Missouri Organic

This Week's Timely Tips from the Savvygardener

December 7, 2011

In This Issue
Keep Off the Grass
Ashes to Garden
Goin' Buggy
Household Humidity Help
Pacing Your Paperwhites
Guy Wire Guidelines
Sharpen Mower Blades Now

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This Week's Phots



Although winter has not officially arrived it sure does feel like winter! Brrr... the last couple of mornings have been brutally cold with temperatures dipping down into the teens. The windchill Monday evening at around 10 PM was a frozen 6 degrees. Saturday greeted us with much needed moisture throughout the day. The snow that had been talked about arrived a bit tardy but arrived none-the-less. I guess we have to count that snow that fell as the first snow of the season. Not too impressive. It was really more of a dusting, just enough to make the morning commute difficult. I wasn't that excited, it was really just too darned cold.

It was great to see the sun shine today. It is supposed to warm up into the high 30's and low 40's for the next few days. Another round of snow is possible tomorrow night. I guess it's that time of year. I was rummaging through the garage the other day and found spring bulbs I had purchased in October. I might just try and get them in the ground this weekend. It's never too late if you can dig in the dirt!
~ Shelly

Keep Off the Grass...

When temperatures plummet like they have over the past several days your grass will respond by moving water to areas outside the cells. Ice accumulates in spaces between the cells and individual grass blades become brittle. Walking on frozen turf will force the ice and cells together and can cause permanent damage to your lawn. Do your best to avoid it.


Ashes to Garden...
good idea

You may have heard that using wood ashes on your garden can help make the soil more fertile. Though ashes do contain significant amounts of potash, they contain little phosphate and no nitrogen. Most Kansas City-area soils are naturally high in potash and do not need more. Also, wood ashes will raise the pH of our soils, often a drawback in Kansas where soils tend toward high pH. Therefore, wood ashes add little benefit, and may harm, many Kansas soils. In most cases it is best to get rid of them. However, one possible use for ashes would be as an addition to compost. Compost is normally acidic and the ashes would help neutralize the pH.


Goin' Buggy...


Most homes in winter become dry, dry, dry. Keep an eye out for spider mites on your houseplants - they thrive in that dry air. A light infestation can usually be controlled with foliage rinsing or the application of insecticidal soap. Heavy infestations may force you to dispose of the plant altogether. Females spider mites can lay about 200 eggs and the life cycle may be completed in just 7 days. Do the math - it gets ugly fast!

Household Humidity Help...


You know that dry feeling you get in a heated house all winter long? Your houseplants like it even less than you do. They actually prefer a relative humidity of 40 to 50 percent but suffer under humidity levels of 10 to 20 percent common in many homes during the winter months. What to do? Humidifiers are an excellent way to increase the relative humidity in the home. Grouping plants together is an easy way to raise humidity levels as well. The water evaporating from the potting soil, plus water lost through the plant foliage, will increase the relative humidity in the vicinity of the houseplants. Another method is to place houseplants on trays (saucers) filled with pea gravel or pebbles. Add water to the trays, but keep the bottoms of the pots above the water line. The evaporation of water from the trays increases the relative humidity.


By the way, misting houseplants is not an effective way to raise the relative humidity. The plant foliage dries quickly after misting and misting would have to be done several times a day to be effective at all.


Pacing Your Paperwhites...


As the holidays near, you can adjust the bloom time of your forced paperwhites. If they are coming along too quickly, place them in a cool room (50-60F) and water less frequently. If you need to speed them up a bit, place them in the warmest room in the house. With a little luck they'll be blooming right on time!

Guy Wire Guidelines...


If you are using guy wires around newly planted trees make sure hose sections (or other protection) are still covering the supporting wires or ropes. Without sufficient protection the recent windy weather could cause a young tree's bark to be stripped away by bare wire or rope.

Sharpen Mower Blades Now...


Last week we talked about putting the mower away for the winter. Now is also an excellent time to sharpen mower blades so they'll be ready next spring. Sharpening rotary mower blades is fairly straightforward. The following steps will guide you through this process:

  1. Check the blade for major damage. If you can't fix it, it likely will need to be replaced.
  2. Remove grass and debris from the blade with a moist cloth. Dry before beginning to sharpen the cutting edge.
  3. Remove nicks from the cutting edge, using a grinding wheel or hand-file.
  4. If using a grinding wheel, match the existing edge angle to the wheel. If hand-filing, file at the same angle as the existing edge.
  5. Grind or file until the edge is 1/32 inch, about the size of a period.
  6. Particularly with a grinding wheel, avoid overheating the blade as this may warp it.
  7. Clean the blade with solvent or oil for optimum winter storage. Avoid use of water as it will promote rust.

Following these tips can help you better prepare your mower for winter storage and also save you some steps this coming spring.



"There's something soothing about firming seed in the soil and tending plants under the glass of your greenhouse while raindrops and snowflakes fall against the panes."    

~ George Abraham

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