Gardening Daily Tips August 18

Thursday August 18, 2011


Goat’s Beard (Aruncus dioicus)

Today’s Featured Plant
Goat’s Beard (Aruncus dioicus)

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

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Q&A: Hot Peppers

Question: I have planted Habaneros, Fresno, Cayenne and Jalapeno peppers. When do I pick them and after picking, what are my options for keeping them? Do I have to dry them or will they “keep” for a while so that I can use them in the future. How would I store them if this is possible?

Answer: Peppers taste best if allowed to fully mature before harvesting. Habaneros are one of the hottest peppers around, especially if used dried. They will mature about 90 days after planting and should be a bright red when harvested. Fresno is a medium hot 4-inch long chile. Maturing in 75 days, Fresno will turn from green to red when mature. Cayenne is a dark green pepper that matures to bright red. It grows 4-5 inches long and about 1/2 inch in diameter. Jalapeno peppers are small, thick walled peppers that taste best green but will mature to red. All peppers will keep for several days to a few weeks if stored in the refrigerator. You can use them fresh, or as part of a salsa that you freeze or can. If you want longer storage times, the peppers should be dried and stored in airtight containers. Dried peppers have an intense taste, so use them sparingly until you can predict how hot the finished product will be.

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Q&A: Christmas Cactus

Question: What is the secret to getting a Christmas Cactus to rebloom?

Answer: Christmas Cactus is a tropical plant that requires a highly organic soil mixture and lots of moisture. The plant likes bright light and average household temperatures. You can take your Christmas Cactus outdoors during the summer and fertilize it monthly with a diluted houseplant food. Then bring it back indoors at the end of September and provide total darkness for 16 hours each day so the plant can set flower buds. The easiest way to accomplish this is to place it in a bright room for 8 hours and then either put a box over it, or put it in a closet for 16 hours. It needs absolute darkness; even a short burst of daylight will retard the formation of flower buds. During this bud forcing period, keep the temperature between 60F and 70F, and do not fertilize the plant. In early December your Christmas Cactus can be brought into ordinary light and will bloom in a few weeks.

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Q&A: Pruning Miniature Roses

Question: How do I prune or deadhead miniature roses in order to keep them blooming abundantly?

Answer: As soon as the blossoms have faded, clip them off just below the flower with a pruning shear or scissors. This will keep the plants looking their best and encourage them to send energy into producing more flowers this summer. In regions with very hot summers, roses may take a break in midsummer because of the heat, but start flowering again in fall. Be patient and you’ll be rewarded with beautiful blooms.

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Tip: Watch for Armyworms

Early detection of fall armyworm infestations is essential, so keep a close watch for these large caterpillars named for their habit of marching in troops and devouring everything in their path. The fall armyworm relishes a wide variety of garden vegetables, such as corn, beans, cabbage, and tomato, and can polish off a lawn in a single night

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Tip: Pick Up Fallen Fruit

Decaying fruits and vegetables are an open invitation to insect pests so pick up fallen fruit or overripe produce and add to the compost pile.

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Gardening Daily Tips August 17

Wednesday August 17, 2011


Pink, Cottage (Dianthus plumarius)

Today’s Featured Plant
Pink, Cottage (Dianthus plumarius)

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

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Q&A: When to Harvest Sweet Corn

Question: We planted sweet corn for the first time this year, and we’re not sure how to tell when it’s ready to harvest. Any tips?

Answer: Knowing exactly when to harvest corn is as much an art as it is a science. Seasoned gardeners begin checking for peak ripeness three weeks after corn silks appear by pulling back part of the husk and piercing a kernel with a thumbnail. If a milky juice spurts out, the corn is ready for harvest. If not, the husk is replaced and and the ear is allowed to mature for a few more days. Hope you have a terrific harvest!

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Q&A: Safe Bird Netting For Blueberries

Question: Could recommend a type of netting that I can safely use to prevent the birds from eating my blueberries that does not also entrap the birds?

Answer: You can use commonly available bird netting over your blueberry bushes, the kind with the quarter-inch openings, to protect the fruit. If you secure the ends of the netting by anchoring them to the ground, birds should not be able to get inside the netting and become trapped. If your plants are small, you can make cylinders out of chicken wire to encircle the bushes. Then place a circle of the same material over the opening in the top. Either way, your blueberries will be safe from the birds and the birds won’t get stuck inside the enclosure.

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Q&A: Mushy Pickled Peppers

Question: I pickled my ‘Hungarian Hot Wax’ peppers following the instructions in my canning guide, but the pickles are mushy. What did I do wrong?

Answer: You may have started with overripe peppers or used the wrong vinegar or type of water. Both mistakes can make pickled peppers mushy. Harvest disease-free peppers just before they’re fully ripe and process them within 24 hours. For extra firmness, but a little less flavor, harvest peppers when they are a bit underripe and, before processing, remove 1/16 inch of the blossom end of the pepper, where the softening enzymes reside. Use a 5 percent vinegar solution and soft or distilled water when pickling. You can turn hard water into soft water by boiling it for 15 minutes, letting it stand for 24 hours, then skimming off the top layer that forms. Also, processing peppers for too long will make them mushy.

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Tip: Prepare Soil for Fall Planting

Prepare soil for cool season veggies and flowers now. Plants do much better when compost is added and soil is prepared for planting ahead of time. As a general guide add an inch of compost to the soil every time you transition from one annual planting to another. Then rototill or spade it in.

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Tip: Prepare Garden for Fall Crops

After harvesting warm-season crops like beans, remove the spent plants, add compost, and till it in to prepare the area for fall crops. Mulch the area with straw to inhibit weeds until you’re ready to plant.

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Reader Photos Being Discontinued

Dear Readers,

Unfortunately, we will be having to discontinue the Reader Photos section of this ezine when we launch a new format later this week.

For several years, reader-submitted photos was a very popular feature. Participation has since declined and we can no longer justify the expense in maintaining this feature.

We thank everyone who used the feature. The photos will still be available on the Web site for a short period of time following their removal from the ezines.

Sincerely,
ArcaMax Editors

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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.

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Gardening Daily Tips August 16

Tuesday August 16, 2011


Pieris, Japanese Andromeda (Pieris japonica)

Today’s Featured Plant
Pieris, Japanese Andromeda (Pieris japonica)

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

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Q&A: Treating Iron Chlorosis on Citrus Trees

Question: What are the best iron supplements to use on citrus tress and what should the watering schedule and amounts be?

Answer: You can use Ironite for your citrus trees in amounts as recommended on the label. The amount you use will depend upon the size of your trees, and the frequency is generally every 3-4 months. The package label will explain in detail. Citrus trees take a lot of water so if you have a drip system you may need a single 2 gallon emitter, or several (again depending upon the size of your trees) and you may need to water for 30-60 minutes 2-3 times a week during the summer months. Wish I could be more specific, but frequency of watering really depends on the size of your trees. Best wishes with your citrus trees.

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Q&A: Heirloom Seeds

Question: What are heirloom seeds?

Answer: Heirloom seeds come from older varieties of vegetables, flowers, and herbs. These varieties are often ones that had been used for decades or even hundreds of years, and many were almost lost to the trade. But recent interest in the characteristics of varieties that “grandma used to grow” has brought these wonderful plants back into public demand. Sometimes they don’t have the qualities that large-scale operations need, such as ripening all at once, disease resistance, or uniform appearance. But they have other appealing features, such as unique flavor, fragrance, color, shape, etc., that fell out of fashion or was lost in the development of newer varieties. Most heirlooms are open-pollinated, too, so you can save the seed from year to year. If you haven’t tried some of the heirlooms, do so, and I’m sure you will be pleased!

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Q&A: Saving and Storing Vegetable Seed

Question: Some of the packs of seeds I’ve ordered (tomato, okra, peppers, etc.) contain thirty or more seeds. I don’t need to plant this many. How can I best save some seeds for next year? Also, can I simply save some seeds directly from the inside of the pepper for instance? What is the best method for doing this?

Answer: Generally, it’s best to store seeds in airtight containers (baby food jars and film canisters are great) in a cool, dark place where the temperature doesn’t fluctuate very much – a shelf in the basement is a good choice. Be sure to label and date the jars to prevent future mysteries! If these are seeds you’ve collected, make sure they are completely dry, or they may mold in storage. As seeds age, their germination rate drops. Some seeds remain viable for many years, and others really aren’t worth saving. It’s not usually worthwhile to save seeds from hybrid varieties, since the next generation won’t necessarily produce the same quality of plants and fruit. If you want to save seeds from your vegetable garden, allow the fruit to fully ripen, almost to the rotten stage, then scrape out the seeds and let them dry in an airy place. Once the seeds are completely dry, put them in airtight containers and store them in a cool, dark location.

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Tip: Harvest Seeds of Flowering Annuals

If you favor serendipity, let annuals that readily self-sow, such as cleome, cosmos, four-o-clocks, nicotiana, and love-in-a-mist, do what they naturally do, that is, self-sow. But, if you prefer to exercise a bit more control and self-determination, gather the seed before the seed heads start releasing the seeds this summer. As they turn brown, clip them into paper bags. Set the bags on a porch or in the garage. Depending on the stage they were picked, seeds will either immediately fall to the bottom of the bag, or do so in about a week. Once most of the seeds have fallen, place them in a labeled container. Either scatter where you want them in the garden this fall or next spring, or start them indoors.

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Tip: Avoid Cultivating Soil During Hot, Dry Weather

Avoid cultivating the soil around flower and vegetable plants during the hot, dry weather, because loosening the soil causes it to dry out faster.

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Reader Photos Being Discontinued

Dear Readers,

Unfortunately, we will be having to discontinue the Reader Photos section of this ezine when we launch a new format later this week.

For several years, reader-submitted photos was a very popular feature. Participation has since declined and we can no longer justify the expense in maintaining this feature.

We thank everyone who used the feature. The photos will still be available on the Web site for a short period of time following their removal from the ezines.

Sincerely,
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,
ArcaMax Editors

Gardening Daily Tips August 8

Monday August 8, 2011


Stock (Matthiola incana)

Today’s Featured Plant
Stock (Matthiola incana)

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

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Q&A: Harvesting Habanero Peppers

Question: I have a habanero pepper plant that is quite large and loaded with peppers. Some of the peppers are orange and others are still green. How do I know when the peppers should be harvested?

Answer: Hot peppers may be harvested at any stage of maturity. The longer they’re allowed to ripen, the hotter they will become. There’s no “best” time to harvest; taste and decide for yourself if the peppers should remain on the plants. Red peppers are generally 2-3 times hotter than green ones and dried pepper pods can be 2-10 times hotter than fresh peppers. Habanero peppers are some of the hottest peppers you can grow!

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Q&A: Composting Dog Manure

Question: Can I add fresh dog manure to my compost bins?

Answer: No. Dog, cat and pet bird manure can contain parasites that can be transmitted to humans. Manure from barnyard animals such as cows, chickens, horses, rabbits, goats is okay.

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Q&A: Growing Ornamental Cabbage

Question: I would like to start seeds for some ornamental cabbage for fall planting. When should I start the seeds? Do I need to pinch back the seedlings to get that nice, compact head?

Answer: Ornamental kale and cabbage grow best in cool weather and generally take about 60 days to mature. To avoid stressing the seedlings during the hottest days of summer, wait until 4 to 6 weeks before your average first frost date to sow seed. You don’t need to pinch back the seedlings. The plants should form a nice head on their own.

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Tip: Easy Veggie Cleaning

Replace the bottom of a wooden box with half-inch hardware cloth or chicken wire for use as a colander. Collect fresh-picked vegetables in the box, and rinse them off to remove excess soil. The soil will remain in the garden, and only final cleaning will be necessary indoors.

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Tip: Control Lawn Grubs

White grubs are the larval stage of many adult beetles such as Japanese beetles. If your lawn is infested, you can treat it organically with beneficial nematodes and/or milky spore.

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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.

Sincerely,
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Gardening Daily Tips August 7

Sunday August 7, 2011


Kale, Flowering (Brassica oleracea)

Today’s Featured Plant
Kale, Flowering (Brassica oleracea)

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

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Q&A: Storing bulbs for the winter

Question: I have dahlia, canna, elephant ear and calla lily bulbs. When I stored the dahlia and elephant ear bulbs in saw dust the dahlia bulbs shriveled and many of the larger elephant ear bulbs rotted. I store the bulbs in sawdust in a Michigan basement where there is no light.

Answer: The sawdust may be drawing out all the moisture. Instead of sawdust, try this: Pack in a cardboard box lined with a perforated plastic bag filled with dry peat moss, vermiculite, or wood shavings. Make sure bulbs do not touch, so that if one develops rot, it won’t spread easily. The temperature should be comfortably cool, around 50-60 degrees. Punch enough holes in the plastic so that moisture can escape, but not so many that the roots will dry up. Check on them every month or so. If  they appear to be shriveling, mist them with water to help keep them hydrated. Hope this helps!

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Q&A: Encouraging Poinsettia to Bloom

Question: I’ve kept my poinsettia growing all summer. How do I get it to bloom again in time for the holidays?

Answer: Poinsettias are induced into blooming by shorter daylength. In late September begin placing the plant in total darkness for 13 to 14 hours every night. The spot must be really dark — no streetlights shining in, no occasional visitors turning the lights on. A dark, unused closet is a good spot. Each morning, bring the plant out and place it in bright light for the remaining 10 or 11 hours, placing it back in the closet each evening. This will give them the short days they need to trigger the response to color up in time for the holidays. Keep and eye on the plant, and when the bracts have started showing color again — usually about 4 weeks — you can stop the nightly ritual and treat them like any other houseplant. Place then in a bright spot and keep soil evenly moist but not soggy.

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Q&A: Encouraging Second Bloom on Old Roses

Question: I have an old-fashoned climbing rose that has likely been growing in my yard since before I was born. It is very vigorous and has huge canes at the base. I am not sure of the variety, but it is a very pale pink with a nice fragrance. I understand that many old rose varieties will rebloom in the fall — in addition to their usual spring or early summer bloom period. Is there anything I can do to encourage mine to bloom twice? I have been deadheading; should I also be pruning in any special way?

Answer: There are several types of climbing roses with various bloom patterns. Some older types of climbing roses — the “ramblers” — produce a profusion of relatively small blooms all at once, usually starting in early summer. This show might last amonth or so, then blooming is over for the season. Another group of roses is the large-flowered climbers. These generally have flowers over 2″ in diameter, and bloom for a longer period but much less profusely than the ramblers. Some varieties of large-flowered climbers bloom continuously over the growing season; others bloom once in early summer and have a second flowering later in the season. There are also climbing hybrid teas, climbing floribundas, and pillar roses. Generally, genetics determines whether a rose bush will bloom just once or will repeat bloom in the fall. Removing hips will help encourage a repeat bloomer to put more energy into the second bloom, but it won’t force a one-time bloomer to put out more flowers. Keep your bush adequately pruned and fertilized, and it will fall into its natural blooming pattern.

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Tip: Check for Spider Mites

. Check landscape plants for spider mites, some of the most damaging hot weather pests. These sucking pests — smaller than the head of a pin — can be found in colonies and leave a fine webbing on the undersides of the leaves. Mites can be particularly bad in dark, dry places, such as the interior of evergreens. Spider mites will succumb quickly to a forceful spray of water and homemade soap sprays.

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Tip: Keep Bird Baths Filled

Birds need a consistent supply of water, so keep bird baths full and clean. Put the birdbath in a protected, shady spot and replace water every few days.

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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 August 6

Saturday August 6, 2011


Iris, Siberian (Iris sibirica)

Today’s Featured Plant
Iris, Siberian (Iris sibirica)

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

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Q&A: Dwarf Alberta Spruce Trees

Question: I have four Dwarf Alberta Spruce trees running along my driveway. In areas of all four trees, the needles have begun to turn brown and are falling off. The trees receive water daily from an inground sprinkler system. What do you think is happening to the trees? Thanks for your reply.

Answer: I think you are probably overwatering too much. Overwatering causes root damage and that then shows as foliage symptoms. Overwatering can cause foliage loss especially from the bottom up, so that might well be the cause. The soil should be moist like a wrung out sponge, not sopping wet or saturated. To know if you need to water, use your finger to dig into the soil under the mulch and see. If it is still damp, you do not need to water yet. There is no set schedule for watering. In the spring you may not need to water very often since it is rainy and the ground is naturally wet. In late summer when it is hot and dry you might need to water more often, maybe as often as every four or five days. It is best to avoid daily watering in any case. When you water, water thoroughly and slowly so it can sink in and encourage deep roots. After you water, wait a few hours and then dig down to see how far the water went (or didn’t go).

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Q&A: Planting Potatoes

Question: I planted certified ‘Yukon Gold’ and ‘Caribe’ potatoes on 9/23/00 in zone 9. They were set in trenches aout 3 inches deep. How many days until they break ground? The conditions here are favorable.

Answer: Potatoes can take 2-3 weeks to sprout, depending upon soil temperature. Heavy clay soils can retard their growth (and also produce unattractive tubers). If you planted in a loose sandy loam, you can expect to see shoots most any time, now. Hope you have a terrific crop. p.s. If you’re really curious, dig up one of the potatoes to see what kind of progress it’s making.

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Q&A: Growing Gladioli

Question: My gladioli bulbs sprouted and produced flowers, but now the flowers are passing and I don’t know what to do. Should cut back the flower stalks? Will the plant bloom again?

Answer: Glads are spectacular when planted en mass. Each bulb or corm produces only one flower stalk, but each stalk produces several flowers which open in progression. Once the blooms are spent, the entire flower stalk should be cut down; it will not produce new flowers. Leave the foliage alone and it will wither and die down at the end of the season. After the foliage dies, you can dig your corms and store them. Gladiolus corms will produce flowers about 100 days after planting. You can prolong the blooming period by planting corms at 1-2 week intervals over a period of 4-6 weeks.

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Tip: Paint Garden Tool Handles

Paint the handles of small garden tools such as weeders, trowels, pruners and cultivators with bright red or orange paint, or wrap with colored electrical tape. Then they’ll be easier to find when you inadvertently set them down in the garden and forget where you left them.

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Tip: Prevent Cucumber Bitterness

Keep the soil around cucumber plants consistently moist to prevent cukes from developing a bitter taste. Remove any overripe cucumbers to encourage continuous productions.

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