dirty digs Like Peas in a Pod

dirty digs
A Publication of the Autauga County Master Gardeners Association
Cook to Speak
To Autauga MGs
Regional Extension Agent Patrick
Cook will be the
guest speaker at the
Autauga County
Master Gardener
meeting on Thursday
Aug. 14 at 9 a.m.
Cook will talk about
how to care for
wounded wildlife.
The meeting will
be at Prattville First
Baptist Church.
For Fall
Like Peas in a Pod
George and Carroll Bonifay always seem to be together, and that’s a good thing for us and many others. Here they harvest some produce at the community gardens. The produce is given to the Autauga
Interfaith Care Center which distributes it to the
needy. The garden will also be the MG theme at the
Autauga County Fair this year.
Tool Time
Master Gardeners Reveal
Favorite Work Utensils
Stories, Ideas,
Contributions to
Dirty Digs is not
only welcomed, they
are needed. Take
photos. Submissions can be emailed
to me at [email protected]
msn.com. Thanks—
Jim Plott
August 2008
By Jim Plott
Tools— they are to the gardener what
pages are to a
book; what Trigger was
to Roy; what
cornbread is to peas
You get the point.
Let’s just say
they are essential.
But many
Master Gardeners
have their
idea of what
them get
their task
done more
efficiently. And they aren’t
always something to pull up weeds or
put down
Let’s take a
look around.
You might
learn something.
Gene Stapleton
keeps an old
pair of jeans on his
lawn tractor. And more often
than not
they come in handy
for a variety
of reasons.
“I use them to pad the lawn tractor seat and
I put them on the ground to keep the dirt/mud
off my knees,” said Gene. “I wipe my dirty
hands on them. When they get ‘real’ dirty I
use them to clean up the oil/grease when I
service my lawn equipment.”
On next to Ray Jellison. What’s that you’re
carrying Ray?
“The bag is a black EVEREST model with
See TOOLS, Page 2
Page 2
TOOLS, Continued from Page 1
shoulder and hand straps that looks
much like the ones our neighborhood
youngsters carry to Daniel Pratt Elementary School, but it contains old
man stuff, not books,” said Ray.
If you’ve got some time to spare
we’ll just take an inventory of the bag:
Two pairs of Fiskars bypass hand
pruners, two pairs of Corona steel, bypass hand pruners, two pairs of
Mechanix work gloves, one hand cultivator (three prong), one hand trowel,
two pairs of garden shears, four pairs
of scissors (“Discarded to me by dear
wife” ), one ceramic Smith's hand held
blade sharpener (coarse and fine), one
Gerber utility knife in cover, one Swiss
knife, one Craftsman screwdriver, one
Craftsman socket wrench with 10mm
socket (to change oil in Exmark
mower), one bottle of Germ-X Hand
sanitizer product (kills 99.99% of
germs), one spray can of ULTRATHON Insect repellent (25% DEET),
one spray container of OFF! (25%
DEET), two empty Medication containers (for opportunity seeds), two
packages of JOEY WIPES rinse-free
bath and deodorizer (you just never
know), five plant labels of plants purchased during the current year, two
pairs of GEMPLER'S 4-mil
industrial-grade disposable nitrile gloves, and a
small paper bag of Redbud tree seeds that need
to soak in 190 degree
water prior to planting in
small, black plastic containers.
“I've given you
the complete listing
to demonstrate that
obsessive gardeners just may be
obsessive in other areas
of their lives,” Ray said.
There is no question in Shirlie
Jensen’s mind when it comes to valu-
dirty digs
“I find a great item in my garden
to be our old mailbox we had when
living in Selma,” said Carol
Wadsworth Jones. “I had it mounted
on a post (an idea from my cousin
Gayle Myers) where I store my
“You can scrape with it, cut with
gloves, sunglasses, a box of tissues
it, dig with it, weed with it and beand chapstick, clippers, etc. How
cause it is a hoe with a long handle
convenient to have all these small
you can stand up to do lots of things
items close at hand.”
ordinarily one would get down to
Ditto for Jim Plott, who also
do,” said Shirlie.
prizes a surplused mailbox as one of
Shirlie said the instrument’s cutthe greatest tools in gardening. Jim
ting blade and its spring-like attachsaid he stuffs just about everything
ment enables her to slice through
into it so it will be within reach when
soil, weeds and roots.
he needs it.
Her only question
But he offers this
is where to find a rewarning: Never
placement when she
ever put anyneeds one. (Not to
thing edible in it.
worry Shirlie, there
He learned when
are plenty of links to
he temporarily
where you can find the
stored some dry
Hula hoe online.)
cat food in his.
And speaking of
“I reached in and
links, Jean Hare has
grabbed the cat
an above par suggesfood. All of a
tion for making things
sudden I heard
a bit easier in the garthis hissing,”
Jim said. “A
Beware what you put in
“I have a golf bag
young possum
your tool corral
on wheels—I don't
had crawled
know the correct name
inside. I am
for it--but I use it to take my gardenlucky to still have my fingers.”
ing tools to the uttermost part of my
Bob Scheffler may have found
yard,” said Jean. “I have the hoe,
the best garden tool.
shovel, and rake where the
“Me,” he said. ”Labor, sweat,
clubs normally would
talking to the plants, chasing bugs,
go, and the
harvesting the crop, forgetting my
pouches now conproblems, and wondering why I'm
tain bug spray,
doing it after swearing last year that I
gloves, pruning
wouldn't do it again this year.”
shears, and sweat
(Thanks to everyone who took
rags. I just pull it
the time and participated in this
along when I am goinformal survey. Sharing ideas
ing to be away from
and knowledge is what being a
the tool shed and it saves
Master Gardener is all about. I
me having to go back and
to do another topic laterforth for a tool I didn't take with
me the first time.”
Some garden tools are stationary,
but they still have a lot of zip.
able tools. It is the Hula hoe, a hollow rectangular metal instrument at
the end of a handle that lets her do a
number of jobs in the garden – and
with a lot less effort.
A Publication of the Autauga County Master Gardeners Association
Page 3
Plant Propagation Workshop Planned Aug. 28
By Shane Harris
Regional Extension Agent
Many of you have asked for a hands-on workshop on
learning how to propagate plants. Well, we think we have
one for you.
On Thursday, August 28, the Alabama Cooperative
Extension System and Petals From the Past will host
“Let’s Propagate” from 8:30 a.m. - 3 p.m at Petals from
the Past in Jemison.
Participants will learn the art of various propagation
techniques and will get to experience and try these techniques on their own.
The cost for this exclusive hands-on workshop is $40
which includes refreshments, lunch, publications, and
plant materials. Registration is limited to 30 Master Gardeners so call Taylor Hatchett, Regional Extension Agent,
at 205-688-6499 to reserve your spot.
You will also need to complete the following online
registration form at
tionWorkshop2008.pdf and mail in your payment once
you have confirmed your spot with Taylor.
Please do not be disappointed if you cannot attend this
workshop or the class becomes full. We are planning to
offer additional propagation workshops in the future and
in other locations. Once we conduct this first one and test
the overall response, we will likely do more. If you have
any questions or concerns, please contact me or Taylor.
See you soon.
Blueberry Workshop
Blueberries continue to be a popular topic in this
area based on attendance at a workshop in Autaugaville, hosted by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
Garden Calendar
Our own Debbie Boutelier will demonstrate the art
of cooking with and preserving herbs. Noon. Petals from
the Past, Jemison. Fee $20. Limited to 25 people. Call 205646-0069 for reservations
2020- Linda Franzo, owner of the Passionate Platter Restaurant in Slidell, La., will present a cooking demonstration entitled ‘Jammin with Fall Herbs’ from 11 a.m. to 1
p.m. Petals from the Past in Jemison. Franzo will be focusing on light appetizers and desserts for fall festivities.
Recipes include brandied blackberry fig conserve,
proscuitto, brie, rosemary crostini, pomegranate pepper
jelly vinaigrette glaze for chicken & greens w/ herb crusted
cheese "Truffles", balmy lemon curd cheesecake. Reservations are required. Class fee of $10.00 includes cooking
demonstration and tasting. Call 205-646-0069.
2222- DeSoto State Park Campfire Talk: Rare Plants
and Animals of Little River Canyon-Little River Canyon
near Fort Payne is home to over 100 rare species. National
Park Ranger Larry Beane will introduce you to a number
of them in this program sponsored by the Jacksonville
State University Field Schools. 8 -9 p.m.
Free. Call 256- 782-5697.
2323- Dr. Arlie Powell leads you on a walking tour
of the apple grove and muscadine vineyard at Petals
from the Past in Jemison. 10 a.m. Free. 205-646-0069.
2323- Creative Botanical Journal - In this fun, fastpaced botanical journal workshop at Callaway Gardens
in Pine Mountain, Ga. participants will create and take
home an original, bound journal of their own design;
hand carved rubber stamps; supplies for image transfer
and instructions. Techniques include botanical drawings, paper photo transfers, carving rubber stamps, collage techniques in combination with watercolor and ink,
innovative design ideas for recording information about
plants. Open to all skill levels. Instructor will be Val
Webb, an award-winning illustrator and author of The
Illustrated Garden of Mobile. Fee: $175; includes
lunch all materials. To preregister, call 706-663-5153 or
email [email protected]
dirty digs
Page 4
Drought Helps Vitex Make a Comeback in South
Hardy Chaste Tree is Durable
in Much of the United States
By Norman Winter
Mississippi State University
Research & Extension Center
The lilac chaste tree, or vitex, was chosen as a Mississippi Medallion award winner in 2002, spurring a revival
of this great, old-fashioned plant, which some consider a
small tree and others describe as a large shrub.
Known botanically as Vitex agnus-castus, the lilac
chaste tree is a marvel with its small structure and large,
marijuana-looking leaves. Its fragrant, blue blooms are
rare among trees.
Centuries ago, the seeds that followed the blossoms
were used to keep monks’ libidos in check. It is said that
in ancient Greece during the feast of the goddess Ceres,
the women of Athens made their beds with the vitex
leaves to cool lust and to keep themselves chaste for a
time. Today, on the other hand, an extract from these
plants is used to help women who want to become pregnant.
Vitex, or lilac chaste tree, is native to Sicily and is a
member of the verbena family. It was recognized by the
Greeks for its medicinal properties and has been in cultivation in British gardens since 1570.
For our purposes, the flowers attract butterflies and
hummingbirds, making it ideal for the urban backyard
wildlife habitat.
About a year ago I ran into a combination planting so
pretty that I lingered for some time shooting pictures
from every angle, hoping to capture its beauty with my
To be honest, my first thought was, “Why didn’t I
think of that combination before?” It featured the tall,
cherry red heirloom pentas, or Egyptian star cluster. Today’s leading varieties are much shorter, so those that
reached 3 feet tall made impressive partners.
This combination looked tropical and a little patriotic
with the red pentas and the vitex sporting blue and white.
The white appearance on the vitex comes from the unopened flower buds. In addition to lilac blue, there are
white and pink varieties of vitex, too.
This idyllic partnership was not only an aesthetically
incredible sight, but it also featured two plants known to
be major food sources for butterflies and hummingbirds.
vitex as a
small, elegant
tree reaching
15 to 20 feet
tall or keep it
as a large
regular pruning. As a
shrub, it is at
home in the
perennial or
cottage garden. As a
small tree, use
it as an accent
or specimen.
added benefits as part of
any wildlife
Combination planting helps make
Choose a
well-drained, the Vitex more vivid in the landscape
fertile bed in
full sun. Dig
the planting
hole two to three times as wide as the root ball, but no
deeper. This wide hole allows for easy root expansion
and acclimation in the landscape. The top of the root ball
should be even with the soil profile.
Deciduous and easy to grow, vitex has virtually no
pests or diseases, making it an environmentally friendly
Feed established trees in late winter with an application of a slow-release, 12-6-6 fertilizer per 100 square
feet of planting area.
After the bloom cycle, remove old blossoms and give
another light application of fertilizer. If you maintain
adequate moisture, another bloom cycle will occur toward the end of summer.
The vitex is cold hardy to Zone 6, meaning it can be
enjoyed over much of the country. When nurseries and
garden centers get them in, I hope you will take advantage of the opportunity to buy one. You will be glad you
A Publication of the Autauga County Master Gardeners Association
Page 5
Make Preparations for Your Fall Garden
By Mary Jo Modica
Unusually moderate temperatures, frequent rainfall and almost
fall-like mornings serve as a reminder that much of the work we do
in late summer will be rewarded in
the September and October garden.
Annuals: Fill in bare spots in
flowerbeds by sowing seeds of zinnias, sunflowers, marigolds, cosmos
and other fast growing annuals.
Check the soil around older cleome
and cosmos plantings for seedlings.
These young plants can be lifted and
moved to areas in need of quick
Continue watering and deadheading to keep annuals in full flower.
Weed and mulch to reduce competition for water and nutrients. Once
your beds are weed-free, try using a
product made of corn gluten that
inhibits new weeds from germinating. Be mindful not to use this product in areas where you have recently
sown seeds for late summer flowering.
Petunias that have become leggy
from the heat can be rejuvenated by
cutting the long branches back about
one-third. Marigolds and impatiens
also suffer from mid-summer heat
and can be sheared, watered and fed
to renew flowering.
Perennials: July is the beginning
of seed sowing season for perennials
and biennials. Choose a cool, shady
northern exposure and sow seeds of
coreopsis, butterfly weed and snapdragons. Toward the end of the
month try sowing foxglove and hollyhock seeds. If you are interested in
starting pansies from seed, they will
need several days of cool treatment
in the refrigerator.
Continue to add support to lilies
and other tall growing bulbs and
Later in the month and into August lift, divide and transplant irises.
Roses: High temperatures prompt
roses to take a rest. Don’t push them
into putting on new growth or flowers by feeding and watering them.
Allow roses to take a break until
temperatures begin to cool, then resume feeding to encourage fall flowering.
Shrubs: Now is the time to
propagate your favorite azaleas, camellias and hydrangeas. Place four
to six-inch cuttings of half-ripened
wood in a cool, shady, outdoor spot
in a mix of moist sand and peat
moss. Cover with glass or plastic to
maintain high humidity until roots
Herbs and vegetables: Remove
flowers from basil plants to continue
producing a lush crop of leaves.
New research shows that in order for
basil to produce more leaves it is
necessary to cut it back three or four
nodes below the flowering stem.
In the vegetable garden, plant
cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants,
peppers, squash and peas. A late season garden is a great way to bypass
insects and diseases that are problems earlier in the summer. Keep
July-planted crops well-watered and
provide them some afternoon shade
until they are established.
Pumpkin seeds planted now will
be ready for harvest in time for Halloween.
If you are looking for a challenge
try planting seeds of a few cool season crops. Turnips, carrots, beets,
collards and cabbage can be started
now for a jump on fall. They will
need plenty of water and protection
from the hot sun. I’ve heard of people who germinate these seeds in the
fridge, then move them out to the
garden once they’ve germinated.
Insects: Japanese beetles weren’t
too prevalent in June but may make
an appearance in the July heat.
Be on the lookout for aphids (wash
off), spider mites (wash undersides
of leaves and increase humidity
around the plants) and whiteflies
(increase air circulation around the
Mary Jo Modica is a horticulturist
at the University of Alabama Arboretum. Her columns appear weekly
in The Tuscaloosa News. Reach her
at [email protected]
Jean Hare Shares Way to Conserve Water
I have a total of 14 hanging baskets and 25-30 planted containers, all of
which have to be watered every day, and some times twice a day, depending
on the wind & heat. I keep them watered by recycling my "gray water" from
the kitchen and bathtub and from rain barrels that catch the rain water as it
drips off a tin roof. I have about three dozen empty gallon milk jugs
and laundry detergent bottles that I keep filled from the tub and/or the rain
barrels. With the tops on them I don't have to worry about mosquitoes
breeding. When I get ready to water I add about 2 tsp of Miracle Gro to
each jug and away I go. Simple, easy, (eliminates dragging a hose around)
and it sure saves on the water bill. I have been using this system for ten years
and the plants seem to love the soapy water and it seems to keep the insects
I have purchased the required elements for a drip irrigation system to water
the hanging baskets, but have not gotten it installed. I haven't figured out
how to use the system with my containers as they are scattered round the
pool and I don't 'know if I want all that plastic hose laying around (it's all
concrete and brick, so no where to bury it.)
Autauga County Extension Office
226 Highway 14 W. Suite E
Autaugaville, Al. 36003-2540
August Gardener
It is hot, and it is dry. Perhaps more than any other
month August is the time when you begin to wonder if
this garden thing is worth it. Of course it is, and all it
takes to convince you is a nice rain or a touch of fall in
the air.
And besides, your plants probably need you this month
more than any other time.
Mulch, mulch and more mulch. Provide some cushioning against the heat for your plants. They’ll reward you
Perennial plants should be cut back during the stress of
the hot days. Allowing leggy, old growth to remain is
doing a disservice to them, as this old growth uses up
moisture. If the plant is showing new growth at its base,
the plant should be cut back to that point. Mints, as an
example, should be cut back to only several inches in
You may observe the vinca are "melting" because of aerial phytophthora, a fungal disease. There is no fungal
treatment. Discard infected plants. Water plants at
ground level and avoid splashing water on the foliage.
It's time to apply pre-emergent herbicides to control winter weeds. Read the label closely to match your weed
problem with the proper pre-emergent.
Look for Chinch bugs in St. Augustine grass. Inspect
dry, burned-looking grass, irregular-shaped dead areas in
the lawn exposed to hot sun. Chinch bugs are about 1/6
of an inch long with a triangular black mark on the wing.
Late August is the time to clean out many shrubs by removing small, twiggy growth and shoots to allow light
and air – and of course water – to penetrate the bush.
Did you know okra is a cousin to cotton? No wonder it
likes the heat. Harvest okra every two days to maintain a
crop of tender pods.
Check nurseries and flower shops regularly for specials,
particularly perennials. Garden items such as hoses, tools
and fertilizers have to be moved out of stores too and
often come at greatly discounted prices.
This time of the year is also great for solarizing the vegetable garden. Apply a plastic over tilled soil.