Sunday, September 20, 2009

2009 Master Garden Conference

Flagstaff hosted this years Master Gardener Conference.  Because of the economy it was scaled back a bit, from two days to one and it was held on a Saturday.  The good news is that people flocked to the conference, there was a waiting list to attend.  Great job Flagstaff Master Gardeners!

They also scheduled a garden tour the day before the conference.  Six great gardens were on the tour, from the simple to the truly amazing.  Even though September is late for Flagstaff gardeners and they weren't at their best I would have been thrilled to have my garden look as good this late in the year.  Pictures are found at
The photos are number so all the photos labeled 1 are from the same garden and so on thru garden # 6.
One of the things I liked best are the splashes of humor, color and unexpected delights in each garden.

Corn Gluten

In recent years corn gluten has been touted as an organic solution to weed control.  Researchers at Iowa State University found that in an experiment on lawns that corn gluten worked as a pre-emergent herbicide.  Since then there has been patents awarded and research on a variety of products based on this one study.  It is now sold as a weed control remedy for organic growers and home gardeners.  (

Recently researchers at Oregon State University has tried to replicate that experiment and found that corn gluten didn't work as a weed suppressant.  (

Hopefully new research will come up with more answers in the future.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Garlic Now!

Garlic is one of the great foods of the world. and one of the simplest to grow.  There is no excuse not to have garlic in your garden.  Now is the time to start planting.  You can continue to plant through October.  You can use the garlic from the grocery store if you have no choice, but they are sometimes treated to retard sprouting.  I would check some of the online sources of garlic and see if you can find some of the great varieties available.  There are hundreds of varieties, some hot, some not.  There are hardneck varieties and softneck types.  The softneck types are the ones used to create braids of garlic.
        Garlic likes a soil with good drainage.  The bulbs will rot if kept too wet.  If you have a heavy clay soil add lots of compost to loosen the soil and improve the drainage.  Every once in a while I add extra phosphate fertilizers.  Not every year, just if the quality of the garlic diminishes.  You can use Triple Super phosphate, bone meal or a fertilizer where the middle number is the largest.
Once you have loosened up the soil and added compost you can plant the garlic.  Separate the cloves of the garlic.  Do not plant the whole bulb!  Each clove will give you a new garlic bulb come spring.  Plant the cloves about three inches apart and deep. The bulbs will quickly send up leaves.  Once it gets really cold they will stop growing until it begins to warm up.
      One of the keys I have found for the best bulbs is to provide even watering throughout the winter.  Not sopping wet, but don't let the soil dry out for long periods.  In my experience, the best watering practices produced the best sized bulbs, regardless of how well you fertilize.
This is a great, nearly trouble-free plant.  Plant now and reap the benefits come spring.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Wasps & Yellowjackets

People go crazy in the presence of bees and wasps.  In every case this is the wrong response even if you are allergic to them. (Except in the case of an Africanized bee colony.  In that case run as fast as you can and get inside, don't fling your arms around, run!  You can run faster than they can fly.) Bees and wasps are good for your garden.  Of course bees are important pollinators essential to the production of your fruit and vegetables.  Wasps are terrific predators of many of the pests that harm your garden.  Second good point is they really have no desire to sting you.  In the case of the bees they don't survive the experience and in the case of the wasps it's just a case of fear.  So lets gain a little perspective here and try not to go berserk.   If you have bees or wasps hanging around you, stay calm, don't flail your arms around you.  Give them time to move away or just (still calm) walk away slowly.  
Still they can be unnerving if you find a nest of them around your house.  Because of the problem of Africanized bees, if you find a colony on your property it is best to call a person that has experience in removing bees and stay away from the site until they are removed.  Your extension office can help you find someone qualified to remove the bees.  See the linked article for more information on Africanized bees.

Wasps (see the picture) are another problem but there are some easy ways to lure them to their death.  Check out the link below from the "Organic Gardening" website and build a homemade trap.

Wasps can be solitary or social types.  All can sting.  They tend to be omnivores, eating a variety of food sources.  They kill other insects to feed their larva.  As adults they are nectar feeders which is why you can lure them to their death.  Nests can be in the ground or extensive "paper" or mud constructions.  Find more information and another trap in the "Backyard Gardener" column linked below.