Gardening Daily Tips July 23

Saturday July 23, 2011


Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus)

Today’s Featured Plant
Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus)

Read the full profile of this plant at ArcaMax.com.

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Q&A: Weeping Cherry Pruning

Question: Do you prune from the end of a branch or close to the trunk? I have found that pruning in the middle of a branch causes offshoots just above the cut that take awhile to turn down.

Answer: You’re right – wherever you prune, you can expect one or two new branches to develop. If you want to thin the canopy of your weeping cherry, take the branches completely off where it begins to grow at the trunk. If you want to thicken up the canopy, cut random branches back, to the point where you want two or more branches to develop. Many gardeners simply cut all of the hanging branches off at a certain point to make the bottom of the canopy easier to walk under. (It looks a little like an umbrella when you trim the tips of the branches in this manner.) Prune your tree to achieve the look you want. Best wishes with your weeping cherry.

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Q&A: Daylilies

Question: We are trying to grow daylilies from the seed pods. What is the best way to do this?

Answer: Daylily (Hemerocallis) has a prechill requirement before the seeds will germinate. Mix the seeds into some moistened seed starting mix and seal in a plastic bag. Refrigerate for 6 weeks. Then remove the seeds and sow 1/8″ deep in trays or pots of moistened seed starting mix. Place in a warm area such as on top of the refrigerator or near a water heater. Seeds will germinate in 21-49 days when kept at 60F-70F degrees.

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Q&A: Pinching Back Zinnias

Question: Should I pinch back my zinnias when I transplant them outside? By “pinching back” I mean pinching off the top leaves of the transplant.

Answer: Pinching should begin early. You can start the process when the zinnia seedlings have developed their second or third set of true leaves. Remember, at each node (where the leaf stem or petiole meets the main stem), there is a bud. When you pinch off the growing point, you are removing hormones which suppress the growth of those lateral buds. Once the lateral buds start to grow and they produce a second set of leaves you can pinch those to encourage even more side growth! So pinch away! (You are wise to check, though–because some plants don’t respond well to pinching.)

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Tip: Plant Now for Fall Tomatoes in Southern Gardens

Most the tomatoes in Deep South gardens have pretty much quit setting fruit due to the hot days and nights. In fall there is another “window” of time where temperatures are right for fruit set. Now is the time to plant tomato transplants for the fall garden. If you wait until next month there won’t be time to set a good crop before the first frost ends the season.

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Tip: Vacation Container Care

If you’re going on vacation, water containers thoroughly and move them into a shady location that’s protected from wind, where they won’t dry out as fast. Mulch the soil surface with shredded bark. Have a neighbor check on them every few days.

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Gardening Daily Tips July 22

Friday July 22, 2011


Larkspur, Delphinium (Delphinium elatum)

Today’s Featured Plant
Larkspur, Delphinium (Delphinium elatum)

Read the full profile of this plant at ArcaMax.com.

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Q&A: Powdery Mildew

Question: Many of my plants, including bee balm, phlox, and squash, have a white, powdery coating on the leaves. I have researched this and have concluded it is powdery mildew. Do you agree? What can I do to control it and keep it from spreading to other plants?

Answer: It does, indeed, sound like powdery mildew. The bad news is that this fungal disease overwinters on living plants, and can be difficult to eradicate. There’s some good news, though. First of all, specific strains of the mildew affect different types of plants, so, for example, the powdery mildew on your squash won’t spread to your perennials. Also, plant breeders have developed powdery-mildew-resistant varieties of many types of plants, so consider this when choosing new plants. There are some things you can do to minimize problems with powdery mildew. This disease is unique among plant diseases in that it doesn’t require a wet leaf surface to spread. It can thus thrive during hot, dry weather. The general advice to inhibit the spread of fungal diseases is to avoid wetting leaf surfaces. In the case of powdery mildew, however, you can actually inhibit infection with periodic strong sprays of water (not so strong as to damage the plant.) Here are some general rules for control. Start by making sure that your plants are getting enough direct sunlight. (Eight to ten hours a day is generally the minimum for plants that flower or bear fruit.) You’ll also want to make sure that there’s enough room between plants for air to circulate freely. Overcrowding not only makes plants more susceptible to diseases, if leaves touch other plants, those diseases can easily be spread. Some people report success with this home-made spray: Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda and 2 1/2 tablespoons of ultra-fine horticultural oil in a gallon of water. Apply as a spray as soon as the mildew appears and every 10-14 days thereafter. Be sure to coat all surfaces.

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Q&A: Something Eating My Tomatoes

Question: I believe moles are eating my tomato plants, mainly the fruit. What can I do to keep them away?

Answer: Moles are probably not the culprit. Likely tomato tasters include birds (mockingbirds are especially notorious), varmints like oppossums and racoons (they usually steal the whole fruit, not just take a bite and leave it on the plant), squirrels, and turtles (they can only reach the very lowest fruit). Examine your fruit including where on the plant the damage is seen. I suspect bird pecks are the likely cause but a close examination may indicate otherwise. If birds are the problem, netting to exclude them and scare tactics are the most common remedies. Some gardeners claim that red painted ornaments placed in the bush prior to fruit ripening work by giving the birds the idea that “those red things aren’t worth messing with”. Try it and see if it works for you. Just remember, you have to do it before they get a real taste!

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Q&A: Flowers That Self Sow

Question: How do I find out which of my flowers will self-sow? Should I never pick the blooms? I would love my garden to “naturalize”, so should I wait until a certain time to turn the soil to give the fallen seeds a chance to sprout?

Answer: Quite a number of flowers will readily self-sow, including annuals such as sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) and pot marigolds (Calendula officinalis), and perennials such as purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), Virginia spiderworts (Tradescantia virginiana), gloriosa daisies (Rudbeckia hirta), and garden phlox (Phlox paniculata). Note, however, that subsequent generations of flowers may not be identical to the parents, especially if the parents are hybrids. If you want to increase your population of any particular flower, let the seedheads form on the plant and then pluck them off, open the seedpod, and sprinkle the seeds in the garden. If you want to renovate the garden, or till the soil, then collect the dry seedheads and store them in an airtight container in a cool, dark location over the winter months. In the spring, after you’ve prepared the soil, sprinkle the seeds where you want the plants to grow. To naturalize an area, you just need to be able to identify the baby plants so you don’t mistake them for weeds and accidentally pull them out. Try to keep most of the spent flowers picked off during the early part of the summer or the plants will put their energy into producing seeds instead of producing more blooms. Let the very last flowers in the late summer become your source for seeds for the new plants. These end-of-the season seedheads are the ones you should harvest for sprinkling in the garden or saving for next spring.

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Tip: Plan for Affordable Drifts of Bulbs

A natural looking drift of spring-blooming bulbs requires more than a few flowers. To establish an impressive display within budget, contact friends before fall catalogs arrive so you can purchase a large quantity, saving as much as fifty percent. Look for bulbs described as being “naturalizers” or “perennializers.” These types will multiply faster and should be spaced slightly further apart when planting.

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Tip: Leave as Much Foliage as Possible on Lilies

Once they’re finished flowering, cut back lily stalks by one third, leaving the rest of the foliage in place to replenish the bulbs. Or, if you’re cutting lilies for bouquets, cut as short a stem as possible to leave the maximum amount of foliage on the plant.

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Gardening Daily Tips July 21

Thursday July 21, 2011


Mallow, Rose (Hibiscus moscheutos)

Today’s Featured Plant
Mallow, Rose (Hibiscus moscheutos)

Read the full profile of this plant at ArcaMax.com.

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Q&A: How and When Do I Divide Hosta?

Question: How do I dig up, and divide hosta? And is this done in the spring? Now? Also, when do I dig up and divide my day lillies?

Answer: Hostas can be dug up and divided in very early spring just as they begin to emerge from the ground. They can also be divided later in the season but it is a little more unwieldy with all the foliage unfurled. Replant at the same depth as they grew before and keep well watered and mulched until they are re-established. Daylilies are treated in the same way, with early spring and early fall being the preferred times to divide them as well, although it can be done at almost any time as long as they are kept well watered afterwards.

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Q&A: Drying Thyme

Question: I am drying thyme, and would like to know, do you use the leaves, stems, or the whole plant?

Answer: In cooking you would generally use just the leaves of dried thyme, although the stems also have some fragrance and flavor and are occasionally used fresh as in “sprigs of thyme” tossed into the pot either as part of a bouquet garnis or simply loose as one might use a bay leaf. Since the plant is a perennial, you would trim off the stems, dry them as stems since it is easier to handle that way, and then strip the leaves off either just prior to storage in airtight jars or, if you leave it in bundles, just prior to use. Incidentally, thyme is best harvested just before it blooms (but any time will do in a pinch) by cutting it off rather short. The plant will regrow and can usually be harvested more than once a season. It is a fairly long-lived plant and can be left in place for years. To dry the thyme, make small bundles of stems and wrap them with a rubber band at the thick end. Then hang them by the rubber band in a dry and airy, well ventilated, dark spot until they are very dry. (The stems shrink as they dry and the rubber band will shrink with them so they don’t fall on the floor.) When fully dry, store it in a dark dry place in a tightly closed container. To be sure it is dry, put some in a container and watch for a few days to be sure there is no condensation. If all is well, go ahead and store the rest. When you use it, remember that home grown herbs often have more flavor than store-bought. Enjoy your thyme.

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Q&A: Rosebuds Fail to Open

Question: I have several rose bushes in containers; on all of them the blooms turn brown before they fully open. Any ideas on what is causing this problem?

Answer: Based on your description it is difficult to identify a definite cause of the problem, but here are a few possibilities. Drought stress can cause the symptoms you describe, and insects also can cause buds to be deformed and fail to open. Roses need a rich soil and regular watering to keep them evenly moist but not soggy, so it is possible that there is a soil problem. Container plants are a challenge when it comes to watering, sometimes needing it twice a day on very hot, dry, and windy days or if the pots are too small for the plants. You might see if the texture of your potting mix has deteriorated over time; or if it has been allowed to dry out, it may require some care in rehydrating it thoroughly. A top-dressing of compost is helpful for all roses, and you might also consider fertilizing (either a timed-release granular or water-soluble type specifically for roses) according to package instructions. Finally, inspect the blooms very carefully for signs of aphids or other insects. Japanese beetles may be burrowing inside the blooms, as might thrips, which are so small they are nearly invisible. A sharp spray of water from the hose will knock away aphids; handpicking or using a neem-based spray will take care of the beetles, and insecticidal soap used according to the label instructions may work on the thrips. The soap also is effective in case of a serious infestation of aphids.

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Tip: Manage Powdery Mildew on Dogwoods

This host-specific disease can stunt and deform leaves, cause leaf spots and marginal browning, and early leaf drop. The best way to manage powdery mildew is to rake up and destroy fallen leaves. Spraying of fungicides is not recommend for homeowners, as it is difficult to achieve adequate coverage on large trees. When planting new dogwoods, choose resistant varieties such as ‘Jean’s Appalachian Snow,’ ‘Karen’s Appalachian Blush’ and ‘Kay’s Appalachian Mist.’

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Tip: Harvest Onions

Harvest onions when the tops naturally fall over. Dig onions and allow them to dry for a few hours, then place them in a protected, shady spot to cure for two to three weeks.

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Today’s Reader Submitted Photos

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Gardening Daily Tips July 20

Wednesday July 20, 2011


Verbena, Purple (Verbena bonariensis)

Today’s Featured Plant
Verbena, Purple (Verbena bonariensis)

Read the full profile of this plant at ArcaMax.com.

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Q&A: Zucchini

Question: My plants are turnining yellow and I think rotting during growth. Can you please tell me what to do? I water twice a day Morning and late evening. they are in full afternoon and evening sun.

Answer: There are several possible causes for yellowing ranging from under to overwatering, under to overfertilizing and possibly pest or disease problems. If you are using a watering system, make sure it is watering evenly. Also inspect the plants carefully for insect feeding or other damage. If only the oldest leaves are yellowing, try feeding your plants a little nitrogen.

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Q&A: Unfilled Corn Ears

Question: The ears of my corn are missing half their kernals. What can I do?

Answer: It sounds as if the ears are not being pollinated completely. Corn is usually planted in “hills” or groups of about a half dozen plants, or in blocks that are at least four rows deep rather than one lone single row. This helps the wind pollinate the corn. You can help too, by shaking the stalks when the corn tassels are full of pollen to help transfer pollen grains from the tassels of one corn stalk to the silks of another. Each individual silk is connected to a single developing kernal, and if that silk doesn’t receive pollen the corresponding kernal won’t develop.

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Q&A: Edible Flowers

Question: Can you give me a list of edible flowers, what parts of the plant are edible (and what parts to avoid), and any other tips?

Answer: First of all, do not eat flowers if you have asthma, allergies, or hay fever. And eat only those that have been grown organically and have no pesticide residue. Collect flowers for eating in the cooler parts of the day–preferably early morning after the dew has evaporated. Choose flowers that are at their peak, avoiding those that are not fully open or are starting to wilt. Immediately before using, wash the flowers, checking for bugs and dirt. Remove the stamens and styles from flowers before eating–the pollen can detract from the flavor and some people are allergic to it. As far as what parts to on which flowers: You can eat the entire flowers of johnny-jump-up, violet, runner bean, honeysuckle, and clover. Remove the sepals of all flowers except violas, Johnny-jump-ups, and pansies. Eat only the petals of rose, calendula, tulip, chrysanthemum, yucca, and lavender. Roses, dianthus, English daisies, Signet marigolds, and chrysanthemums have a bitter white portion at the base of the petal where it was attached to the flower; remove this portion before using. Dandelion leaves are delicious in salads or cooked as a green. The flowers are edible when young; they become bitter with age. Remove dandelions’ sepals–they are bitter. You can also eat both the flowers and the leaves of nasturtiums.

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Tip: Increase Oriental Poppies

Now, when Oriental poppies are dormant, is the time to increase your planting by division or root cuttings. To divide, dig up the entire clump and cut into divisions 4 to 6 inches across. If you don’t want to disturb your existing clump, simply remove a section of roots from the edge of the clump with a spade. If you want lots of new poppy plants, cut the pencil-thin roots into 3-inch sections, making sure to keep track of which end of the root was closest to the crown of the plant. An easy way to do this is to cut the top of the root section straight across and the bottom at an angle. Then plant the root sections vertically in a container filled with potting mix, with the bottom ends pointing down and the tops about 1/2-inch below the surface. Keep the mix barely moist and in about a month these cuttings will begin to put out new growth. They can then be set out in their new locations in the garden.

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Tip: Divide Bearded Iris

Dig and divide bearded iris clumps if they’re crowding each other or didn’t bloom well. Break off and discard the older central rhizomes, then let the young, healthy rhizomes dry out of the direct sun for several hours before re-planting.

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ArcaMax has added dozens of new comic strips to its Comics page, including Archie, Hi and Lois, and 77 others. Subscribe to as many as you like via email, and start your day with a laugh!

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Today’s Reader Submitted Photos

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To see more of our subscriber photos visit our full Photo Gallery.

Enter your Gardening Daily Tips pictures so you can show them off to other readers right here in this ezine and on the ArcaMax.com Web site. Click here to submit your photo.

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Gardening Daily Tips July 19

Sunday July 19, 2011


Columbine (Aquilegia x hybrida)

Today’s Featured Plant
Columbine (Aquilegia x hybrida)

Read the full profile of this plant at ArcaMax.com.

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Q&A: Citrus Trees

Question: My orange tree is in full bloum but a lot of leaves started to become yellow and curl. Is it a problem? What do I need to do? This is my first year having a citrus garden.

Answer: Although citrus trees are evergreen, they do lose some of their oldest leaves – those toward the center of the plant. The lost leaves will be replaced in a few weeks. So, if only the oldest leaves are yellowing, it is normal. If new leaves are yellowing it indicates a need for fertilizer (and possibly iron). Apply a citrus food in amounts as recommended on the fertilizer label. Hope you have a great harvest!

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Q&A: Stopping Stumps from Sprouting

Question: What is the best way to keep suckers from growing back on the stump of a maple tree? (The tree was cut down 1 1/2 years ago.)

Answer: The suckers indicate the roots of your maple are still alive, attempting to gather energy through the process of photosynthesis (where plant leaves convert sunlight into carbohydrates). As long as there’s an ounce of energy left, the roots will continue to produce suckers. Cut the shoots down as soon as they appear and before they develop leaves. Eventually you’ll starve the roots out; they will have expended all of their energy producing suckers. Without reciprocation from the process of photosynthesis, the roots will die out.

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Q&A: Cilantro Flowering

Question: This is the first time I have planted cilantro. I purchased the plants from a local nursery, and just days after planting them they started to flower. One of my fellow gardeners said to leave the flowers and the plant would start to bush out. Another gardener said to pinch the flowers off, and the plant would grow bushy. A third said that the plant is kaput, and to start new plants. Which one is correct? How can I get my cilantro plant to bush out?

Answer: It’s difficult to coax cilantro to grow tasty leaves once it flowers. Your best bet is to go with gardener number three: start new plants. Cilantro is an annual herb, a member of the parsley family. The seed is generally sown in cool spring temperatures for a summer crop, or as summer wanes for a fall crop. For good quality cilantro, harvest foliage prior to the formation of flowers. When the plant sets blossoms, foliage quality declines. Since yours has bloomed, you can leave the flowers on until the plant dies and then harvest the seeds (the seeds are the spice called coriander!). Grind the seeds to use in the kitchen, or save some to plant in August for a fall crop of cilantro.

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Tip: Experiment with Late Peas

Although not the easiest of fall crops to grow, peas are a welcome addition to the fall kitchen. Try both “regular” green peas as well as snow and snap peas. Sow seeds 70 to 90 days before the first frost date in your area. Cool the soil before planting by laying old carpet or boards on the soil for a week or so before planting. Plant seed 1 to 2 inches deep, mulch around seedlings, and water in the late afternoon on very hot days.

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Tip: Divide Daylilies

Once they’re done blooming, divide overcrowded daylilies. Dig up the clumps, separate them into smaller clumps with three or four leaf sections, and replant. Daylilies make a good ground cover for difficult-to-mow hillsides.

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ArcaMax has added dozens of new comic strips to its Comics page, including Archie, Hi and Lois, and 77 others. Subscribe to as many as you like via email, and start your day with a laugh!

Visit the Comics page and subscribe or read online right away.

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Today’s Reader Submitted Photos

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To see more of our subscriber photos visit our full Photo Gallery.

Enter your Gardening Daily Tips pictures so you can show them off to other readers right here in this ezine and on the ArcaMax.com Web site. Click here to submit your photo.

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Gardening Daily Tips
July 18
Monday July 18, 2011


Montbretia, Crocosmia (Crocosmia x)

Today’s Featured Plant
Montbretia, Crocosmia (Crocosmia x)

Read the full profile of this plant at ArcaMax.com.

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Q&A: Colorado Blue Spruce Tree

Question: I bought a Colorado Blue Spruce this spring. I have it planted in full sun. It was doing fantastic but lately it has stopped new growth. The growth at the top is turning brown and dying. Also alot of the needles are falling off. It is not dead it still has green left on it. I know it is not from under watering. I water it alot. Am I watering it too much? Should I try fertilizing it?

Answer: Sometimes new trees and shrubs go through a stressful period of adjustment the first season it is planted so what you are seeing might be normal. While it is important to water regularly, new trees and shrubs need only about one inch of water per week during the growing season. If you’re watering more than once a week, the soil may be soggy and the roots can suffocate in overly wet soils. The best way to water your spruce is to build a watering well or watering basin beneath it by mounding a few inches of soil up in a circle, about 12″ from the trunk. Fill this basin with water, allow to drain, then fill it a second time. Do this once each week. Watering in this way will concentrate the moisture directly over the root system and allow it to trickle down, wetting the entire root mass. Don’t fertilize your spruce – it is already under stress and feeding will just stress it more. Feed it in the spring when new growth begins.

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Q&A: Potting Gerber Daisies

Question: Do Gerber daisies do well in pots/containers?

Answer: Yes, gerberas are good container plants because they do well in situations with good drainage. Gerberas thrive in full sun and rich soil with excellent drainage. To water, provide a thorough dousing and then allow the soil to dry before flooding again. The plants need frequent feeding during the growing season and will produce new leaves and flowers if the old leaves and flowers are pinched off regularly. You can bring them indoors to a brightly lit location for the winter, too.

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Q&A: Trimming Sweet Basil

Question: My sweet basil plants are about 10 to 15 inches tall–no flowers yet. Can I cut off the top of the stems to make the plants bushy, or do I have to wait for the first flower?

Answer: Actually, it is best to keep basil from flowering because, as an annual, once the plant flowers and sets seed it will go into decline. Usually gardeners encourage bushiness by a process called pinching. They begin literally pinching off or trimming off the growing tip(s) of the branches when the plants are quite small. (You can eat the pinchings!) They repeat this several times until the plants are as bushy as desired. When the plants become quite dense, some gardeners simply trim or shear them regularly and use the shearings in cooking. Other gardeners will cut off a larger proportion of the plant for harvest, especially if they plan to dry or freeze a quantity of basil all at one time. These more drastic harvests can be done just a few times a season as they are stressful on the plants and eventually the plants just “wear out”. In either case, the trimming prevents the plant from flowering and it regrows in order to try to flower. Since your plants are already quite tall, I would suggest cutting them back by about a third. This will give you a nice harvest and allow you to begin pinching as it grows back. When you do this, be sure the plant receives adequate water and nutrients to regenerate itself. Enjoy your basil!

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Tip: Grow Summer Lettuce

Having fresh, crisp, mild-flavored lettuce in the middle of summer is not an impossible task. First, choose heat-tolerant varieties. For looseleaf lettuce, try ‘Thai Green’. Good romaines include ‘Diamond Gem’, ‘Jericho’, and ‘Green Towers’. With butterheads, consider ‘Buttercrunch’, ‘Capitane’, ‘Cobham Green’, ‘Esmeralda’ and ‘Optima’. Provide afternoon shade or use shade cloth and mulch.

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Tip: Control Webworms and Tent Caterpillars

Fall webworms and tent caterpillars make nests in trees and shrubs. When you find the masses of webbing, cut them out or poke a hole in the webs and spray inside with a pesticide containing the biological control Bt.

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80 Comic Strips Now Available by Email!

ArcaMax has added dozens of new comic strips to its Comics page, including Archie, Hi and Lois, and 77 others. Subscribe to as many as you like via email, and start your day with a laugh!

Visit the Comics page and subscribe or read online right away.

— From the ArcaMax editors

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Today’s Reader Submitted Photos

Click an image above to see full size and read caption.
To see more of our subscriber photos visit our full Photo Gallery.

Enter your Gardening Daily Tips pictures so you can show them off to other readers right here in this ezine and on the ArcaMax.com Web site. Click here to submit your photo.

Sincerely,
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Gardening Daily Tips July 17

Tuesday July 17, 2011


Primrose, English (Primula vulgaris)

Today’s Featured Plant
Primrose, English (Primula vulgaris)

Read the full profile of this plant at ArcaMax.com.

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Q&A: Rust on Hollyhocks

Question: What can we use to prevent rust disease on hollyhocks?

Answer: Hollyhock rust is a very common fungal disease. It begins with yellow or orange spots with red centers on the top side of the leaf, along with brown pin-head sized dots on the underside of the leaf. Eventually gray pustules form on the underside of the leaf, and all the spots run together, killing big areas of leaf tissue. Hollyhock rust overwinters on the basal leaves and old stems of the plant. In the fall, after killing frosts, remove and destroy the old leaves and stems. During the growing season you can remove and destroy infected leaves. Disturbing plants while the leaves are wet spreads the disease, so allow plants to dry before working around them. Other cultural practices that keep hollyhocks healthy include growing them in full sun, in rich moist soil and making sure they have good air circulation. Another tip is to grow them in the back of the garden with shorter plants in front of them to conceal the damage. Some gardeners grow them as biennials, starting new plants every year, and removing them after they flower in their second season. This keeps diseases from building up on older, weaker plants.

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Q&A: Problems Growing Onions

Question: I’m an experienced gardener but I always have trouble with onions. I start mine from sets. The greens grow really well above the soil but I just can’t get the bulbs to grow. What can I do?

Answer: Onions can sometimes be tricky to grow because they are photoperiodic plants, meaning they regulate their stages of growth by the duration of the light/dark cycle. An onion plant will make top growth until the critical light duration is reached; then it begins to form bulbs. The amount of growth and development prior to bulbing will determine the bulb size. You need to match the onion variety with your locale — there are “short-day” onions for southern areas, and “long-day” onions for northern regions.

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Q&A: Geranium Pointers

Question: I have a troubled variegated geranium. It seemed happy for a while, and sent up lots of new flower shoots. Once the flowers went by, I removed the spent blooms. However, lately the plant has begun yellowing all over. I repotted it in new container with new potting soil; I’ve also tried altering the water and/or light it receives. Should I have left the flower stalks on? Practically everyone in my neighborhood grows geraniums with little or no effort! What can I do for my poor plant?

Answer: Geraniums do best with full sun (a little afternoon shade in really hot summer areas), a little less than average watering, and minimal fertilizing. You were correct to remove the spent flowers–pruning them off was not the cause of the problems. It’s possible you are “killing it with kindness.” With too much water and/or too much fertilizing, geraniums quickly succumb to root and stem rots. Once they become infected, there is little you can do to stop the infection (including repotting in clean soil since the infection is in the plant’s system). I suggest giving the plant as much sun as possible, holding back on the water significantly (but not to the point of desert conditions), and cutting off any soft, mushy, brown-to-yellowish stems (dip your pruning shears in a 10 percent bleach solution between each cut). Hopefully, it’s not too late.

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Tip: Make More Flowers

Perennials that are capable of either reblooming or continuously flowering will be more likely to do so if they are cut back as the flowers fade, then fertilized, mulched, and watered. Try this with delphiniums, summer phlox, spiderwort, gaillardia, achillea, coreopsis, and salvias. Petunias and other annuals that are beginning to get a bit leggy and bedraggled also respond well to a trim and feeding.

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Tip: Vacation Lawn Care

Before leaving for a summer vacation, mow the lawn and water it well, if necessary. If you’ll be gone for more than one week, be sure to make arrangements to have someone cut it while you’re away so it doesn’t get overgrown, and water it if there’s a dry spell.

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Gardening Daily Tips July 16
Saturday July 16, 2011


Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila elegans)

Today’s Featured Plant
Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila elegans)

Read the full profile of this plant at ArcaMax.com.

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Q&A: When is Garlic Ready for Harvest

Question: How do I know when garlic is ready to harvest? My garlic is in full bloom?

Answer: When flower heads develop, cut them off. This forces more nutrients into the root to develop larger garlic cloves. When foliage begins to turn yellow and dry out later in summer, stop watering. Press any foliage over towards the ground. Let the foliage completely dry out and then dig the garlic. Clean the dirt off completely and let them continue drying if necessary, in a shaded location. Enjoy that garlic!

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Q&A: Successive Cropping

Question: I planted green beans early and have harvested a ton of beans. Should I pull these vines up and try to plant a second crop — or will they bloom and produce more beans if I let them go?

Answer: Sounds as though you’re enjoying a bumper crop of beans! Bean blossoms tend to fall off when the weather gets hot so production may begin to slow within the next few weeks. I’d harvest as long as the plant’s are willing to produce, then pull the plants up and sow seeds for a second crop. Beans usually take 10-14 days to germinate and about 60 days to produce, so you’ll have plenty of beans to harvest in the fall if you sow seeds around the first of August. Enjoy!

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Q&A: Fertilizing Roses

Question: I understand that roses need lots of fertilizer, but I have no idea what to use, how much, how often. What do you recommend?

Answer: You’re certainly right about how confusing the subject can be. But there are so many different kinds of fertilizers, different kinds of roses, and different kinds of gardeners. Start with this last point, the different kinds of gardeners: Most important is to find a product(s) that works for you, your schedule, and your habits. Your region is important too: Roses growing ten months of the year in the south or west will need more fertilizer than roses that only grow for three or four months in the north. Controlled-release fertilizers are the simplest to use. One or two applications and you’re set for the season. Organic fertilizers, such as an equal mix of alfalfa and cottonseed meals, are popular. Apply 10 cups of this mix around the base of each plant every 10 weeks, then cover it with mulch or compost. Many other organic fertilizers are available. Liquid-soluble fertilizers that dissolve in water are fast-acting but require the most frequent applications, sometimes as often as weekly. Whatever product you ultimately select, always apply fertilizer to moist but not soggy soil, and water after application. Start fertilizing in early spring about four weeks before spring growth begins. In cold winter regions, stop fertilizing in late summer.

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Tip: Try Conifers in Containers

Add year-round appeal to your home’s entrance or to a patio, deck, or terrace with container plantings of conifers, such as junipers, spruces, pines, firs, or arborvitae. You can use any type, be it mounding, bushy, columnar, or weeping, but the key to success is to choose conifers that are hardy to at least two zones colder than where you live. For instance, if you live in Zone 6, choose a conifer hardy to Zone 4

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Tip: Add Color with Containers

There’s still time to plant containers and hanging baskets with annual flowers. It’s an economical way to spruce up porches and patios, decks and doorways. Be especially diligent with watering — check new plantings frequently to make sure they don’t dry out.

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Today’s Reader Submitted Photos

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Gardening Daily Tips July 15

Friday July 15, 2011


Iris, Bearded (Iris germanica)

Today’s Featured Plant
Iris, Bearded (Iris germanica)

Read the full profile of this plant at ArcaMax.com.

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Q&A: Cucumber Plant

Question: My cucumber plant leaves are beginning to yellow around the edges. It’s only middle of July so I’m worried that it might not make it through August. What should I be doing? I’m watering it every morning and evening.

Answer: It’s possible you are overwatering. Generally, vegetable plants need about an inch of water a week. The best time to water your garden is in the morning. If you water at night when the day is cooling off, the water is likely to stay on the foliage, increasing the danger of disease. When watering your vegetable garden, there is one rule you should follow: Always soak the soil thoroughly. A light sprinkling can often do more harm than no water at all: It stimulates the roots to come to the surface, where they are killed by exposure to the sun. One way to determine when to irrigate is to take a soil core sample from the plant root zone and squeeze it into a ball. If the ball holds together in the palm of your hand, the soil has sufficient water. If it crumbles, apply water. At the crumble-stage, the average soil will hold 1 inch of water per foot. If this water is applied with a sprinkler, determine its delivery by placing three or four cans under the sprinkler pattern to see how long it takes to accumulate an inch of water. Best wishes with your cucumbers.

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Q&A: Flowers for Dried Arrangements

Question: I’d like to plant some flowers that I can cut and dry, then use to make wreaths, gifts, etc. What are some good choices for my area?

Answer: Many plants have flowerheads, seedpods, stems, or leaves that have potential for dried flower arrangements. The best dried flowers are the everlastings–flowers that open fairly stiff and papery to the touch and without much moisture content. Those include strawflower (Helichrysum), yarrow (Achillea), pearly everlasting (Anaphalis), wormwood (Artemisia), globe thistle (Echinops exalatus), sea holly (Eryngium), baby’s breath (Gypsophila), lavender, oregano (Origanum laevigatum ‘Herrenhausen’) and sea lavender (Limonium). You can also experiment with ornamental grasses.

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Q&A: Understanding Fertilizer Labels

Question: What do the three numbers on fertilizer packages mean? For example, 10-10-10.

Answer: The three numbers refer to the percentage of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K) in the fertilizer. These 3 elements are referred to as macronutrients because plants need them in fairly large (i.e., macro) amounts to thrive. Plants also need many micronutrients, but in much smaller quantities. While synthetic fertilizers often contain just N, P, and K, organic ones, such as fish emulsions and seaweed extracts, contain numerous micronutrients, too.

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Tip: Rejuvenate Container Plantings

Container plantings often begin to look a little “peaked” by midsummer. If blossoming is getting sparse on trailing plants like petunias, cut them back to stimulate a new flush of growth and flowers. If your pot or hanging basket contains several plants, trim back any that have grown so vigorously they are over-running their neighbors. Some plants, lobelia for example, may take a break from blooming in the summer heat. Trim them back and you’ll get a new flush of blossoms as the weather cools in late summer.

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Tip: Check Sprinkler Heads

Check sprinkler heads and prune away any plant growth that blocks the water spray. Make sure the water is aimed toward plants rather than driveways.

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Free Health and Beauty Tips

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Gardening Daily Tips July 14

Thursday July 14, 2011


Oak, Pin (Quercus palustris)

Today’s Featured Plant
Oak, Pin (Quercus palustris)

Read the full profile of this plant at ArcaMax.com.

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Q&A: Staking a Tree Rose

Question: I planted a tree rose in my garden last fall. The stake is now loose and not holding the rose straight. Should I replace the stake with a deeper one in the same place or in a different spot?

Answer: Tree roses should always be staked. They are topheavy and the wind can catch the top and bend or break the stem. Use a metal stake (I use a piece of rebar for mine) and drive it down into the soil a few inches away from the main stem. Tie the stem in several places with twine or the green plastic ‘garden’ tape you can find in garden centers. Check the ties several times during the growing season to make sure they are not too tight. Best wishes with your garden.

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Q&A: Weeds in Ground Cover

Question: How can I get rid of weeds in my ground cover without damaging the ground cover plants?

Answer: It’s amazing how annoyingly tenacious weeds can be! If the weeds you’re dealing with are perennials that spread from runners or stolons along or below the ground (e.g., Bermuda grass or nut grass), you’ll need to pull them out and mulch heavily under the ground cover with organic matter such as wood chips. You can repeatedly cut them off to keep them under control, but, unfortunately, you’ll need to be very diligent because they usually pop up elsewhere. Herbicides probably won’t work in your situation, because the weeds are intermixed with your plants. The herbicide won’t distinguish between the plants you want vs. the plants you don’t! If the weeds in your ground covers are coming up from seed, then you might want to try a pre-emergent herbicide made from corn gluten. Corn gluten produces an enzyme that kills germinating seedlings.

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Q&A: Dethatching Lawns

Question: I recently discovered my lawn has thatch. What is the recommended method of dethatching a lawn? Do I do it by hand, or is there some sort of mechanical dethatching tool I can use? Should I aerate before or after I dethatch (or at all)?

Answer: Dethatching is a practice used on mostly warm-season lawns that produce heavy woven mats of stolons or runners. It’s done in spring before the lawn gets off to a new start. The steps, in order, are: 1) scalping — setting the mower as low as it will go and taking the grass to within 1/2 inch of the ground; 2) dethatching — using a rented machine that rakes the mat of runners right out (hand dethatchers are available but they are not efficient and can wear out the best of us if the lawn is large); 3) aerating — using a rented piece of equipment that removes small plugs of soil which you then fill in by raking compost across the lawn.

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Tip: Unearth Some Early Potatoes

Harvest some small, tender early potatoes by carefully reaching into the hilled-up soil around your potato plants and plucking off some golf ball size tubers. Then firm the soil back around the roots. You’ll have some delicious “new” potatoes for supper and your potato plants will continue to mature the rest of their crop without missing a beat.

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Tip: Stake Pepper Plants

If pepper plants are getting top heavy with developing fruit, stake or cage them now to keep them from toppling. Take care not to damage roots in the process.

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80 Comic Strips Now Available by Email!

ArcaMax has added dozens of new comic strips to its Comics page, including Archie, Hi and Lois, and 77 others. Subscribe to as many as you like via email, and start your day with a laugh!

Visit the Comics page and subscribe or read online right away.

— From the ArcaMax editors

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