Tag: Horticulture

Planting Trees in Fall

The fall season can be an excellent time to plant trees. During the spring, soils are cold and may be so wet that low oxygen levels inhibit root growth. The warm and moist soils associated with fall encourage root growth. Fall root growth means the tree becomes established well before a spring-planted tree and is better able to withstand summer stresses. However, certain trees do not produce significant root growth during the fall and are better planted in the spring. These include beech, birch, redbud, magnolia, tulip poplar, willow oak, scarlet oak, black oak, willows, and dogwood.

Fall-planted trees require some special care. Remember, that roots are actively growing even though the top is dormant. Make sure the soil stays moist but not soggy. This may require watering not only in the fall but also during the winter months if we experience warm spells that dry the soil. Mulch also is helpful because it minimizes moisture loss and slows the cooling of the soil so root growth continues as long as possible. Evergreens should be moved earlier in the fall than deciduous plants. They need at least six weeks before the ground freezes for the roots to become established

By: Cassie Homan

Fall Webworms

Fall webworm feeds on almost all fruit, shade, and ornamental trees except conifers. This insect is present more often on trees that are not surrounded by other trees. The larvae begin by constructing small webs near the ends of branches. The insect will gradually increase the size of the web as the need for food increases.

Mature caterpillars are yellowish with black and brown markings, and have many tufts of long hair. As larvae mature, they crawl down the tree and spend the winter as pupa in the leaf litter under the tree.

High populations of fall webworm can completely defoliate host plants but do not kill them. However, on pecan trees, nut production and quality can be reduced if webworms are not controlled. On ornamental plants, control is optional.

Pruning and destroying the infested portions of branches is a common control practice while webs are still small. A stick or pole with a nail inserted crosswise can be used to snag individual webs. Twisting the pole after insertion will cause the web to wrap around the pole where it can be removed and destroyed. Instead of a nail inserted crosswise, some people use a toilet brush attached to the end of a pole. Insecticides can also be used for control but a commercial quality, high-pressure sprayer is needed to penetrate the webs. Numerous products can be used for control including spinosad (Conserve; Fertilome Borer, Bagworm, Leafminer and Tent Caterpillar Spray; Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew), cyfluthrin (Tempo, Bayer Vegetable & Garden Insect Spray) and permethrin (numerous trade names). We normally consider fall webworm damage to be purely aesthetic, and control is not needed to protect the health of the tree.

By: Cassie Homan

Fall Gardening

Do you wish you could have a second chance on your garden this year? Lucky for you many cool-season garden crops in Kansas can be planted again for a fall harvest.  Probably the last thing most gardeners are thinking of now is planting vegetables. However, fall gardens will often produce higher quality, tastier cool-season crops as the vegetable mature during cooler, less stressful temperatures.

Plant slightly deeper than you would in the spring so the seed stays cooler and the soil around the seed stays moist longer. Plant more thickly and thin later. The plants may need to be protected from rabbits through the use of fencing.

Fall Gardening Calendar

Mid-July: Plant potatoes if you can find or have saved back seed potatoes. Do not use freshly dug potatoes as they have a built-in dormancy that will prevent growth. Also, grocery store potatoes are often treated so they don’t sprout.

Cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower can be started from seed at this time. Choose a protected place where the soil can be kept moist and rabbits will not bother them. This will not be where they will grow the entire season but these crops will be transplanted about mid-August.

Late July: Seed beets, carrots and beans.

Late July to Early August: Seed spinach and long-season maturing lettuce. Leaf lettuce will be seeded later.

Second Week of August: Transplant cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower to their final location.  Mid to Late August: Seed radishes and leaf lettuce.

Use light amounts of fertilizer before planting. For example, apply 1/4 cup of a low-analysis fertilizer (6-7-7) per 10 feet of row. Side-dress two weeks after transplanting or four weeks after sowing seed by applying 2 tablespoons of a 16-0-0 or 1 tablespoon of a 27-3-3, 30-3-4 fertilizer, or something similar per plant.

Watering must occur more frequently because seed should not be allowed to dry out. Overhead watering often causes soil to crust, making it more difficult for young, tender plants to emerge. Prevent this by applying a light sprinkling of peat moss, vermiculite or compost directly over the row after seeding. Even better, use a soaker hose or drip irrigation right next to the row to allow water to slowly seep into the ground.

By: Cassie Homan

Dividing Your Daylilies

If you were disappointed in the quality of your daylily blooms this year, it may be time to divide. Daylilies need to be divided every three to four years to maintain vigor. This is the best time of year to divide them, but they can also be divided in early spring before growth starts. Many gardeners cut back the tops to about half their original height to make plants easier to handle.

Daylilies have a very tough root system that can make them difficult to divide while in place. Dividing in place is practical if it hasn’t been long since the last division. In such cases, a spading fork can be used to peel fans from the existing clump. If the plants have been in place longer and are well grown together, it is more practical to divide them after the entire clump has been dug.

Use a spade to lift the entire clump out of the ground. Although it is possible to cut the clump apart with a sharp spade, you’ll save more roots by using two spading forks back-to-back to divide the clump into sections. Each section should be about the size of a head of cauliflower. An easier method involves using a stream of water from a garden hose to wash the soil from the clump, and then rolling the clump back and forth until the individual divisions separate. Space divisions 24 to 30 inches apart, and set each at its original depth. The number of flowers will be reduced the first year after division but will return to normal until the plants need to be divided again.

By: Cassie Homan

How to Pick a Ripe Melon

Telling when a melon is ready to be harvested can be a challenge, or it may be quite easy. It all depends on the type of melon.

Let’s start with the easy one. Muskmelons are one of those crops that tell you when they are ready to be picked. This can help you not only harvest melons at the correct time but also choose good melons when shopping.

As a melon ripens, a layer of cells around the stem softens so the melon detaches easily from the vine. This is called “slipping” and will leave a dish shaped scar at the point of stem attachment. When harvesting melons, put a little pressure where the vine attaches to the fruit. If ripe, it will release or “slip.”

When choosing a melon from those that have already been harvested, look for a clean, dish shaped scar. Also, ripe melons have a pleasant, musky aroma if the melons are at room temperature (not refrigerated).

Watermelons can be more difficult and growers often use several techniques to tell when to harvest.

  1. Look for the tendril that attaches at the same point as the melon to dry and turn brown. On some varieties this will need to be completely dried before the watermelon is ripe. On others it will only need to be in the process of turning brown.
  2. The surface of a ripening melon develops a surface roughness (sometimes called “sugar bumps”) near the base of the fruit.
  3. Ripe watermelons normally develop a yellow color on the “ground spot” when ripe. This is the area of the melon that contacts the ground.

By: Cassie Homan

Foliar Disease of Tomatoes

This time of year, two common leaf-spot diseases appear on tomato plants. Septoria leaf spot and early blight both appear as brown spots on tomato leaves.

Septoria leaf spot usually appears earlier in the season than early blight and produces small dark spots. Spots made by early blight are much larger and often have a distorted “target” pattern of concentric circles. Heavily infected leaves eventually turn yellow and drop. Older leaves are more susceptible than younger ones, so these diseases often start at the bottom of the plant and work up.

Septoria Leaf Spot

Mulching, caging, or staking keeps plants off the ground, making them less vulnerable. Better air circulation allows foliage to dry quicker than in plants allowed to sprawl. Mulching also helps prevent water from splashing and carrying disease spores to the plant.

If you know you have had one of these diseases in the past, rotation is a good strategy. It is too late for that now, but keep it in mind for next year. Actually, rotation is a good idea even if you have not had problems in the past. If you have room, rotate the location of the tomatoes each year to an area that has not had tomatoes or related crops (peppers, potatoes, eggplant) for several years.

If rotation is not feasible, fungicides are often helpful. Be sure to cover both upper and lower leaf surfaces, and reapply fungicide if rainfall removes it. Plants usually become susceptible when the tomato fruit is about the size of a walnut. Chlorothalonil is a good choice for fruiting plants because it has a 0-day waiting period, meaning that fruit can be harvested once the spray is dry. Chlorothalonil can be found in numerous products including Fertilome Broad-Spectrum Landscape and Garden Fungicide, Ortho Garden Disease Control, GardenTech Daconil and others. Be sure to start protecting plants when the disease is first seen. It is virtually impossible to control this disease on heavily infected plants.

If chlorothalonil doesn’t seem to be effective, try mancozeb (Bonide Mancozeb Flowable). Note that there is a five-day waiting period between application and when the fruit can be harvested. You may wish to pick some tomatoes green just before you spray if you use Mancozeb as the tomato fruit will ripen inside.

More information on foliar disease, follow this link: https://www.bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/L721.pdf

By: Cassie Homan