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Gardening Idea for Kids

I learned a great deal about gardening from my parents and likely gained my passion at a very young age.  I am very glad I had all those experiences.  I gained confidence as I learned how to garden and before I knew it I caught the gardening fever.

As I admired the Sunflowers in our garden this morning I thought that Sunflowers provide so many lessons for kids!

Sunflower seeds are large enough for kids to handle.  They can be planted after the danger of frost in late spring.

Sunflower seeds are large enough for kids to handle. They can be planted after the danger of frost in late spring.

Sunflowers make a big impact in a matter of just a few months.

Sunflowers make a big impact in a matter of just a few months. (Click photo to enlarge.)

Not only will Sunflowers be loaded with bees and other pollinators, but as the season draws to an end birds will flock to them to eat the seeds.

Not only will Sunflowers be loaded with bees and other pollinators, but as the season draws to an end birds will flock to them to eat the seeds.  (Click photo to enlarge.)

If you do an internet search with the key words “kids gardening programs” you will get over 18 million hits.  Add your location to narrow your choices and you will find some neat programs for kids of all ages.  For example, click this link to connect to the Junior Master Gardener site.  These folks are an extension of the Master Gardening program and can be a great resource for teachers.

Kids Gardening Program

Kids Gardening Program

I hope I have gotten your brain wheels turning to help get your kids or grandkids excited about growing things.

 

Mid Summer Lawn Checklist

Some kinds of grasses thrive during the dog days of summer, while others tend to suffer.  My Mid-Summer Lawn Checklist is much like my June Lawn Checklist with a few shifts that are related to how your lawn handles these dog days.

Northern lawns (like Bluegrass, Fescue and Ryegrass) prefer cooler temperatures and tend to suffer if the nighttime temps and humidity don’t drop much from the 90’s during the day.  However, cool night temps that drop back into the 60’s can do wonders to help these kinds of lawns stay healthy in summer.  Southern lawns (like Bermuda, St. Augustine, Zoysia, Centipede and Bahia) thrive this time of year, even if the night temperatures are not that much different from hot day temperatures.

Some lawns need feeding.  Some Southern lawns (like Bermuda, St. Augustine and Zoysia) love to be fed at two month intervals from spring to fall for a total of about 4 feedings a year.  Centipede only likes two or three feedings a year from late spring to late summer. Scotts GreenMAX Lawn Food, Scotts Turf Builder or Scotts Natural Lawn Food are good choices for this time of year.   If you have already fed your Northern lawn (like Bluegrass, Fescue and Ryegrass) twice this year you can skip feeding until later in summer.  However, if your Northern lawn has not been fed in a while and you live in an area where night time temps drop, you can give your lawn a feeding.

Keep your lawn from thinning and turning brown.  Tiny insects can attack your lawn during summer.  One indication that they may show up is when you see moths fly from your lawn when you mow or walk on your grass during early evening hours.  These moths do not damage your lawn, however they lay eggs for insects like sod webworms and cutworms that can cause your lawn to thin and turn brown.  Other insects, like chinch bugs can show up about the same time.  You can protect your lawn while feeding it with a special summer lawn food called Scotts Turf Builder with SummerGuard.  This product also takes care of other insects like fleas, ticks and ants.  If your lawn does not need feeding, you can spread Ortho Bug B Gon MAX on your lawn to take care of any insect problems.  Oh by the way, it is ok if you still see some moths after treating, since they do no damage.  You have protected your lawn from the damage caused by their hatching eggs for about 6 weeks or so.

Lawn that needs feeding and has insect damage next to healthy lawn that is well fed and protected from insects

Lawn that needs feeding and has insect damage next to healthy lawn that is well fed and protected from insects

Kill lawn weeds if they are growing.  Weeds are harder to kill if they are not actively growing.  Most weed controls are designed to work if your temperatures are between 60 and 90 degrees, so check the label for suggestions to get best results.  Ortho Weed B Gon MAX plus Crabgrass Killer takes care of most weeds.  Do not use on Floratam (a variety of St. Augustinegrass), Centipede or Bahiagrass lawns.  Ortho Nutsedge Killer and Ortho Weed B Gon Chickweed & Clover Killer are also options depending on where you live and your lawn type.

You think you are getting rid of Nutsedge (also called Nutgrass) because it is easy to pull. However, it quickly grows back from the bulb-like roots that are left behind in your soil.

You think you are getting rid of Nutsedge (also called Nutgrass) because it is easy to pull. However, it quickly grows back from the bulb-like roots that are left behind in your soil.

Treat lawn fungus problems if needed.  Circular patches of browning grass or individual grass blades with spots on them are an indication of lawn fungus problems.  Some of these problems will go away with shifting weather, however if they persist or if you have certain areas of your lawn that are prone to fungus problems each summer, you can treat with Scotts Lawn Fungus Control.

Brown Patch on Tall Fescue - Circular patches of dead grass are a symptom of several lawn fungus problems such as Brown Patch and Summer Patch show up during periods of warm temperatures and high humidity.

Brown Patch on Tall Fescue – Circular patches of dead grass are a symptom of several lawn fungus problems such as Brown Patch and Summer Patch show up during periods of warm temperatures and high humidity.

Mow your grass taller. Taller grass blades mean deeper roots to match the leaf growth. So adjust your mower to leave your grass height after you mow at around 2-1/2 inches for Bluegrass, Ryegrass and Fine Fescue; 3 inches for Tall Fescue and Buffalograss; 3 to 4 inches for St. Augustinegrass; and 1-1/2 to 2 inches for Bermudagrass, Centipedegrass and Zoysia.

Water Sensibly.  If you are able to water without restrictions and you want to keep your grass from going dormant, a half inch twice a week is better than a small amount every day. This helps to encourage deeper roots. Place a tall straight sided/flat bottomed glass or a rain gauge on your lawn while your sprinklers are running then measure the depth of water that accumulates in the glass to help calculate how long to run your sprinklers to put down a half inch. You would only need to do this once to help figure out your sprinkler system.  If you can, water in early morning when there is less wind and evaporation.

Extend Your Tomato Season

If you love fresh tomatoes as much as us, you can plant now for a second harvest you will be picking right up until frost.  Many garden centers have plants available now.  Pick a location where tomatoes have not been grown for the past several years (this helps prevent fungus problems) or plant them in a container. If you are planting in your native soil, mix a couple of inches of fresh compost into your existing soil prior to planting.  I like to do this every time I plant.  If you do not have your own compost, I suggest Miracle Gro Organic Choice Garden Soil (click here for info).   If you are planting in a container I suggest using Miracle Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix (click here for info).  And don’t forget to feed your plants.  I like Miracle Gro Organic Choice Plant Food in my garden (click here for info), or Osmocote Flower and Vegetable Plant Food for my containers (click here for info).

If your tomatoes have ever suffered from blossom-end rot, which is a condition that causes the bottom of the tomato to turn black, you should feed with Miracle-Gro Shake ‘n Feed for Tomatoes as this special food has extra calcium to help with this problem (click here for info).

Our Better Boy Tomatoes are sure to make your mouth water!

Our Better Boy Tomatoes are sure to make your mouth water!

Is it Crabgrass OR Dallisgrass?

I have gotten a couple of questions this week about weeds that sometimes are confused with crabgrass.  One weed that gets confused with Crabgrass this time of year is Dallisgrass.  Folks see Dallisgrass in their lawn and the first thought is that their Crabgrass preventer did not work.   Dallisgrass is a perennial grass that is common in the south and surrounding states to the north.  Since it is a perennial grass, it comes back every year from roots so a spring applied preventer to take care of annual grasses like crabgrass that grow from seed each year does not work.  Often the only choice is to kill this grass with a weed killer like Roundup.  The downside is that Roundup will kill all vegetation in the area that you spray, however you can seed that area a week later.  You may still have Dallisgrass next year because the plants produced seed all summer.  The seed heads provide the best way to identify Crabgrass and Dallisgrass.

On the other hand, if you have crabgrass, you can spray with Ortho Weed B Gon MAX plus Crabgrass Killer.   This spray is most effective on young crabgrass.  Click here for product info.

Dallisgrass seed head on left and Crabgrass seed head on right

Dallisgrass seed head on left and Crabgrass seed head on right (Click on photo to enlarge)

Dallisgrass can be confused with Crabgrass

Dallisgrass can be confused with Crabgrass (Click on photo to enlarge.)

Crabgrass

Crabgrass (Click on photo to enlarge)

Our Deck Planters: 54 Peppers and Counting

After the last of our spring harvest from our deck planters (kale, spinach, lettuce, swiss chard) we planted 9 pepper plants on April 30.  So far there are 54 Gypsy and Carmen peppers tempting us to pick them, however we are waiting until they turn orange and red when they obtain maximum sweetness.

These are self-watering planters.  The soil is Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix.  We fed the plants with Osmocote when we planted them.

Here are the photos so you can check out our progress.

We planted 3 pepper plants in each planter on April 30 (click photo to enlarge)

We planted 3 pepper plants in each planter on April 30.  There is a white plastic fill tube on the end of each planter to add water to the reservoir in the bottom of the planter. (click photo to enlarge)

We use small cages to help keep the plants stable with the extra weight of the peppers (click photo to enlarge)

We use small cages to help keep the plants stable with the extra weight of the peppers (click photo to enlarge)

Each plant has a minimum of 6 peppers.  Gypsy pepper plant is in the center and Carmen peppers are on the ends.  (Click photo to enlarge)

Each plant has an average of 6 peppers. Gypsy pepper plant is in the center and Carmen peppers are on the ends. (Click photo to enlarge)

GrubEx Application Timing

The most searched question on my blog right now is whether it is too late to put down GrubEx.  The GrubEx package directions say to apply spring to summer.  If you have been reading my blog postings, I have written that Scotts entomologists and those with University Extension Services suggest the best timing is in May to give the product time to be washed into the soil to protect the lawn from the grubs that will show up in late summer.  If you were able to follow that advice you are all set as your single application will protect your lawn.

If you did not get your GrubEx down yet and you are starting to see lots of Japanese Beetles on your roses and other plants or you are starting to see one of the many other kinds of beetles hanging around your porch light at night, you still have time to protect your lawn… but you need to hurry.  For best results be sure to give your lawn a good watering of at least a half inch after you spread your GrubEx.  It is OK for your pets and kids to play on your lawn after the grass has dried.

One last tip regarding moles:  Since GrubEx does not eliminate earthworms in your lawn you are still likely to get moles even though the grubs are not present.  For moles, click here to check out this info on the options from TOMCAT.

Japanese Beetles lay eggs in your lawn that become grubs in late summer that feed on your grass roots until winter.

Japanese Beetles lay eggs in your lawn that become grubs in late summer that feed on your grass roots until winter.

Listen-in To Garden Radio June 28

This Saturday morning around 8:00 am EDT, I will be a guest on my friend Tom MacCubbin’s Florida “Better Lawns and Garden” Radio Show. (Click here to open his radio show website where you will be able to listen in.)

Former Cooperative Extension Agents Tom MacCubbin and Ashton Ritchie enjoy swapping gardening advice.

Former Cooperative Extension Agents Tom MacCubbin and Ashton Ritchie enjoy swapping gardening advice.

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