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

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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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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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