Gardening Tips by Bob Beyfuss

"Gardening Tips" is a column about all things flora written by Bob Beyfuss of the Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Gardening Tips: Sept. 17, 2014

Hope for impatiens?
This week’s column was posted on the Cornell University “Mushrooms List Serve”. It was posted by Megan Daniels, a talented mycology grad student at Cornell. As little as four years ago, hybrids of Impatiens, were the most popular annual flower in America. Now, they are not even being sold at many garden centers.
This year grandma couldn’t find impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) to plant in her flowerbeds. She’s always planted impatiens! But lately, impatiens have been sickened by downy mildew, caused by Plasmopara obducens. This plant disease has received attention the past few years because it decimates the most popular varieties of this annual garden plant. What you probably haven’t heard yet is the story of how impatiens, through sex, sheer luck, and the attention of one man, rose to the pinnacle of popularity only to be suddenly destroyed, all thanks to an unassuming downy mildew that has been lurking close to our back yards.

Gardening Tips: September 10, 2014

Harvest season
The last week of August felt more like the dog days of July than early fall, as the heat and humidity pushed the heat index well into the 90s. It is very dry as I write this, due to hit or miss thunderstorms, which have mostly missed my garden the past week. I am not complaining, as the heat spell helped to ripen my tomatoes. I finally have enough to indulge in my BLTs and salads. Soon I will be canning sauce made with the garlic I harvested back in July and the peppers and onions I am now picking. It was much too hot to can last week anyway.

Gardening Tips: September 3, 2014

Labor Day Planting
Labor Day weekend was early this year and it marked the unofficial end of the summer season as the kids returned to school. It is certainly not the end of the gardening season! I have harvested exactly one of my Big Beef, full-size tomatoes. My first variety of sweet corn was harvested and eaten on the spot by a raccoon, just a few days before I was planning to pick it!

Gardening Tips: August 27, 2014

A New Lawn
This is my annual lawn column. We have had a great summer season, with just enough timely rainfall to keep the grass green, but not so much rain as to turn it into a jungle. Mid to late August is the best time to completely redo or establish a new lawn in our part of the world. It takes at least four to six weeks of good weather for desirable lawn grasses to become fully established. The grasses we grow in the Northeast are known as “cool season” grasses, which means they grow best when soil and air temperatures are in the 60s and 70s. Up until earlier this week conditions had been a little too dry to plant grass seed, but the showers and storms we had recently have helped that situation.

Gardening Tips: August 20, 2014

Q and A
I must begin this week’s column by thanking everyone who pointed out last week that I neglected to mention that there are also timber rattlesnakes in our region. They are not as common as copperheads but they may occasionally be encountered in remote rocky areas in both the “Gunks” and the Catskills. Unlike copperheads, which have no rattles, Timber rattlesnakes vibrate their tails quite nosily when threatened. Most people should notice this warning, but I have to admit that my only close encounter with a rattlesnake was near Lake Champlain and I was so interested in a patch of ginseng plants that I failed to hear a rather large rattlesnake less than six feet away. Fortunately, my hiking companion did hear the snake and yelled for me to “freeze” before I almost stepped on it! I will not go back to that spot anytime soon (ever).