good idea

If you're harvesting potatoes remember that they will continue to grow as long as the tops are green. So dig only as many as you need for immediate use. The ones left in the ground will actually keep better there than in your home.


Blister Beetles On Tomatoes...


This time of year gardeners may find some tomato plants virtually stripped of foliage by Ashgray Blister Beetles. Blister beetles vary in size (often between 0.5-0.75 inch long) and color (such as black, gray or brown-striped), but most are recognized by their elongated, narrow, cylindrical, soft bodies with middle body part (thorax) narrower than the head or wing covers. 


Hand picking is certainly an effective nonchemical method for controlling these large insects but not without its own dangers. You see, these beetles contain a substance called cantharidin an irritant capable of blistering internal and external body tissues exposed to the chemical. On tender human skin, body fluids of adult blister beetles may cause large, erect, watery blisters. Ouch! 


Chemical control of blister beetles is also possible. Carbaryl (Sevin) is labeled and effective but has a three-day waiting period. However, Sevin can encourage spider mites and so if you have spider mites or have had them in the past, you may want to consider lambda-cyhalothrin (Spectracide Triazicide) as it will control both blister beetles and spider mites. This product has a 5-day waiting period.

Making the Cut...


When your plants fall victim to disease one of the first courses of action is the removal of the diseased portions. Careful! The same pruners that you use to cut away diseased foliage can then transfer the disease to otherwise healthy plants. A one in ten solution of bleach and water can be used to disinfect pruners between cuts. Rather than keep a bucket of solution nearby try mixing the solution in a small spray bottle. Carry it with you and spray your pruners after each cut.

Herb Helpers...


Keep your basil, parsley, mint, and sage, producing by pinching out the seed pods. Herbs can be used fresh, frozen, or dried. Wait until the dew has dried to cut a few stems, tie a string around this little bouquet, and hang in a cool, dry place until completely dry. Crumble and place in a jar for use during the winter.

Wake Up Sleepy Turf...


If all or parts of your cool season lawn have gone dormant this summer you should prepare for a fall comeback now by starting a deep watering program. Make sure your lawn gets a morning soak twice a week and you will be rewarded with stronger, more lush growth later this fall.


"A garden must combine the poetic and the mysterious with a feeling of serenity and joy."

~  Luis Barragan

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