- Fall is for more than planting trees (although it is true that fall is a great time for that – see more below). Fall also is the time to do so many activities in the home landscape. These are not just weekend activities, but things that can be done in small bites, even on weekday evenings.
One gardening phrase that has been around for decades, if not generations, is “one year’s seeding – seven years weeding,” and that is a conservative estimate actually. According to the Weed Science Society of America, there are plenty of weed seeds that can remain viable in the soil for decades!
Vegetables can still be productive for a couple more months, depending on what crops you have been growing. Certainly long season crops like tomatoes, peppers, and Swiss chard are there now and will continue to produce until frost for the tender vegetables and longer for Chard, which will tolerate quite a bit of cool or cold weather.
Hard to believe it is quickly approaching the time to seed a new lawn or over seed what is there. Our best window of opportunity to ensure a good stand that will survive winter is August 15 through the first week in September.
Along with the tomato foliage diseases that can really challenge the gardener, there is one fruit problem that really can be frustrating. Blossom end rot can show up especially on the first fruit set. We have waited a long time to get our very own tomatoes and those first fruit sets are likely to be in trouble.
This season gardeners have been seeing many lumps, bumps and blobs on all kinds of plants throughout the landscape, in parks and forest preserves. It is not uncommon since this occurs annually, what is uncommon is the generous number of these growths we are seeing.
We all know how different the weather pattern has been this year. Foliar plant diseases develop when weather conditions are right, allowing the pathogens to grow and infect our plants. Our extended cooler spring temperatures and abundance of rainfall allowed those early spring foliar diseases more time to develop.
If you enjoy fruits like blueberries and apples, or if you plant summer squash or fall pumpkins in your garden, you have a reason to protect our pollinators.
Without pollinators, including butterflies and bees, the flowering plants they visit would not produce food. The pollination process also helps provide fibers, medicines, and other products, and it provides food and habitat for wildlife.
You wake up in the morning, take the cup of coffee to the patio, sit down, and gaze out into the yard and BANG… mushrooms. It is like the book 'I Spy,' you never know where you will find them. While I have been known to say you can never have too much organic matter, that is exactly the environment that promotes decay fungi, which will provide us that mushroom show. They may be those tiny nearly transparent mushrooms or those large mounds erupting in the lawn.
No one wants to hear the word "rain" these days. Clearly all the wet weather has changed the way we planted the vegetable garden and our flowerbeds this year. I have heard people describe spring plantings as "I went ahead and mudded them in." Not the best practice for seeding and transplanting, of course, yet the plants and seeds got in the ground. The result of all that "mudding in" likely left that soil caked and cracked when we did get some drying weather. Don't attempt to break up the clods; it's better to lightly cover the caked soil with some kind of organic matter.
- It's been a different winter, spring and start to summer than we're used to, and it shows in the questions our Master Gardener Help Desk receives. Here's a quick summary of those questions coming in via phone, email and walk-ins last couple of weeks.
Q: Why are my perennials in the yard bigger than ever before?
- Gardeners and farmers have had a chance to catch up on planting (finally). As I was traveling south, then east, before coming back north, I saw a lot of the state over the last week, and it showed just how behind planting corn and soybeans has been, with many fields just now being worked and planted.
Gardeners now have been able to work the garden soil and edge landscape beds with proper soil moisture. Earlier attempts to plant and prepare the soil left the surface to crust over badly with half-inch cracks.
- We finally got some dry days to catch up on planting the family vegetable garden and dealing with the landscape beds, weeding, edging, and putting down composts and other kinds of organic matter.
Unlike the farmer who has to make some hard planting decisions this late in the season, our annual plants are going to grow and flower. We just may need to plant a few more annual flowers to get the bed to fill in for the summer though.
What do bees, ants, and termites have in common? At some point in the year, they all swarm. Our honeybee may be the most obvious as the queen gathers up thousands of support bees from the existing hive and heads off to find another location to set up shop. You may see those swarms hanging in trees or somewhere on the home under an eave. Sometimes they cling to parked cars and trucks before moving along. Bee swarming is much more likely later in the summer when colony numbers are much higher.
- An old joke goes: "Why do you put your houseplants out for the summer? So I can slowly kill them all winter back in the house." Well, there is a certain amount of truth to that. We cannot always get them inside for the winter when we should, cannot always supply the right kind of light for all of them, and often watering them is not easy given plant sizes, various soil mixes, and humidity in the home.
You sorted them last fall, deciding which ones win the windowsill lottery and which ones go on to "a better place" – a.k.a., the compost pile.
- The weather is at least providing gardeners with consistently warming temperatures (mostly) that are in turn warming our garden soil. Of course, what is not so welcoming is the rain seems to continue and not just light spring showers either. Gardeners and farmers alike cannot find a drying pattern long enough before the rain moves in again to get things planted.
Questions to the Master Gardener Help Desk have begun to reveal the frustration of dealing with the weather.
Q: Is there a way to plant my flower and vegetable seeds and transplants in my muddy soil?
- There has been a lot of media coverage and homeowner concerns about boxwoods, and this has overshadowed overwintering damage on a range of other landscape plants from trees down to small fruits and perennials.
First thing's first – winter hardiness. To some extent, gardeners have been cheating Mother Nature annually for years. We have this USDA hardiness zone map to use as a guide and the information on the plant tag to tell us if the plant is going to survive our winters.
Every gardener has their favorite flowers that seem to make it into the garden each year, maybe in a different spot, worked into the design a bit differently than last year, but they are there. It is a little easier to have your favorites if your yard gets lots of sunlight every day.
Last week, the column covered problems with our needle evergreens. This week, it is about our broadleaved landscape plants and specifically, what is happening to our boxwoods out in the landscape.
Recent weather events have taken a toll on some of our older established evergreen trees. Most recently, our heavy wet snow that collected on the evergreen boughs added many pounds of weight and broke out branches throughout the canopy. The wind played a big part of that damage, creating more pressure on the limbs. Most damaged were evergreens with long limbs like white pine and Norway spruce, the very ones that show less damage from other needled evergreen problems. Mother Nature decided to even the score I guess.