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. Index Garden Calendar 3 Vitex Making Comeback 4 Prepare Now For Fall 5 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 and… …Well. You get the point. Let’s just say they are essential. But many Master Gardeners have their own idea of what helps them get their task done more efficiently. And they aren’t always something to pull up weeds or put down seeds. 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,” den. 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 hope to do another topic laterforth for a tool I didn't take with Jim.) 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 http://www.aces.edu/counties/Chilton/documents/Propaga 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 August 9- 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 camera. 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. We can grow the vitex as a small, elegant tree reaching 15 to 20 feet tall or keep it as a large shrub with 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. It brings added benefits as part of any wildlife habitat. 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 plant. 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 did. 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 color. 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 perennials. 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 emerge. 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 plants). 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 away. 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 The 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. FLOWER BEDS Mulch, mulch and more mulch. Provide some cushioning against the heat for your plants. They’ll reward you later. PERENNIALS 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 height. ANNUALS 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. LAWN 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. SHRUBS 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. VEGETABLES/FRUITS 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. OTHER 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.
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