2005 Newsletter Archive

Newsletter 14

Week 14 (6/23/05)



*WHETHER IT’S THE WEATHER – Warmer sunny weather has brought a quick stress to plants in the landscapes. Unless you’ve been fortunate enough to receive isolated showers in your area, it is getting extremely dry! I cannot stress enough the seriousness of dry conditions and your plants, especially this time of the year. The golden rule is 1 inch rainfall every 7-10 days or so, and if you don’t get it, you need to supplement it. Newer planted trees and shrubs may need to be watered sooner, smaller plants like perennials and annuals, ground cover and spring planted grass seed may need watering even more often, and vegetable gardens may be looking for 2 inches of rainfall each week as the plants increase in size and production. Check the soil, check the rain gauge, and check the plants. Proper watering now is very, very important. Please don’t let your plants down! They’re counting on you. (Container gardens may require every day watering. Check daily and water as needed. We have been watering some veggies twice per day during hotter sunny days.)


The best time to water is between 5:00am and 9:00am or so. Midday wastes more water due to evaporation and evening watering may lead to plant diseases. But if you can only water at other times, hey, at least you’re watering! Besides the turf, try to minimize watering of the leaves, which will help reduce diseases and sometimes water/sun scorch spots. Soaker hoses, drip irrigation, and Ross Root Feeders will help put the water right into the ground. And keep gardens and landscape beds well weeded. Weeds are sponges for any soil moisture that may be available.


Remember to water as needed, keep the general rule in mind, and water thoroughly. Less frequent watering but much more thorough watering is the best for most plants. Water deep – don’t be a water tease!


p.s. If you have a burning bush starting to turn red, chances are it’s from being too dry. That’s how they respond (quickly) to being too dry.



[Times have changed. In 1904, the average wages in the U.S. was 22 cents an hour, a dentist made $2,500 per year, and a mechanical engineer was about $5,000 per year.]



*WHATS BUGGIN YOU? – Bagworms continue to hatch, so keep your eyes peeled on those evergreens in your yard (although they can get on leafy plants, too). Bristly rose slug continues to hammer roses, so be sure to use systemic, as well as foliar sprays to get them under control. Two-spotted spider mite is showing up on Burning Bush (and cotoneasters), which causes lose of green color in the leaves, and the plants will lose their leaves. Typically not a serious danger to the plants as they generally re-leaf, but if you’re seeing this now, go out with a garden hose (strong stream of water) and blow those mites off the plant (also waters the plants). This is a great way to reduce mite populations in most plants. If spraying is needed, insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils.  But again, a strong stream of water does wonders!


And I’m getting many emails right now from concerned gardeners whose plants had leaves one day, and none the next. Rodent or deer? To determine which, if the stems look like they’ve been cut with a pair of pruners, that’s a rodent removing leaves. If the stems are torn or shredded, that’s a deer browsing on your plants. If the entire plant is missing, that’s a neighbor who liked that plant!


Now is the time to start monitoring the vines of your squash, gourds, pumpkin, melons and cucumbers for squash vine borer. Chemical controls include spraying or dusting the vines with an appropriate insecticide, on 7 day intervals. You can also use grow covers to protect plants from the adult moths. Crop rotation also helps as they do over-winter in garden debris and old vines. Once discovered, it is possible to take an exacto-knife, slice one side of the vine, pull out the borer, and then cover the damaged vine with a little soil to help it re-root. Some folks will pile a little soil over the vines about 3-4 feet away from the center of the plant, helping the vine to root farther away from possible attacks to help save the vine in case it is attacked. A late planted crop may be another way around the borer, assuming you’ll get a late frost for extended production.



[In 1904, sugar cost 4 cents a pound, eggs were 14 cents a dozen, and coffee was 15 cents a pound.]



*QUESTIONMARK & THE MYSTERIANS – Here are a few gardening questions from this weeks emailed news bag:


"I have mushrooms popping up all over my lawn. Is this a sign of something bad?" -Not really. Mushrooms are a sign or organic matter in the soil, and that could be a good thing. They can also be growing from decaying matter such as sticks, old roots, etc. that are in the soil. Unfortunately there are no sprays and no controls for mushrooms. If you’re a golfer, get out the 9 iron and have at them. Hey, they’re already tee’d up for you!


"I received a ‘Striptease Hosta’ for my birthday. How big will it get?" -2005 Hosta of the year will get about 20 inches tall and about 24 inches wide.


"Why am I seeing so many Alberta Spruce turning brown in spots or on one side of the plant?" -Well, it actually could be the results of a couple things. 1.) Mite damages – to check for mites, take a piece of white paper and hold it under a branch. Shake the branch on the paper. Gently tilt the paper to get rid of spruce debris, and then look for extremely tiny moving dots. If nothing, gently swipe your hand across the paper and look for a smear. Those are signs of mites, a sucking insect that will cause those needles to brown. 2.) Planted in dry areas, or if the plant does not get sufficient watering, especially going into the winter, it becomes very susceptible to winter damage, and browning of needles. Heavy snowfall or ice storms can also cause breakage of the stems and browning of the needles. So, what do you do? Yes, you can spray for the mites (insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils, etc.) 3-4 times on 7-10 day intervals, but here’s what I recommend to all Alberta Spruce owners. Beginning in mid to late March, with a strong stream of water, flush out the plant thoroughly. I mean really hose it out. This not only waters the spruce, which is a lot of the problem, but also flushes off many of the mites. Do this about every 2-3 weeks through the spring, a couple times in the summer (July and August), and again in the fall, making sure it has good soil moisture going into the winter. If you do this, you shouldn’t have any problems with the mites or needle desiccation. You’re keeping it watered and reducing mite populations at the same time. By the way, if the stems the browning needles are on are still green inside, leave it one the plant to see if it re-grows (slight chance). If it’s brown, clip it off. And yes, as slow as Alberta spruce grow, they will take several years to fill in those browned out spots.


"The seeds from our bird feeder keep rooting in our flower bed. How can I prevent this?" -Use high grade bird feed that the birds hopefully will eat all of it (little or no waste on the ground), apply Preen to the area around the feeder and water it in immediately (to dissolve the Preen pellets), and spot treat the weeds with Roundup or Vinegar, making sure to only spray what you’re trying to kill.


"Can you tell me about using Epsom Salt around tomatoes and peppers?" -Using Epsom Salt on tomatoes and peppers has been around for many years.  And those that use it all have a different method or amount they use.  You can do anything from sprinkling a tablespoon or two in hole when you plant them, and doing it again mid season, to watering them about 3-4 times during the season with 1-2 tablespoons dissolved in a gallon of water, to spraying the foliage 2-3 times during the season with 1 tablespoon dissolved in 1 gallon of water.  Pick one and try it.  Moderation is the best way to try it.


Many rose growers use this as well!


"I am replanting English Lavender, and was told by a friend to put limestone in the bottom of the hole to give them the acid they require. What’s your take?" -My take is that although lavender will tolerate a range of soils, they would prefer a loamy well drained soil that is slightly ‘alkaline’. Adding lime to the hole helps to adjust the pH up, making it less acidic and more alkaline. I’ve never gone that extra step, but it could help depending on the pH of your soil.


"Will mulching over 2 inches suffocate trees over time? Also, what do you think about putting down black plastic, then the mulch?" -Personally, besides using plastic for mulch under some vegetables, I am not one for recommending the use of plastic under mulch. As for the mulch and mulch depths, as we move into the summer months, this is the time where mulching around your plants can really help in more ways than one.


Mulching helps to reduce weeds, it conserves moisture – especially during the drier times of the summer, helps to regulate the soil temperatures keeping those roots cooler, adds organic matter back to the soil, helps to tie the landscape beds together, and of course, if just looks good! It truly is the icing on the cake, and really is good for the plants. But, as we all know, just like the icing, too much can be a bad thing.


Over mulching restricts air and water flow, creates anaerobic conditions, and can cause plants to root in the mulch rather than the soil. And research has shown that mulch piled against the trunks of trees causes trunk decay and eventual death of the tree.


So when you’re mulching, fluff up any existing mulch first. You may find you won’t need to add any mulch at all. Keep your mulch levels to a minimum. I prefer 1-3 inches max. And never, ever, pile mulch against the trunk of the trees. The mulch should actually stop about 2-3 inches away from the trunk, giving a donut appearance with the tree coming out of the center of the "mulch donut". By the way, when re-mulching or fluffing up your existing mulch, be sure to apply Preen to help stop those unwanted weed seeds from growing. It sure can save your back and keep those beds looking better all summer long.



The other plant flowering with creamy white flowers right now is elderberries, which I have to admit, my mother made the absolute best elderberry jelly (if she can get to the berries before the birds do!).



[In 1904, there were approximately 8,000 cars in the U.S., about 145 miles of paved roads, and the speed limit in towns was 10 mph.]



[In 1904, the leading causes of death were pneumonia and influenza, TB, diarrhea, heart disease, and stroke.]





Ed, I can’t believe how much my lavender is flowering already! Quite beautiful and fragrant! Lavender means ‘to wash" and a few sprigs tossed into the hot water in your bath will leave you calm, cool and collected. Lavender essential oil is one of the few essential oils that can be applied directly on the skin to ease bites, cuts, etc.


Since I needed to harvest the flowers so that I can get a second flush later in the season, I decided to make my favorite shortbread cookie flavored with this herb. Now if you’re not growing lavender, Ed, any sweet herb will do, as the recipe states. Or leave the herbs out altogether. I’m still betting this will be the best shortbread cookie you’ve put to your lips!



Rita’s Favorite Shortbread Cookies with Lavender


2 sticks salted butter, softened


½ cup confectioner’s sugar


1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla


2 cups all purpose flour


½ teaspoon baking powder


1 minced sweet fresh herbs: lavender leaves and/or flowers, rose geranium, lemon verbena, lemon balm, mint, rose petals or 1 generous teaspoon dried



-Preheat oven to 350. Blend butter, sugar and vanilla together well.


-Whisk together flour, baking powder and herbs until well blended. Pour slowly into butter mixture and blend.


-Roll out on lightly floured surface to ¼" thickness. Put in refrigerator to firm up, about 30 minutes.


– Cut out as desired and bake on parchment paper or permanent baking mat for 15-20 minutes. Don’t over bake; makes 2 dozen. Ice if desired with vanilla glaze.



Vanilla Glaze


Whisk together:


1 cup confectioner’s sugar


Enough water to make thin glaze – start with a tablespoon and go from there


1/2 teaspoon vanilla



Which type of lavender does best? In our climate, Hidcote, Twickle Purple and Munstead all seem to do well. Grosso and Provence, two more varieties that Natorp’s is carrying this year, are fabulous lavenders actually grown for commercial use because of the plants’ vigor, quantity of leaves and flowers, and quality of their oil.


– Rita Nader Heikenfeld, CCP / Macy’s Regional Culinary Professional / Herbalist / Author / Local TV and Radio Cooking Expert / Adjunct Professor U.C. Clermont College / Community Press Papers [life@communitypress.com attn: Rita]



[In 1904, the American flag had 45 stars. Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Alaska hadn’t been admitted to the Union yet. By the way, the population of Las Vegas, Nevada was only 30. And what happened there, stayed there.]



*YARDBOY’S PLANTS TO PONDER – This week, let’s ponder a perennial that loves the sun, grows best in fertile, loamy well drained soils, and gets about 18 inches tall with flowers reaching up to 30-36 inches. Those flowers are single blooms, bright large white flowers with a yellow center, very sturdy and upright, great for cutting, and begin in late spring and flower all summer long. It is great as a specimen, for formal or informal gardens, mass planting or borders, and does great in containers. This low maintenance perennial was also selected ‘2003 Perennial of the Year’, and is definitely one of my favorites. This week’s plant to ponder is Leucanthemum ‘Becky’, or ‘Becky’ Shasta Daisy.



[In 1904, only 14% of homes had a bathtub, 8% had a phone, 2 of 10 U.S. adults couldn’t read or write, there was no Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn’t been invented yet, and believe it or not, there were only 230 reported murders in the entire United States. Times have certainly changed.]

Carol and Ed Knapton, owners of Americas's Best Flowers You’ll Love Your Garden … It’s Our Promise! May the Holy Spirit Guide You! God Bless
Edward Knapton says Keep on Smiling!
Sec – Treasurer Berry Hill Farms, Inc.
DBA Americas Best Flowers Garden Center
4311 Vilas Hope Road
Cottage Grove, WI 53527
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