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Fall coverups for the garden

Extend the growing and harvest season by covering cool-season plants with row covers or heavy-duty plastic. The cover also can be used to get a jump-start on the growing season in spring. Photo courtesy Gardener’s Supply/gardeners.com

Extend the growing and harvest season by covering cool-season plants with row covers or heavy-duty plastic. The cover also can be used to get a jump-start on the growing season in spring. Photo courtesy Gardener’s Supply/gardeners.com 

If you’re considering planting a fall crop of lettuce, spinach, broccoli and other cool-season vegetables, now is the time.

Some plants already growing in the garden, such as onions and cabbage, tolerate cold and might keep producing for several more weeks with just a little protection. Chard, lettuce, cauliflower and carrots can take a frost or two. Others, such as tomatoes, melon and pumpkins, will be damaged by light frosts.

Some garden centers will have transplants, but I’ve always had a hard time finding them. Call around to see who might have them.

Northern Indiana gardeners can sow seeds now for beets, carrots, leaf lettuce, turnips, spinach, chard, radish, peas and bush beans. Try to find transplants of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, cabbage and cauliflower. Gardeners in the middle and southern part of the state have a few more weeks to sow and transplant.

When planting fall season vegetables, mix a little compost or other organic matter to the soil. A lot of times, the soil is crusted over from the summer, so a little compost can work wonders in helping the new seeds and roots develop roots. The soil is a lot warmer now, too, than it was in spring, so you might need to water more frequently until plants get established.

There are several ways to protect these veggies as we move into cold weather.

Row covers are made out of spun plastic material and can protect plants to about 28 degrees. To increase protection even more, cover the row cover with a 6-mil plastic, which will get you protection to about 15 degrees. For even more, add several gallon jugs of water among the plants. The sun heats up the water during the day and the jugs slowly release the heat at night.

For quick protection when frost threatens, toss sheets, blankets or paper bags over tender crops, such as tomatoes and peppers. Do not use plastic unless you tent it so that it does not touch the plants. Condensation that forms and freezes under the plastic will damage plants.

For more info, download Purdue University’s The Fall Vegetable Garden.

There also are several good books on this topic:

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour (Storey Publishing)

The Winter Harvest Handbook by Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch (Chelsea Green Publishing)

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Year-Round Gardening by Delilah Smittle and Sheri Ann Richerson (Alpha)

 

Fall Master Gardener classes begin in September

Two Master Gardener programs will be conducted this fall in Marion County with 18 three-hour sessions in each program. This popular program is for adults who would like to learn more about gardening and help others grow.

Both classes begin Sept. 16, 2014. Registration deadline is Sept. 10. Enrollment is limited and classes fill quickly.

Classes meet at the Purdue Extension-Marion County office on the Indiana State Fairgrounds (parking is free), 1202 E. 38th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46205.

Daylilies and irises rebloom for multiple seasons of beauty

‘Primal Scream’ daylily has 7 ½- to 8 ½-inch wide tangerine blooms in late summer and gets about 34 inches tall. Photo courtesy perennialrescource.com

‘Primal Scream’ daylily has 7 ½- to 8 ½-inch wide tangerine blooms in late summer and gets about 34 inches tall. Photo courtesy perennialrescource.com

Daylilies and irises are commonplace in most Hoosier gardens, but gardeners still have questions about these mainstay perennials.

For instance, a lot of gardeners confuse daylilies (Hemerocallis) with true lilies (Lilium), but they are two different species. A lily grows from a bulb and a daylily grows from an underground stem, called a rhizome. Most Iris also grows from a rhizome, which people sometimes call a bulb.

There are early, mid and late season blooming daylilies and irises and those that rebloom. Daylilies and irises do best in full sun, but will tolerate light shade.

Originating in Asia, there are more than 65,000 varieties of daylilies with thousands of colors and variations. There are about 300 species of irises, from the native crested iris to bearded and Siberian types.

“Daylilies thrive on water throughout the season. Irises really don’t need too much water after they bloom,” said John Everitt, president of the Indiana Daylily and Iris Society.

Keep daylily and iris tidy by removing spent flowers and the stems when done blooming. Cut dayliles back to the ground in fall, which is also a good time to divide them. Most irises, too, can be divided and transplanted then. Bearded iris should be cut back in late summer or early fall to reduce infestation from the iris borer, which lays its eggs on the leaves.

Fragrant ‘Feed Back’ bearded iris gets about 3 feet tall when it blooms in late spring to early summer and again in late summer. Photo courtesy perennialresource.com

Fragrant ‘Feed Back’ bearded iris gets about 3 feet tall when it blooms in late spring to early summer and again in late summer. Photo courtesy perennialresource.com

A common practice Everitt would like to see changed is planting daylilies and irises in separate beds. “A whole bed of the sword-leafed iris or a large expanse of grassy daylily foliage can be a bit monotonous,” he said. He recommends planting daylilies and irises among other perennials with similar horticulture requirements to provide different bloom shapes and textures.

Good companions for daylilies include: bee balm (Monarda fistulosa, M. didyma), Shasta daily (Leucanthemum superba), garden phlox (P. paniculata), coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) and black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), Everitt said.

For bearded iris companions, Everitt recommends: peony (Paeonia), salvia (S. nemerosa, S. sylvestris), beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis) and catmint (Nepeta faasenii, N. racemosa).

To talk first hand about these beautiful plants, visit the Indiana Daylily and Iris Society’s annual sale, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014 at Sullivan Hardware and Garden, 6955 N. Keystone Ave. “Our sales typically offer 20 to 25 different iris cultivars and up to 50 different daylily cultivars,” Everitt said.

Worthy garden plants grow in city demonstration plots

 

At Garfield Park, vote until Sept. 30 for your favorite plant for the American Garden Award: Celosia Arrabona Red (front), Cuphea Sriracha Violet (rear) and Petunia Sanguna Radiant Blue (right). Not pictured is Foxglove Digiplexis Illumination Flame. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

At Garfield Park, vote until Sept. 30 for your favorite plant for the American Garden Award: Celosia Arrabona Red (front), Cuphea Sriracha Violet (rear) and Petunia Sanguna Radiant Blue (right). Not pictured is Foxglove Digiplexis Illumination Flame. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

If you are going to the Indiana State Fair this month, hop the shuttle or hike over to the north side of the fairgrounds to see the All-America Selections Display Garden.

This is the third year for the garden, which is redesigned and replanted each year by Marion County Master Gardeners to keep it fresh and interesting. The garden is slightly northeast of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources area.

You’ll see the newest All-America Selections flowers, vegetables and herbs, along with a collection of AAS winners from previous years.

“This year I don’t have all of the plants totaled, but the years of AAS range from 1935’s Straight 8 cucumber to the latest in 2014 for this year,” such as Mascotte, a dwarf French bean, said Steve Mayer, Purdue Marion County Extension horticulture educator.

Last year, Master Gardeners volunteered 1,601 hours in the display garden. Each week, volunteers weed, water, deadhead, mulch and tidy the garden. And, they harvest. Last year, 855 pounds of produce were donated to a local food bank, he said.

The All-America Selections Display Garden includes vegetables, flowers and herbs that should grow well in Indianapolis. Photo courtesy Steve Mayer

The All-America Selections Display Garden includes vegetables, flowers and herbs that should grow well in Indianapolis. Photo courtesy Steve Mayer

Beside the plants, visitors will see various examples of raised and accessible planting beds, ways to cage or trellis tomatoes, beans, cucumbers and other vegetables, examples of how to protect plants from insects, such as squash bugs, and other techniques you can use at home.

Master Gardeners will be in the garden during the fair, too, ready to answer questions and give advice. In 2013, 13,778 people visited the garden during the fair.

On the other side of town at Garfield Park, visitors have a chance to vote for their favorite plants on display as part of the American Garden Award program. Designed to instill interest and excitement for gardening and new plants, it gives the public a chance to have their say. Garfield is one of 32 public gardens in North American participating in the six-year-old program.

Thomas Graham, a Garfield Park Master Garden, plants and maintains the beds, which this year, are on the west side of the Arts Center. Four plants are in the running: Cuphea Sriracha Violet, Foxglove Digiplexis Illumination Flame, Celosia Arrabona Red, and Petunia Sanguna Radiant Blue. Vote for your favorites with your smartphone or online. Voting ends Sept. 30.

August garden checklist

Indoors

  • (C) Photo Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

    (C) Photo Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

    Take cuttings from plants such as impatiens, coleus, geraniums and wax begonias to winter over indoors. These are called herbaceous cuttings. Root the cuttings in media such as vermiculite, perlite, peat moss or planting soil instead of water. Keep them moist.

  • Begin stocking up gardening supplies before they are removed for the season from retailers’ shelves. Pots, potting mixes, fertilizers and other products may be harder to find later in the season.

General landscape

  • Check trees and shrubs that have been planted in recent years for girdling damage by guy wires, burlap or ropes.
  • Keep newly established shrubs, trees, perennials, ground covers and grass well watered during dry spells. New plants should receive an inch of rain every seven to 10 days.
  • Don’t fertilize woody plants now. It stimulates green growth that will not have time to harden off before winter.
  • Bagworm on arborvitae. Photo courtesy Purdue University

    Bagworm on arborvitae. Photo courtesy Purdue University

    Hand prune and destroy bagworms, fall webworms and tent caterpillars.

  • Have soil tested for fall fertilization requirements if it has been three years or more since the last analysis.
  • Begin seeding new lawns or bare spots in established lawns in late August or, preferably, September. Fall is the best time to repair or start a new lawn.
  • Order spring-flowering bulbs for fall planting. Store in cool, dry place. Plant in late fall and early winter.
  • Sow seeds for biennials or transplant seedlings for blooms next year.
  • Spade or till soil for fall bulb planting; add a moderate amount of fertilizer.

Vegetables and fruits

  • Spinach 'El Grinta' (Spinacia oleracea). Photo courtesy National Garden Bureau

    Spinach 'El Grinta' (Spinacia oleracea). Photo courtesy National Garden Bureau

    Complete fall vegetable planting by directly sowing seeds of carrots, beets, kohlrabi, kale and snap beans early this month. Lettuce, spinach and green onions can be planted later in August and early September. Thin seedlings as required.

  • Harvest onions after tops yellow and fall. Cure them in a warm, dry, well-ventilated area. The necks should be free of moisture when fully cured, usually about a week.
  • Harvest potatoes after the tops yellow and die. Cure before storing.
  • Pick beans, tomatoes, peppers and squash often to encourage more production.
  • Harvest watermelon when the underside ground spot turns from whitish to creamy yellow; the tendril closest to the melon turns brown and shrivels; the rind loses its gloss and looks dull; the melon produces a dull thud rather than a ringing sound when thumped.
  • Harvest sweet corn when kernels are plump and ooze a milky juice when punctured with a fingernail. If the liquid is watery, it’s too early; if doughy, it’s too late.
  • Pears are best ripened off the tree. Harvest pears as soon as color changes, usually from a dark green to a lighter green, and when the fruit is easily twisted and removed from the spur.
  • Prune out and destroy raspberry and blackberry canes that bore fruit this year. They will not produce fruit again and could harbor insects or disease.

Dianthus: A flower of the gods for everyone

Dash Crimson and Dash Magician sweet William have provided a small bouquet of flowers about every two weeks since May. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Dash Crimson and Dash Magician sweet William have provided a small bouquet of flowers about every two weeks since May. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Since early May, I’ve been able to cut a small bouquet of sweet William about every two weeks. This is a plant I don’t grow very often because it does not like hot summers.

Two of the Dash series sweet William (Dianthus barbatus) from Ball Seed, came as trial plants early this spring. I potted up Dash Crimson and Dash Magician in a container and hoped for the best. Unlike a lot of times with trial plants, the best happened.

A 2014 introduction in the series is Dash Magician. Its flowers open white but age to various pinks. I have it planted with Dash Crimson, which is a deep blue-red.

Mildly fragrant, this sweet William gets about 15 inches tall, and unlike a lot of dianthus, the stems are able to hold the flowers upright. Dianthus, which includes carnation, generally has weak stems.

There are several types of dianthus, which means flower of the gods. The perennials include carnations and Cheddar pinks, such as Bath’s Pink and the 2006 Perennial Plant of the Year, Firewitch. Annuals include China pinks, such All-America Selections Corona Cherry, Melody Pink and Supra Purple. Then there is the biennial sweet William. Biennial seed germinates the first year to form a rosette, a cluster of leaves close to the ground. These rosettes are what bloom in year two. Hollyhock (Alcea rosea) is another example of a biennial.

A distinct advantage of the two I have from the Dash series is their long-flowering period. Usually by this time in a normal summer, the sweet Williams would be done, possibly returning a little later along with the cooler temps. Another advantage is that the plants bloom the first year when grown from seeds. No vernalization, or cold period, is needed. Seeds are available from Burpee.

Dianthus does best in full sun and well-drained soil. The incredibly fragrant, perennial Cheddar pinks are evergreen, holding on to their blue-green foliage all winter. These are tough plants. So tough you can walk on them.

Because the annual dianthus is very cold tolerant, it is not uncommon for it to winter over. This is not 100 percent reliable, so don’t plan your whole color scheme around this happening. Most of these annuals are sold as bedding plants, so they are inexpensive to replace.

Weeds offer architectural interest

mullein flower a morguefile0001452827250An Indianapolis reader wants to now the name of a plant that she’s sure is a weed. “I enjoyed watching this all summer last year. Could you provide me with the same of the weed? The middle stem grew so tall, I couldn’t believe it stayed upright,” wrote D.E.

She sent along a postage-stamp size photo of the plant, which even though a small image, was easy to identify.

The tall plant with greenish-blue, fuzzy leaves is common mullein (Verbascum thapsus). It is listed as an introduced biennial wildflower with an interesting lore. Some people call it a weed. Some say it’s an herbal medicine. And in the past, it served as a shoe insert and tobacco substitute. The incredibly soft leaves can get up 10 inches long and 5 inches wide.

 

The leaves of common mullein are extremely soft and have been used as inserts for shoes with holes in their soles. © Spiff/dollarphotoclub.com

The leaves of common mullein are extremely soft and have been used as inserts for shoes with holes in their soles. © Spiff/dollarphotoclub.com

It prefers a sunny location and generally roots along roadside, fields and areas of our garden where the soil has been disturbed.

The flowers are processed for an herbal cure-all for everything from respiratory problems to joint pain. The leaves have been used as bandages. Decades ago, poor people used the leaves to line their shoes that had holes in the soles.

Originally from Europe and Asia, the texture and form of mullein make it an interesting natural, architectural element in the garden.

There are hybrid ornamental verbascums that are grown here as a long-blooming tender perennial that’s terrific as a cut flower. Although some, such as the Southern Charm or Christo’s Yellow Lightning, are rated hardy to USDA Zone 5, they rarely winter over.

Beautiful purple fruit forms on pokeweed in late summer. Robins love it and act a little drunk as they imbibe. © Jennifer Handy/123rf.com

Beautiful purple fruit forms on pokeweed in late summer. Robins love it and act a little drunk as they imbibe.
© Jennifer Handy/123rf.com

Another weed with stunning architectural stature is pokeweed (Phytolacca americana), which also can reach 10 feet high. An native perennial in the Eastern United States, young leaves are considered a delicacy in some cultures. Mature plants are poisonous to humans.

Birds, especially robins, love the purple fruit that forms as clumps along the plant in mid to late summer. As the season progresses, the hollow stem turns purple, adding even more interest in the garden.

Pokeweed prefers full sun and moist, rich soil, but is quite tolerant of part shade. Birds frequently deposit seeds in our garden beds. ‘Silverstein’ is a variegated cultivar of pokeweed, with creamy-green leaves on 4 to 6 foot tall plants with violet pink fruit.

 

Get plants ready for your vacation

Consider wicking water into smaller pots while you are on vacations. (C) Kate Copsey

If you’re getting ready to leave the landscape for a few weeks of summer vacation, here are some things you can do to ensure the garden looks decent when you return.

Vegetables

  • Deeply water the vegetable garden a day or two before you leave. Depending on how long you will be away, you might want to ask a neighbor or friend to water the garden once a week.
  • Harvest everything that’s ripe or nearly ripe. Tomatoes can be picked green when a white star forms on the bottom of the fruit. Place the tomatoes in a cool, dry place, out of direct light, such as your kitchen counter. Do not put in the refrigerator.
  • Share the produce with your neighbor or friend who will be watching your house while you are away. Allow the caretaker to pick whatever is ripe.

Flowers

  • If you have veggies, herbs or flowers growing in containers, cluster the pots to make it easier for someone to water. Consider moving the containers to an area that gets dappled or east sun for the time you are away. Moving the pots out of full sun will reduce the watering needs.
  • Deeply water annuals and perennials, especially if there’s been no rain.
  • Cut back perennials and annuals by one-third to one-half. This reduces the amount of top growth the plant needs to support. The plants will bounce back within a couple of weeks.
  • Consider a reservoir of water and wick system.

“The wick really should be in place before you plant, let alone go on vacation, but, if you didn’t think that far ahead, you can improvise,” said Kate Copsey, who has gardened in Indiana, Ohio, New York, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Georgia and now, New Jersey.

“Assuming you cannot lift and move the container you will need a decent- sized receptacle filled with water, preferably covered to reduce evaporation,” said Copsey, a Master Gardener and garden writer. Soak a few strips of an old towel in the water. Poke one end of the towel in the container as close to the plant as possible. Place the other end in the water.

Make sure the wicks reach the bottom of the receptacle so that they still work as the water level goes down, she said. “The wick absorbs water from the bucket and transfers it to dry soil in the container.”

You also could do this wicking technique with several plants ringed around a child’s swimming pool or other large reservoir.

The trouble with roses 2

Oso Easy Cherry Pie rose. Photo courtesy Proven Winners

Oso Easy Cherry Pie rose. Photo courtesy Proven Winners

As rose troubles continue to plague gardeners, we will look this week at a few more common problems. Last week, we covered black spot, anthracnose, rose mosaic virus and rose slugs.

Japanese beetles tend to congregate on the flowers, buds and leaves of roses and hundreds of other plants. The beetles skeletonize the leaves. Photo courtesy Kansas State University Extension

Japanese beetles tend to congregate on the flowers, buds and leaves of roses and hundreds of other plants. The beetles skeletonize the leaves. Photo courtesy Kansas State University Extension

Japanese beetles. Pretty soon, it will Japanese beetle season, that is if any of the pupae survived the winter to emerge as the attractive, green metal bugs.

These bugs skeletonize the foliage of roses and 400 other types of plants. They also dine on flower petals. Frequently, systemic insecticides are recommended to control Japanese beetles, but these products are nonselective, meaning they kill bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects along with bugs we don’t want. Try these methods instead:

  • Remove any damaged leaves and flowers and soon as you notice them. Holey leaves and chewed petals are like neon signs and attract more beetles to the feast.
  • Spray the plants with a strong stream of water to knock off the beetles.
  • In the mornings, knock the beetles into a bucket of soapy water and dispose.
  • When startled, the beetles fall to the ground. Take advantage of this by placing newspapers or cloth under the roses and shake the plants. Slide the bugs from the paper or cloth into a bucket of soapy water and dispose.

 

Although not deadly, powdery mildew weakens a plant, making it susceptible to other diseases or insects.  Photo courtesy University of Kentucky Extension

Although not deadly, powdery mildew weakens a plant, making it susceptible to other diseases or insects. Photo courtesy University of Kentucky Extension

Powdery mildew. Besides roses, a lot of plants get this fungus disease, including lilac and garden phlox, with some being more susceptible than others. This disease creates a whitish or grayish powdery coating on the foliage, stem and flower buds. Although not deadly, it is unsightly and may weaken the plant.

To control this disease, plant roses in full sun and with good air circulation. Once mildew hits, there’s nothing that will get rid of it. Fungicides may keep the disease from spreading to healthy leaves. Remember that fungicides are particularly deadly to bees, so always follow the label directions.

Webs on plants are another sign of possible spider mite infestation. Yellow or orange stippled leaves are another common symptom. © Dreamstime.com/Taviphoto

Webs on plants are another sign of possible spider mite infestation. Yellow or orange stippled leaves are another common symptom.
© Dreamstime.com/Taviphoto

Spider mites. Spider mites cause tiny orange, white or cream dots on the leaves, called stippling. Mites may show up when it’s hot and dry. Knock them off with a strong spray of water from the hose.

A hard spray from the hose is a quick and easy way to knock aphids off of roses and other plants without the need for insecticides. © Dreamstime.com/Armando Frazao

A hard spray from the hose is a quick and easy way to knock aphids off of roses and other plants without the need for insecticides. © Dreamstime.com/Armando Frazao

Aphids. Sometimes called plant lice, these slow moving insects suck the life out of plants, causing distorted leaves and flowers. Aphids can be lots of different colors and are easy to see. Control with a hard spray of water from the hose. There are lots of predatory insects, such as lady beetles, that feed on aphids, so a non-selective insecticide is not usually recommended.

Roses may have other problems, so look for disease- and insect-resistant plants and know what you have before you treat it. And remember, a few blemishes are nothing to worry about. Mother Nature is not perfect, either.

July garden checklist

Indoors

  • For best selection, order spring-flowering bulbs for fall planting. Many bulb merchants will wait to ship the bulbs until closer to planting time, which usually is late fall and early winter. Photo courtesy Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center

    For best selection, order spring-flowering bulbs for fall planting. Many bulb merchants will wait to ship the bulbs until closer to planting time, which usually is late fall and early winter. Photo courtesy Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center

    Keep an eye on houseplants that have been set outdoors to make sure they are watered properly. Hot summer breezes can quickly dry them out.

  • Propagate houseplants by taking cuttings from vigorously growing plants. Root in moistened growing medium, such as perlite, vermiculite or soilless mixes. Keep moist, enclosed in plastic and out of direct sunlight until rooted. The amount of time it takes to root varies according to plant and growing conditions.

General landscape

  • Supplement rainfall to newly planted nursery stock, gardens and lawns if needed to supply 1 to 1 1/2 inches of water each week or 10 days.
  • Container-grown plants can be planted anytime, but make sure new stock is well watered.
  • Keep grass at 3 ½ to 4 inches tall to conserve moisture.
  • Don’t remove clippings from the lawn unless grass is excessively tall. Clippings return nutrients to the soil and do not contribute to thatch buildup.
  • Apply mulch around young plants and in flower and vegetable gardens to conserve soil moisture and control weeds. Do not allow mulch to touch stems or trunks.
  • Remove water sprouts (from trunk) and suckers (sprouts from roots) on fruit trees, including crabapples and other ornamental trees. See illustration below.
  • Illustration courtesy www.tlcfortrees.com

    Illustration courtesy www.tlcfortrees.com

    Pinch off faded rose blossoms and other flowers. Deadheading, or picking off the faded flowers of many perennials and annuals keeps them blooming longer and tidies up the plants.

  • To rejuvenate summer-stressed plants, cut annuals and perennials back by about one-half, water well and apply an application of water soluble fertilizer.

Vegetables and fruits

  • Start seeds of broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and ornamental kale and cabbage for late summer plantings and fall harvest.
  • Harvest tomatoes, squash, okra, peppers, beans and cucumbers frequently to encourage further production.
  • Complete succession planting of bush beans and sweet corn.
  • Standard sweet corn is at its peak for only a day or so. The super sweet corn maintains its peak quality longer. Harvest when silks begin to dry and kernels exude a milky, rather than watery or doughy juice when punctured.
  • Broccoli seedlings. Photo courtesy National Garden Bureau

    Broccoli seedlings. Photo courtesy National Garden Bureau

    Make sure potato tubers, carrot shoulders and onion bulbs are covered with soil to prevent development of green color and off flavors. Apply mulch to keep them covered.

  • Allow blossoms on newly planted strawberries to develop for a fall crop.
  • Prop up fruit tree branches that are loaded heavily with fruit.
  • Harvest raspberries when fully colored and easily separated from stem. After harvest, prune out fruiting canes.