Extension Educator, Horticulture
Master Gardener Program Coordinator
June 29, 2012
Richard Hentschel, Extension Educator
Gardeners may let the lawn go dormant and use the water to keep the vegetable patch alive and producing during these stressful weeks without natural rainfall. There are several ways to get the job done depending on your time and watering equipment you have in the garden shed or garage. A typical sprinkler used for the lawn will work. Set it up to put as much water on the garden and not so much everywhere else. Any time overhead watering is done, it is much better to do this early in the day so there is no free water to promote foliage diseases that would be around if you watered just before dark. Disease organisms just need the overnight hours with water present to germinate and infect our vegetables. The first time you use the lawn sprinkler for watering the lawn, you should measure how long it takes to put approximately one inch of water on the garden. With some sprinklers this could be several hours.
Another method if you have the time and need to unwind at the end of the day is to use a watering wand and direct the water to the garden soil around the base of the plants, moving from plant to plant and then repeating until you have gotten that inch of water applied. Using the watering wand will keep the foliage dry and put the water exactly where it is needed by the plants. The watering wand with. The water breaker should allow the full flow of water to gently flow out of the wand and not blast the soil around which can cause diseases again by splashing soil and disease organisms up onto foliage.
The third method of water takes the most time to set up and the most dollars to be spent in equipment. Drip irrigation allows you to turn on the water faucet and walk away knowing the plants will be watered and no foliage will get wet. You can get a basic pre made kit or a build your own kit at most good garden centers. Once you have your garden planted, you can lay down drip lines near the base of the plants if you have put in transplants and next to the row if you have started vegetables from seed. Just like the overhead sprinkler, you will need to measure how long it takes to get the needed water into the soil. After that it is a matter of turning on and off the water. Another piece of equipment could be a watering timer that either runs on batteries with a scheduling program or one that runs off the water pressure when the system is turned on. The time with the scheduler is really good if your time at home is variable and you want to be sure the garden is watered while you are away.
Another trick will be to mulch the garden soil once it has been thoroughly moistened with any of the ways you water. A mulch layer will retain more soil moisture and keep the soil cooler as well. The mulch evens out the moisture loss, allowing the garden plants to benefit. Lastly, the overhead sprinkler will use the most water, the drip the least.
June 19, 2012
Richard Hentschel, Extension Educator
Watering is yet another activity that gardeners have to make a decision about. Do I keep the lawn actively growing or let it go dormant. Should I be watering my flowers or vegetables, or how about the newly spring planted trees or shrubs. Let's start with the vegetables. Once flowering has begun, regular amounts of water will be critical for fruit development. We have all had cucumbers that are fat, then skinny then fat again. Cucumbers are 98+ percent water, so they are directly impacted. Tomatoes can continuously take up water to fill the fruits, so the more even the soil moisture; the more evenly the fruits will develop. One tip to share is if you have mature to ripe tomato fruits on the plant, pick them as the red skin has some growing and if you water then or we have rain you will find that they have split open. Snap beans produce over several weeks and they need moisture the whole time to fill out the bean pod. Root crops need that moisture to ensure you get to harvest a quality vegetable, worthy of your kitchen table. The bottom line is be sure to keep all your garden plants evenly watered and you will be rewarded in kind with great looking, nutritious vegetables.
Out in the landscape; be sure that any newly planted or transplanted trees, shrubs or perennials have plenty of water to ensure a stress free transition as the plants establish themselves in your home landscape. Perennials seem to recover the quickest, next would be shrubs and the last to recover from being transplanted are trees. A good rule of thumb for shade and ornamental trees is that for every inch of trunk diameter you can figure one year for recovery. During that time, you should be watering and monitoring your tree for insects and diseases as well. In general the larger or older the plant the more you should attending to it throughout the transplant period.Keeping the lawn green and actively growing is for some the harder decision. Lawns can take a lot of water to keep them growing and can take quite a bit of time as well. We seem to have hit our summer dry hot weather a lot earlier this summer so the decision should be made soon. Even if you chose to let the lawn go dormant, there is still some lawn watering that should be done to keep the crown of the grass plant alive so there is something out there to resume growth later. About ½ inch of water every 2 or 3 weeks is typical. This will not turn the lawn green again. One drawback to allowing the lawn to go dormant will be the weeds. They will grow right through the droughty weather so you may have to attend to some weed control later in the fall. You can keep the lawn greener longer by mowing high and only if needed. For most mowers that setting second from the top or the top is good. The longer grass shades the soil, leaving more moisture available for growth.
June 8, 2012
Richard Hentschel, Extension Educator
Why is gardening in the yard so entertaining? There is always something new happening, something just finished and something to look forward too. Gardeners looking for the typical insects should still be thinking 2 weeks ahead of normal as our growing degree calculations continue to pile up.
Bagworms usually emerge in a couple of weeks, yet they are here with us now. Egg hatching is happening as you read this and the bagworm larvae will be ballooning for the next couple of weeks for sure. Ballooning you ask? This is how the larvae move about. The young worm creates a long string of silk webbing material and lets the wind carry it away to desirable host plants in the landscape, so the term ballooning makes sense. You can make control treatments now or wait till after the ballooning is done and you see the young bags on your plants. Bagworms are easily controlled using products like Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki commonly known as Bt, Dipel, Thuricide and other labels. The larvae will feed just a little more and then die before they permanently attach the bag they create to the host plants.
One bug to keep a lookout for is the Japanese Beetle. They are emerging in Southern Illinois right now and should be here in two to three more weeks. Japanese beetles are general feeders and have favorite plants. Be ready to protect your roses and linden trees for sure. No control is needed if feeding is light or scattered in your landscape. If you have some of their favorite foods in your yard, you can treat with carbaryl (Sevin) if you need to. Since these beetles are free to fly around, retreatment may be needed in your yard.
One or two diseases have also shown up recently. Hollyhock rust has been pretty common in the Master Gardener Help Desk offices. You will find your Hollyhock leaves with yellow spots on the surface and many brown rusty colored fruiting structures call pustules on the underneath. They can be so numerous that some gardeners assume it is a normal part of the plant. Rust spores are carried by the wind and you can have rust for the first time this year if there are infected plants in the neighborhood and the wind is coming through your yard. The best management practices will be to scout your Hollyhock early and carefully prune away any early infections and dispose of them. Mulching the plants will keep overwintering spores from emerging from plant debris and it is best to apply the clean mulch in the early spring.
Our lawns have begun to slow down and are now showing potential droughty symptoms of turning that light blue green color or showing footprints from traffic since our rain events have been pretty scattered. If you are doing any watering of the vegetable garden or flower beds, don't forget to water the compost bin or pile.
That was all the bad stuff. Be sure to take a daily "walk about" the yard and enjoy the new blooms, bright green foliage, check on how well the vegetables are doing and make yourself a bet on how soon you will see that first ripe tomato or green pepper. Enjoy the lettuce from the early spring garden you planted or plan on planting the fall garden and enjoy more of the Cole crops.
June 1, 2012
Richard Hentschel, Extension Educator
Master Gardeners receive calls over the phone and visits to the office about growing vegetables in a raised bed frequently from gardeners that have experienced bad luck growing in a traditional garden bed and wonder if a raised bed will change the color of their thumb from a brown to a green again. Raised beds have some added benefits but not necessarily advantages over growing in the ground. Water drainage is one of those benefits. You certainly have drainage normally, yet a raised bed will drain away the excessive moisture quicker after a heavy rain. The sooner the soil drains, the less likelihood of our vegetable root systems suffering from a lack of soil oxygen. Additionally, diseases that favor wet waterlogged soils are less likely to be a problem.
Another benefit is that a raised bed has soil that will warm up sooner in the spring, allowing the ambitious gardener to get the first plantings in a few days earlier regardless of the kind of vegetable grown. Remember when the neighbor made those small mounds to plant the cucumber or pumpkin seed? This is a simple way to create a bit of soil that is warmer sooner to get those warm loving seeds up and out of the ground. You can think of that but doing it for your full garden.
Another follow up question about raised beds is the one about what kind of soil should be used. To maximize the drainage potential, gardeners have the opportunity to take care of that when they are filling the raised bed. If your natural soil in the yard is heavy, contains a lot of clay, that is not what you want to fill the bed with. That heavy soil may be a component mixed with good quality black dirt and a source of organic matter.
Organic matter serves several functions in the bed. A soil with lots of organic matter will retain moisture between your watering or natural rain. Organic matter provides soil structure for all the important spaces that contain that soil oxygen that roots will use to actively move nutrients and water into the above ground plant parts. Organic matter by its nature breaks down with time, releasing nutrients that every vegetable plant needs. Vegetable plants use these throughout the growing season and this release is an ongoing process, allowing the vegetable plants to get what they need when they need it. Lastly, organic matter is acidic and helps maintain the soil pH where plants thrive. Just like your in ground garden beds, a soil test should be done every few years to be sure your pH and nutrient ion levels are adequate.
A simple way to try out a raised bed before committing to building a permanent one is to use the soil that would otherwise be between your rows and create raised rows that way. When you are done, you still have your walkways but your rows are now several inches taller and perhaps wider as well. The season is just getting underway and there is plenty of time and vegetables to sow for the remainder of the summer and right into fall.