Missouri Organic

This Week's Timely Tips from the Savvygardener

September 7, 2011

In This Issue
Mulch Ado About Trees
Proper Perennial Planting
Mosquito Control
Counting On Crickets
Apple Storage
Attracting Hummingbirds
Time To Stop Dandelions

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This Week's Phots



How about this weather? Morning temps in the 40's? It is hard to imagine that last week we were sweltering in 100 degree heat and now the lows are in the 50's. I would have never guessed we would experience a 50 degree swing so quickly. The sudden change is so exhilarating! Doesn't it feel great to walk outside first thing in the morning to take in a breath of fresh air? Startling at first and then refreshing. I would be happy to see this weather hang on for awhile. Looks like we might see some high 80's next week but that's OK. I'm not quite ready to bid farewell to all the warm weather. The change of season is so inspiring. It renews my inner gardening strength and after the summer we had it sure does need renewing. 

Are there any allergy sufferers out there? I have seasonal allergies with spring and fall being the worst. Pollen in the spring and ragweed in the fall. UGH! I want to be outside so desperately but don't spend too much time out due to the repercussions - swollen, scratchy eyes, congestion, runny nose, sinus headaches... you get the picture. It can be pretty awful. So on days that I venture out I arm myself with a box of tissues and carry on. If there is a will there is a way!
~ Shelly

Mulch Ado About Trees...

Fall is a great time to plant a tree. Keeping it alive is an all-season affair. Mulching is so important for new trees but it's not as simple as dumping a bag of wood chips at the base of a tree. Here are some tips to help you avoid the most common mistakes:

  • Don't pile mulch around the trunk.  This keeps the trunk wet, which can allow diseases and insects to invade.  Keep the mulch at least 6 inches from the trunk.
  • Don't put on too little or too much.  A 1-inch-deep layer doesn't do the job.  A settled depth of 3 to 5 inches gives you the full benefits of mulch, including good weed control.  Mulch depths of a foot or two are excessive and may smother roots.
  • Don't apply sour-smelling mulch.  If it smells like a litter box it's probably been stored on a waterlogged site.  The ammonia that builds in this situation can harm your tree.  Sour mulch is a rare occurrence, but your nose will give you a clear warning of it.
  • Don't use freshly chipped chips.  While the chance of disease transmission is small it's easy to go zero-risk by aging chips for six weeks or more before using them around your trees.

Proper Perennial Planting...

Fall is here and that means we're planting perennials at our house. By planting perennials now Savvygardeners will benefit from the plant establishing a strong root structure during the autumn months. This in turn leads to a bigger, healthier plant next spring.

Perennials are generally sold in pots or bare-root. Here are the steps to follow when planting a bare root perennial:

  1. Remove the plant from its package, and carefully remove all loose packing material (peat moss and sawdust are commonly used).
  2. Soak the roots in a bucket of water for 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Examine the root system, and trim away any rotted, moldy, broken or elongated roots with a sharp knife or your pruning shears.
  4. Dig a hole deep and wide enough to allow the roots to fan out from the crown at about 45° angle. It sometimes helps to make a cone-shaped mound of soil in the bottom of the hole and spread the roots around it. Remember, the crown of most perennials should be roughly level with the surrounding ground.
  5. Cover the roots with soil and press down firmly. Make sure all the roots - especially those under the crown are in contact with soil.
  6. Water the plant well and add a layer of mulch.


Mosquito Control...


In case you haven't noticed, mosquitoes continue to be present in large numbers and will continue to pose a threat right up until our first hard frost. Limiting their breeding area is one of the most effective ways to keep their numbers in check. Mosquitoes can breed in very small amounts of standing water, sometimes even in water collected on a plastic bag or under a small saucer under a plant. Change water in birdbaths and pets water dishes regularly - at least twice a week.  

Counting On Crickets...

good idea

The temperatures are dropping but how much? I guess you could be a traditionalist and look at a thermometer. Or you could show your savvy by listening to the crickets. Seriously. Count the number of chirps a common cricket makes during a 15-second period. Add 40 to the number of chirps. The total will be pretty close to the actual temperature in Fahrenheit.  

Apple Storage...


If you're growing apples or have access to a lot of them you may be wondering about how long they can stored. Not surprisingly some cultivars can be stored longer than others. Some can be stored for as long as eight months and still be tasty and crispy.  The approximate length of time of those that keep well under refrigerated conditions follows:


CultivarDays CultivarDays
Gala120Rome Beauty220
Grimes Golden120Fuji240
Golden Delicious150Granny Smith240
Empire150Arkansas Black240

For best results:

  • Store only the best quality.
  • Pick as they are first maturing.
  • Avoid skin breaks, disease or insect damage, and bruises on individual fruit.
  • Store in a plastic bag to help retain moisture in the apples. The bag should have a few small holes for air exchange. The bags of apples may be stored in boxes to prevent bruising if they must be stacked or moved from time to time.
  • Refrigerate at about 35º F.
  • Sort about every 30 to 40 days to remove fruit that may be beginning to rot.


Attracting Hummingbirds...


We saw our hummingbird friends again this year but next year we'd like to see even more! If you're looking for plants that are likely to attract hummingbirds consider planting these this fall:  

Trumpet VineCatalpaCoralberry
Tiger LilyPenstemonPhlox
Sweet WilliamSnap DragonLarkspur

Dandy Time To Stop Dandelions...


So, all summer long you've been battling a few (or a few dozen) dandelions for control of your lawn. Well, they say the best way to control dandelions and other broad-leaf weeds is by maintaining a lush, healthy turf. But you've still got to knock out those pesky weeds that just won't go away and fall is a great time to do it. Options are many but generally the most effective controls result with a liquid broadleaf weed herbicide sprayed under these conditions:

  • The weeds are actively growing.
  • Soil moisture is plentiful (never in drought).
  • Air temperatures are between 60°and 75°F (never above 80°).
  • Wind speeds are below 5 mph.
  • The lawn will not receive moisture through rain or irrigation for at least 24 hours.
  • The lawn will not be mowed for several days before or after the application.
  • The person doing the applying reads and follows herbicide label instructions carefully.

"It was one of those perfect English autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life."  


~  P.D. James

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