Saturday, October 31, 2009

Up-side Down Tomatoes

Up-side Down Tomatoes; Results
By Doug Hackbarth
Broadview Florist & Greenhouse

I am glad to report that I received several letters and pictures regarding the “Up-side Down” tomatoes over the last two weeks and the results varied from very bad to very good. Professional containers to homemade, natural fertilizers to commercial brands and soils from top-notch, artificial to topsoil with mushroom compost were all tried.
Grace says, “Never again…” as she used the kit from Burpee which included the container, the soil, and even the tomato, a variety called “Sweet Seedless Hybrid”. She said that it was hard to plant, hard to water, and speaking of hard…so were her tomatoes, and not many of them. You can find her kit in her next garage sale.
Bonnie used one of the official containers (not sure of what kind of soil) and the Rutger tomato. She felt that the opening at the top was much too small to ever catch any rain so therefore had to hand water way too often…daily. The largest tomato was the size of a tennis ball and she felt the whole process was not worth all of the effort. Too much babysitting!

Lisa used the Topsy-Turvy container with the Better Boy tomato and mixed topsoil with mushroom soil for a rich, water retaining (but too heavy) medium that still gave her problems. Even though the soil was a heavy mix, the container is still small and therefore dried up too fast for an easy growing crop. She also ran into black spots on her tomato fruit, probably caused by blossom end rot…a disease cause by a calcium deficiency in her soil. Had she added just a tablespoon of lime in her mix before planting the tomato, she may have avoided the spotting. Lisa is not going to try this again as it was too much watering, etc.
Eddie tried growing a yellow, salad type tomato in his up-side down container using miracle-gro soil and a moisture control product that helps to retain moisture for longer periods of time. He did not like the moisture control as he thought that the soil stayed too wet. Eddie will probably try again next year, although without the moisture control. (I feel that the moisture control sounds like a good idea, especially for hanging baskets but that the problem is that it is not necessary until the root system has time to develop, and then how do you add it later?)
Mark really enjoyed the challenge and said that his first attempt failed immediately as he over- fertilized his tomato. So then he tried a couple different tests using the official container and a one gallon milk jug. The milk jug dried out two times a day and heated up way too fast, not good. Mark used an Early Girl tomato in the official container and had success. He says that next year he will try using a five-gallon bucket.

And then there is Roger…the success story right out of the Topsy-Turvy catalogue. Here is a guy, with pictures, that shows “it can be done”, and with Beefsteak tomatoes no less. Roger used Miracle Gro soil and Miracle Gro fertilizer to easily produce the perfect up-side down tomato. He said that he had to water daily and fertilize weekly. I saw the pictures and quizzed Roger on whether or not he grew them upside down from the very beginning…He assured me that he did.
So there it is…three “no’s”, one maybe and 2 yes’s. I am sure that Roger and Mark will try different techniques next year as I know many of you will try again also. In summery, you must be prepared to water daily, fertilize weekly (or more) and be sure to use a very good quality soil mixture, preferably an artificial mix…no name brands recommended as they all have good qualities and contain elements that retain moisture and give good drainage as well as prevention of soil compaction.

Surprise, Resurrection or Naked Lady Lilies

Surprise Lilies
By Doug Hackbarth
Broadview Florist & Greenhouse

Surprise Lily, Magic Lily, Resurrection Lily or Naked Lady, whatever you call it, it is the lily that you see in bloom at this time of summer with all stems and no foliage. Lycoris is its genus name and is actually grown from a bulb. This lily can be planted anytime, spring, summer or fall, whenever you can find the bulb for sale. The pink-purple flowers will bloom during late summer but will only produce foliage during the late spring. Flowers appear about six to eight weeks after the leaves die down.
Plant these bulbs (Lycoris) in either sandy or heavy clay soils; high alkaline or very acid soils; they just do not care. Regular to no watering is best, but not wet. These Orient natives are only propagated by division as they are “sterile” and cannot set seed. Plant in full sun to partial shade one to two inches deep and expect the flowers to grow 12” – 18” tall. Dividing the bulbs should be done every 3-5 years. Parts of your Surprise Lily can be poisonous if eaten.
The Lycoris variety is hardy to 20 below but there are other types such as radiata, the spider lily, which is red and cannot tolerate 0 degree weather. Look for a variety that is called squamigera which is best for our cold climate.

Pruning & Dormant Oil

Pruning & Dormant Oil
By Doug Hackbarth
Broadview Florist & Greenhouse

Reasons for pruning include: removing dead or diseased branches, branches that rub together, keeping your plants at a manageable size, to encourage fruiting or flowering, to open up walkways and to keep trees and shrubs from touching your house or car. Assuming your trees and shrubs are already established on your property, stand back and take an imaginative look at how they are growing. Are they growing sideways or touching anything? Are they growing way too tall and too fast? Is there a lot of dead growth or branches that need to pruned away? Picture what they might look like after you cut here, or there. Then do it.
During the winter, while the plants are dormant, pruning is a safe bet, but maybe you should wait until after the spring flowering trees and shrubs finish blooming. These may include azaleas, flowering plumb or cherry, forsythia, lilac, magnolia and spirea. Shrubs grown primarily for their foliage should be pruned in early spring, before growth begins. These include barberry, burning bush, honeysuckle, ninebark and smokebush. Also prune in early spring, roses, clematis and hydrangeas.
Tips for pruning to help avoid certain diseases include; DO NOT prune oaks during April, May or June but DO prune honey locust while dormant during late winter to avoid stem cankers. February through early April go after your apples, flowering crabapples, mountain ash, hawthorns and cotoneasters. Trees that bleed, such as maples, box elder, walnut, birch and ironwood should be pruned a little later, like late spring or early summer, after the leaves fully expand. Bleeding trees are really not as big problem as you might think.
Dormant oil, applied during the winter, is your best defense against insects that attack your plants during the summer. Spray your plants when the temperature rises to around 50 degrees or warmer and will remain between 50 and 65 for at least a couple of days. It is best to spray just before the buds on you trees and shrubs start to swell.
You can buy a commercially sold oil spray, or make your own…mix 1 quart mineral oil, 1 quarter pound oil-based soap with 8 ounces of water. Bring to a boil then mix 1 part solution to 5 parts water and spray immediately as the mixture can separate quickly.

Norfolk Island Pine

Indoor Living Pine Tree
By Doug Hackbarth
Broadview Florist & Greenhouses

Norfolk Island Pines, Araucaria heterophylla, are one of the “easiest to grow” house plants and makes a perfect Christmas gift, especially if decorated with little red bows and perhaps, lights. If planted in the ground in its tropical native land of Norfolk Island, somewhere between New Caledonia and Australia, the N.I.P. (Norfolk Island Pine) could reach a height of 80 feet. But contained in a 4”, 6” or 10” pot, the N.I.P. will remain at a reasonable size for many years.
Temperatures maintained in most homes will be perfect for the N.I.P. however slightly cooler temperatures of around 65 degrees during the day and 58 degrees at night would be even better. Place in a location with very bright light about 4 feet from the window. Turn the plant occasionally to keep it from pointing in one direction. Allow your N.I.P. to dry out completely between waterings, especially during the winter months. Fertilize only in the spring and summer.
Brown tips form when there is a lack of humidity. Misting with cool water is helpful as is a humidifier in the same room. Pruning off the brown tips is the only pruning that should ever be done to a N.I.P. as where ever you prune…growth will stop. N.I.P. do not like to be repotted so do not repot yours unless it is totally root bound.
Decorating a N.I.P. can be fun and your tree will take up very little space. Simply start with little bows, usually red and maybe some small Christmas tree ornaments. Do not use large or heavy ornaments, as the branches are not that strong. Later, before Christmas, you could add a few lights. Remove the lights after the first of the year as they could dry out the plants growing tips. A small tree could be placed on a table near the window for people driving by to see.

Fall Chores

Fall Gardening Chores
By Doug Hackbarth
Broadview Florist & Greenhouse

The best time to control and eliminate dandelions for next spring is now. The way dandelions work is that they bloom in the spring, produce seeds, then germinate into baby plants during the summer and fall. The application of weed and feed during late summer/early fall is the best way of getting rid of these and other broad-leafed weeds, as well as fertilizing your yard. Do not fertilize anything else in your garden, as it is time to allow your perennial plants to harden off just before the cold winter season.
Late summer is also the best time to go after grub worms as the Japanese Beetles that flew around during the summer, has finished laying their eggs and the young grubs are easy to eliminate at this time. You can use a lot of insecticide made for grubs for instant kill but for long term kill, you want to use a product called Milky Spore. Once established in your yard, milky spore keeps on working from one year to the next for up to 15 years. It is worth the few extra dollars but only if applied at the right time of the year…now.
Get ready to use a product that should only be applied during the dormant season. Dormant oil spray is one of the best insecticides/fungicides on the market, and very safe as it works by smothering rather than killing-by-poison, the problem host. But as the name implies, dormant oil should only be applied during times when your plants are in a dormant state or while going into dormancy (just after the leaves fall off the plant). A couple of applications are best. Once during the fall season, late October/early November and again during the winter, especially early March. But the key to success is that the temperature must be above 45 degrees at the time of application.

If you have any potted perennial plants that you want to keep alive for next year, you must do one of two things in order to protect them through the cold winter season. Either plant them in the ground, and do it now or find a spot to store them for the season. The best place for winter storage is an area inside that is not heated such as a storage shed or an unheated garage, and do not be in a hurry to put them inside just yet. These plants need to gradually get ready for the cold season ahead by going through cold nights and frosty mornings. I would suggest waiting until late November before actually bringing them inside for the winter. Just make sure that when you put them away, they have been thoroughly watered and do not put them in a place that receives heat after dark or they will want to keep growing.
One more simple chore that should be done just before winter is spraying your evergreen plants with a moisture-locking product such as Wilt-Pruf or Cloud Cover. This is especially important for plants planted on the west side of your house or those planted out in the open where the dominant winds can dry out the foliage and cause real damage. You can get these products in a ready-to-use sprayer but if you have many plants to spray, consider a concentrate and a hose-on sprayer.

Pruning During the Fall Season

Fall Pruning
By Doug Hackbarth
Broadview Florist & Greenhouse

I get a lot of questions about pruning trees, shrubs and all other perennial plants during the late summer and fall seasons, and they want to know which ones can be cut-back now. It is a very simple “rule-of-thumb”…DO NOT PRUNE anything from now until winter. Pruning stimulates new growth that will not have time to harden-off before cold weather arrives.
Guidelines for pruning…prune all trees, including fruit trees in late winter. Prune spring flowering shrubs immediately after they bloom, especially Rhododendrons and Azaleas as they start to set their flower buds for next year during the summer. Some flowering shrubs will bloom on current growth such as Rose of Sharon (perennial Hibiscus), Hydrangea and Potentilla so prune them hard in late winter/early spring as they grow fast and then bloom. Prune mid-summer to late summer flowering plants during late winter or early spring.
Root pruning is a little known procedure that can, in-fact bring new life to plants that seem to be “growing” nowhere. What happens is your plants root system grows out and gets old and tuff, and has a hard time absorbing nutrients. After root pruning, your plants will produce new, soft, fibrous roots that will be more capable of the absorption of nutrients.
To root prune, simply use a shovel at the drip-line of your shrub (closer for trees) and shove it into the ground as deep as the shovel will go. This can be difficult if your plants are well established. The best time of year for this pruning would be in the spring or early summer.
Specifically, stop cutting back your roses by the first of September, including the dead flowers…just leave them alone. No fertilizer after mid August as fertilizer also stimulates “soft” growth. Your plants need to harden-off before cold weather. Garden mums (“hardy” chrysanthemums) should be separated and pinched back in late spring (the end of May). After Thanksgiving (late November), you can cut off just the blossoms of your roses and garden mums but leave the stems until spring.

Bagworm Control

Controlling Bagworm
By Doug Hackbarth
Broadview Florist & Greenhouses

If you have seen “organic” looking bags hanging on your trees and shrubs, or even in your grass, they are most likely bagworm. During the fall season those bags are filled with hundreds of eggs that winter over and hatch in the spring, usually around late May and early June. The fact that they are filled with eggs in the fall is the reason that spraying now is not the best time. Spraying during the spring, after they hatch will give you the best results. For now, simply hand pick the bags and destroy them, either by burying them or burning them.
In the spring, the eggs of the bagworm hatch and the males crawl out and fly. The female of the species cannot fly but do get around by means of “ballooning”, travelling with the wind. They attach themselves to trees and shrubs with a silk fiber then start making their “bag” out of whatever kind of debris that is around them. The female then stays in the bag and emits a sex attractant pheromone to attract the males for re-production. After she lays hundreds of eggs within the bag, the female crawls out of the bottom of the bag and falls to ground and dies.

During the time, after hatching and the building of the new bags, is when most all of the damage occurs to your plants. This would be all of June and July and would be the very best time to spray. As always, spraying before you see the problem is best. If you had bagworm last year on your plants, then you better figure on spraying next summer. Recommended sprays are: Bt, known as Dipel (bacillus thuringicnsis), Orthene, Seven (sometimes sold as Eight), Diazinon, Dursban, Cygon, nicotine sulfate, pyrethrum or Rotenone.
So in review, hand pick and destroy the bags during late fall, winter or even early spring before the eggs start to hatch. Spray with any of the recommended sprays during June and/or July. Bagworm can be found on evergreens and conifers, including pines, spruce, junipers, arborvitae and red cedar. Also keep an eye out for them on deciduous trees such as maple, oak, sycamore, apple and hawthorn.