Missouri Organic

This Week's Timely Tips from the Savvygardener

September 14, 2011

In This Issue
Totally Tulips
Diggin' On Trees
Make Green Tomatoes See Red
Whiteflies Everywhere
Beyond Soil Tests
Needle Drop On Pines
Tips For New Turf

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Feature Articles
~All About Composting
~All About Mulch
~Houseplant Care
~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



Last evening while Kevin and I were watching the evening news I was somewhat stunned to hear the F-word. Yep, Erin Little, KMBC 9 meteriorologist, let the frost word slip. I said to Kevin, "Did she just say the F-word?" and Kevin's reply was, "Yes she did." I started to panic. The thought of temperatures plummeting into the 30's makes me nauseous. I am so enjoying this fall-like weather and I am not in anyway ready for frosty temperatures. I quickly ran to my computer to take a look at the 7-day forecast on weather.com. After taking a deep breath, I regained my composure and noticed that it looks like we will see cooler morning temps, some into the low 40's, with milder afternoon temps into the mid 60's and low 70's. Perfect fall-like weather. Our typical first frost doesn't occur until mid to late October and if there is a possibility of the F-word we will certainly let you know. 

I am back to working outside and loving every minute of it. I was out all day yesterday cleaning up beds and edging. It really was a beautiful day and an even nicer evening once the front moved through. TJ, with Ryan Lawn & Tree was by yesterday to verti-cut and spread some seed for us. I am just doing a small area where we laid some sod last spring. The sod was Kentucky bluegrass and TJ thought it would be a good idea to over-seed with some fescue so that it would hold up better in the summer. I love it when an expert tells me what would be best. Particularly when it comes to my lawn. 

The leaves are slowly starting to fall. With cooler temperatures arriving fall colors will soon be prevalent. I always look forward to the changing colors of the landscape but not the endless job of raking leaves. New season, new chores. That is the life of a gardener.
~ Shelly

Totally Tulips...

When spring arrives there's nothing like a garden full of colorful tulips. By making smart decisions now you can extend the blooms in your landscape. Tulips come in many varieties with bloom times from early to late Spring. We've summarized what you need to know in our feature article, Totally Tulips. Check it out.  

Diggin' On Trees...

Fall is the preferred time to plant many trees and shrubs. Warm soil, moderate air temperatures and autumn rains all help a tree adjust to its new environment and set down roots with a minimum of stress and shock. If you are transplanting deciduous trees and shrubs, wait until their leaves have dropped or at least changed color.  Evergreens and conifers, however, benefit from early planting in fall. In either case watering (1 inch weekly until the ground is frozen) and mulching the root zone are crucial to success.  

Make Green Tomatoes See Red...

good idea

All this cool weather means green tomatoes are not likely to ripen on the vine. And what's worse, if a rogue frost comes our way it's game over. Here are two approaches to getting those green tomatoes to ripen out of harm's way:


  • Remove the whole plant, roots and all, and hang it upside-down in a cool, dark area indoors or in a garage. At temperatures in the 60's those tomatoes should ripen nicely. Just pull them off the vine as they are individually ready.
  • If the above method is a bit messy for you try picking the green tomatoes and individually wrapping them in newspaper. Place them in a paper bag or cardboard box and store in a cool, dark place. Keep an eye on them periodically. When they start to redden up unwrap them and let them finish ripening at room temperature.Hint - If you're in a hurry place an apple in the bag with the wrapped tomatoes. It will really speed the ripening process.

Tasty red tomatoes won't be far away!


Whiteflies Everywhere...


A common sight this time of year is whiteflies on outdoor plants such as annuals, tomatoes and other vegetables in our region. Whiteflies do not overwinter well in the Kansas City area but can build up later in the season due to migration from more southern climes and introductions from transplants.


For a pretty safe means of control try an insecticidal soap or a neem-based product. These products are much more effective if used before the population builds up. Chemical controls for ornamental plants include Bayer Rose & Flower Insect Killer, malathion, pyrethrin, and Ortho Rose and Flower Insect Control.


Pay special attention to houseplants that have spent the summer outside. Check carefully for whiteflies before bringing inside for the winter. If whiteflies are present, use a product labeled for houseplants. All the products listed above but malathion are labeled for houseplant use.



Beyond Soil Tests...


Though soil tests are useful for identifying nutrient deficiencies as well as soil pH, they do not tell the whole story. In addition to issues related to water and sunshine here are some factors that can affect plant growth that are not due to nutrient deficiencies or pH.

  • Too much phosphorus: While most Kansas City area soils are naturally low in phosphorus, soils that have been fertilized for a number of years may have phosphorus levels that are quite high. Too much phosphorus can interfere with the uptake of some micronutrients such as iron, manganese and zinc. High phosphorus soils should only be fertilized with fertilizers that have relatively low amounts of phosphorus.
  • Poor soil physical characteristics: Roots need oxygen as much as they need water. A tight clay soil can restrict soil oxygen levels as well as make root penetration of the soil difficult. Increasing the organic matter content of clay soils can help break them up. Add a 2-inch layer of organic matter and till it in.
  • Walnut trees: Walnuts give off a natural herbicide that interferes with the growth of some plants such as tomatoes. Vegetable gardens should be at least 50 feet away from walnut trees if possible. 
  • Tree roots: Trees not only compete with other plants for sun but also for water and nutrients. Extra water and nutrients may be needed.
  • Shallow soils: When new homes are built, the topsoil is often stripped off before the soils are brought to grade. Though the topsoil should be replaced, it sometimes is not or is not replaced to the same depth as it was originally. You are left with a subsoil that usually does not allow plants to grow well due to a lack of soil structure. Adding topsoil to a depth of 8 to 12 inches would be best but this often is not practical. In such cases, try to rebuild structure by adding organic matter and working it into the soil.


Needle Drop On Pines...


It's not unusual for Savvygardeners to start seeing noticeable needle drop on some of their pines. This is a process where 2 to 4-year-old interior needles turn yellow, then brown, and eventually drop off. Don't be alarmed! This is a natural phenomenon that occurs every year and does not hurt the tree. However, some years it is much more noticeable than others. Still worried? Be sure to check that only the older needles are affected (the needles on the tips of the branches should look fine) and that there is no spotting or banding on the needles that are turning yellow.



Tips For New Turf...


Many of you recently planted grass seed and have new grass coming in. Here are a couple of good reminders for you:


  • Keep it cut to about 2 inches. Just be careful that mower wheels don't tear the grass from the soil.  
  • Don't apply any herbicides or insecticides until the new grass has been mowed three times.  

"In my garden I can find solitude. I can go out there and say, 'No phones, no interruptions, I am busy,' and then shut myself off for a little while."  


~  Helen Hayes

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