Guardian of the Garden

Garden Spiders

Photo by Beni Goebel


People may become concerned when they see a large, noticeable spider setting up shop in or near the garden. These garden spiders feed on insects and are considered beneficial.
There are actually two common species of garden spiders in Kansas that are active during the day. The yellow garden spider has a black abdomen with yellow to yellow-orange markings. The black legs have a yellow or reddish band.

The banded garden spider has numerous bands on both the abdomen and legs. Those on the abdomen are alternating white and dark bands. The legs have alternating black and orange bands. Both of these spiders are orb weavers that spin large webs with the typical spider web shape.

Though these garden spiders have poor eyesight, they are extremely sensitive to vibrations that pass through the web and use this sensitivity to capture their prey. Since these spiders are beneficial and harmless to humans, it is recommended that they be left alone.

Contributors: Ward Upham, Extension Associate

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5 Things You Didn’t Know About Eggplant

We’ve been growing eggplant in the garden for many years. There are so many varieties and delicious way to prepare them. Here are some fun facts about eggplants that you may not know.  Video link;



Today’s post; Copyright



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Take the”Big Picture”View in the Yard and Garden

Beneficial Insects – Not All Bugs are Bad

Many insects are beneficial. Some pollinate our flowers and vegetables, and many others feed on the pests in our garden. This segment demonstrates a good habitat for caterpillars that will help beautify your garden.








Your yard and gardens make up a system when put together. With that in mind, today we’ll learn about small but important part; insects. And then we will see the importance of maintenance throughout the system, throughout the year. We will will start with beneficial insect, an important tool in pest management.Okay, let’s get to learning!

Video link;  (a transcript is included at  the bottom of the page)


Autumn Gardening





General landscape

*Remove weeds before they go to seed.

*Clean up garden areas to reduce insect and disease problems.

*Enrich soil by adding organic matter (peat moss or compost).

*Gather soil samples for testing; adjust PH levels as recommended.

*Start a compost pile with fallen leaves; turn the pile to hasten breakdown.

*Around Thanksgiving, give everything a good watering (unless ground is frozen).

*Take advantage of fall sales to update your landscape.

*Update your garden journal while successes and failures are fresh in your mind.

Vegetables and Fruits

*Plant spinach, lettuce and radishes for fall feasting.

*Plant garlic for spring harvest.

*Harvest apples, pears and peanuts.

*Remove fallen fruit from the ground to prevent disease and insect damage.

*Dig sweet potatoes, cure for a week or two in a warm spot, store for winter.


*Plant spring-flowering bulbs (tulips, daffodils, and others) in the fall before the ground freezes. Add phosphorus-rich bone meal to the bottom of each planting hole.

*Dig and divide peonies, daylilies and iris. Share some with friends.

*Divide overgrown perennials, especially spring bloomers.

*Remove seed heads from perennials to prevent reseeding; leave some (such as coneflower seeds) to feed birds and add interest to your fall garden.

*Dig tender bulbs (cannas, gladioli, elephant ears) then store in a cool, dry place over winter.

Water Gardens

*Divide water iris, reeds and rushes.

*Net pond for falling autumn leaves.

*Remove vertical tropical plants from pond before first frost.

Trees and Shrubs

*Plant trees and shrubs; keep watered during dry winter months.

*Rake fallen leaves; compost them, or mow them into shreds to use as garden mulch.

*Pick bagworms by hand; place them in tightly sealed bags and discard.

*Prune broken, dead or diseased branches.

*To ensure bloom, avoid pruning spring-flowering shrubs such as lilac and forsythia.

*Once leaves have fallen, transplant small trees and shrubs.


*Renovate cool-season turfgrass by core-aerating or verticutting

*Overseed tall fescue lawns with 5 to 6 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet.

*Fertilize cool-season grasses with slow-release, high nitrogen fertilizer (one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet

*Mow turf at 2-3 inches, using a sharp blade for a clean cut.



*Wash plants carefully before bringing indoors.

*Plant bulbs in pots to force indoor winter blooms.

*Reduce or stop fertilizer over winter months.


Beneficial Insects – Not All Bugs are Bad

In our Finney County extension demonstration and research garden, we have various types of plants for the public. And, some of those that you’ll often find in a garden are those that reseed. These volunteer plants provide some interest within the landscape.
I’ve had numerous youth and adults that come to the extension office and ask, “What are those insects?” that are on a particular plant. So, I like to step out and explain that in the insect world, we have those that are desirable insects that we like to promote because of their beauty and their beneficial uses in the landscape.

One of the butterflies that we find occasionally is the black swallowtail butterfly. It feeds on some of these plants. Here, we have a bronze or a purple fennel that we planted last year. It reseeded, and you can see how dense and thick the growth is underneath. But, the plant will also bear flowers the second year of its growth. Here we see the seed heads that have come up.

It’s in this particular type of growth that the swallowtail will come in and lay their eggs. Here, is a great example of that caterpillar. The larvae feeding on the plant is very colorful and striking. It raises the interest of the young people when they come through our demonstration garden.

Plus, it’s an opportunity to tell them that we let it grow like this so that we can have a teaching moment – to show them that “yes,” we don’t like to have pesty insects in the garden. But, they’re not all pests if we look at them from an educational value, but also beneficial to our beautiful world around us.

This feature story prepared with Dean Whitehill, Kansas State University Research and Extension Agent, Retired, Finney County. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at

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More Turf Tricks from an Expert

Here’s the perfect followup to my last post.

Overseeding Your Lawn

video link;

The key thing with overseeding yards is to have seed-to-soil contact. If we just sprinkle some grass seed into this yard, some will grow, but it won’t be quite as effective as if we can get that seed worked into the soil and get it actually touching the soil surface.
We can get that seed-to-soil contact in a number of ways. Sometimes we can use a core aerifier, which will poke holes in the ground. We can poke holes in the ground and then sprinkle our seed in over the top of that. The seeds will fall in those holes, and give us some seed-to-soil contact. That works very effective, and we should core aerate our yards to alleviate compaction and get air and water movement into the soil. The downside is that the core aerification holes are usually a couple inches apart, and you’ll end up with just grass growing in those core aerification holes.
A better way of overseeding your yard, is to use a power rake or a verticutter. A power rake or verticutter cuts grooves in the yard. We can cut a series of grooves cutting in one direction, sprinkle our seed across, and then come back with the verticutter and cut a second set of grooves in a ninety degree direction. That works the seed into all those grooves, and gives us a very good seed to soil contact.
If this was my yard, this is what I’d be doing. First, come in with your mower and mow this grass pretty short. Not so short that you’re scalping it and causing damage to the ground and to the mower – but mow it an inch and a half, or two inches. Mow it short, and remove that leaf debris that’s on top of the yard. Take that aside and put it in your compost pile, or dispose of it properly.

Once you’ve got the grass mowed short, what I would do then, is to come in and core aerate the yard. This pokes holes in the ground. Let those cores dry out for half an hour to four or five hours – usually an afternoon.
Then, come back that afternoon, and run the verticutter across the yard. Once we’ve got those grooves – there may be more debris. Take a leaf rake and rake up all that debris up and put it in the compost, or dispose of it properly.

Next, sprinkle your seed out across the yard, nice and uniform with either a drop spreader or rotary spreader. And then take the verticutter and go in a second direction (90 degrees) to the first one, and run another set of grooves across the yard.

Once that’s done, sprinkle out some starter fertilizer across the yard, nice and uniformly, according to the rate table, and then turn on the irrigation and keep it moist. The key thing with keeping it moist is that we want to keep it light and frequent. And we probably want to be irrigating in the middle of the day or afternoon, when the sun is at it’s hottest, to keep that soil surface moist.

Once the grass grows and begins to mature and starts getting to it’s height that it’s supposed to be (three inches for tall fescue or two and a half inches for Kentucky bluegrass), we want to get out there and start mowing that grass. Frequently I’ll see people let that grass grow real tall thinking they want to help that grass get a good head start. But what they’re doing is letting that one individual plant grow real tall all by itself and shade out some of it’s brothers and sisters beside it. We want to cut it when it gets to it’s right height, so that it will start tillering or sending out rhizomes that are in the ground and spreading out across the surface. Also, not all of its energy is going into just upright growth.

This feature story prepared with Rodney St.John, former Kansas State University Research and Extension Turfgrass Specialist. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at

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The Good Stuff Times Two

Ah yes, growing grass…that’s TURF, you need soil and and watch and learn, grasshopper!

Cool-season grasses are best seeded in early September. Seeds germinate and grow rapidly in the warm soil with time to become well established before winter. But, as with many things in life, you get what you pay for. video link;


And to build the soil you need- COMPOST-

Join us for the Fall Compost & Woodchip Sale Event hosted by the Solid Waste Division. The sale event is at the city’s Wood Recovery and Composting Facility located at 1420 E. 11th Street which is east of 11th and Haskell Avenue, over the railroad tracks. The sale event will be held rain or shine.

Thursday through Saturday, September 14, 15, and 16 from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm each day.

• The city will load trucks and trailers. City cannot load trucks with ladder racks.
• $10 per bucket load, equivalent to two cubic yards. CASH only.
• Self-loading small quantities (small bag, plastic tote, box) free.
• Bring a tarp to secure woodchips in trucks and trailers to prevent littering the roadway.
• Compost and woodchips are not intended for commercial applications, but rather for the citizens of Lawrence.

The City’s compost is made from the weekly curbside collection of residential yard waste, which includes grass, leaves, garden pruning, and small woody waste. Due to the length of the composting process and the biological changes that occur, 99 percent of all chemicals have dissipated prior to public distribution. City staff tests the compost for levels of ammonia and carbon dioxide; tests are also completed for pH and salinity.
The compost and woodchips are not intended for commercial applications, but rather for the citizens of Lawrence. For residential use only. Woodchips may contain Emerald Ash Borer. Transportation within counties quarantined for Emerald Ash Borer is okay. Do not transport woodchips outside of the listed quarantined counties: Atchison, Doniphan, Douglas, Jefferson, Johnson, Leavenworth, and Wyandotte.
For more information on the compost or woodchip sale, please call (785) 832-3030 or email More information is also available at this website:



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“Steps to a Lush Green Lawn”

Please join us to hear Don Crim, Wyandotte County Extension Master Garden present “Steps to a Lush Lawn” for our next Advanced Education program. He will discuss how to determine whether a lawn needs to be overseeded or renovated and steps to accomplish both situations. Don will also discuss some common problems homeowners experience with with their lawns. This will be 1.5 hour of Advanced Education.

*Meetings are held in the Dreher Building located at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, 2110 Harper, Lawrence, KS.  All General Business meetings will begin at 9am and Advanced Education programs will be from 10:00-11:00am unless otherwise noted. All programs are Free and  Open to the Public except Nov. 11- EMG Panel.

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Scratcching & Itching…Weeds & Bugs in the Garden


Crabgrass can be can be a tough weed to control. you  have to scratch and pull to uproot it.  Its a worthy fellow traveler, the chigger is also hard to eliminate.

Ward Upham at K-State provides help today wit these two articles.

Crabgrass Control

This is the time of year when people really notice crabgrass infestations. By far the best way to control crabgrass is to prevent it by maintaining a good, thick lawn. Crabgrass is an annual that must come up from seed each year and the seed must have light in order to germinate. If a lawn is thick enough that sunlight does not reach the soil, the crabgrass will not germinate. Under Kansas conditions it is not easy to maintain such a lawn; so many gardeners do the next best thing and apply a crabgrass preventer in the spring.

Crabgrass preventers kill the seed as it germinates. Most do not have any effect on crabgrass that has already come up. If we are too late to apply a preventer, we do have other herbicides that will kill crabgrass after it is up including Ortho Weed-B-Gon Max + Crabgrass Control, Bayer All-in-One Lawn Weed and Crabgrass Killer and Fertilome Weed Out with Crabgrass Killer. Each contains quinclorac, which is a crabgrass herbicide, as well as other active ingredients that control broadleaf weeds. Quiclorac is an excellent crabgrass killer that controls not only crabgrass but also has good activity on foxtail and certain broadleaves such as field bindweed, black medic and clover. However, it does little to nothing to goosegrass. However, quinclorac can harm garden plants if clippings are used as mulch. Clippings should be returned to the lawn or discarded. Even composting will not break down the quinclorac.

​Fortunately, crabgrass starts declining about the middle of August. This is about the same time that cool- season grasses such as tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass start to come out of their summer doldrums. By the first of September, the crabgrass will be less noticeable. Therefore, a small infestation is best ignored. Remember that crabgrass is a warm-season annual and will be killed by the first frost.


Chiggers are mites, not insects. And like all mites, the adults have eight legs. However, the larva only has six legs. Though the bright red female adult is tiny (about 1/20th of an inch) the larva is much smaller (about 1/150th of an inch). Only the larvae are parasitic and attack animals. The larva injects digestive juices into the skin, which causes a rapid swelling. In the center of the swelling is a “feeding tube” from which the chigger sucks out liquefied skin cells. Feeding usually continues for 2 to 4 days.
Protection from chiggers uses two approaches. The use of a repellent can discourage chiggers from attacking. The most effective repellents are Deet and permethrin. Both are applied to clothing. The second approach seeks to reduce chigger populations. Keeping the lawn mowed regularly can help, but large populations may require the use of an acaricide. Effective products include bifenthrin (Talstar, Hi-Yield Bug Blaster II, Hi-Yield Bug Blaster Bifenthrin, and Ortho Lawn Insect Killer Granules), cyfluthrin (Tempo 20, Bayer Vegetable & Garden Insect Spray) and carbaryl (Sevin). For more information, see the K-State Research and Extension publication titled, “Chiggers” at: (Ward Upham)


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The Wildlands in Your Backyard

Let’s Get Wild


Every time I post from Something Wild it makes me think about how the tame-your garden- with the wild-the critter we learning about must interact with each other…WHEW!! Makes my head spin!  So, here ya; go, the WILD!

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Pretty Things to See

Tomorrow is the  Open House at the K-State Research & Extension Center, Olathe. 

Come see the hottest and newest plants while enjoying cool classes in air-conditioned comfort and ice cold water while wandering the field trials. Learn about the latest and greatest before it ever hits the garden centers. It’s all here at the K-State Research and Extension Horticulture Center’s Field Day.

It’s your chance to peek behind the scenes, talk with the experts and learn about the latest varieties and methods for achieving growing success. This year we are celebrating 20 years of the research center in its current location.

Admission is $5 per person, which includes ice cold bottled water, seminars, classes and demonstrations.

K-State Research and Extension horticulture research develops its list of recommended grasses, flowers or vegetable varieties through university research conducted in Olathe to determine what grows best in our landscapes.

The Center is a great place see demonstration gardens and lots of other plantings. For more info, follow this link;


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Tomatoes,Tomatoes Tomatoes…

This time of year means ,for sure, there will be something on your kitchen counter; TOMATOES!!!

Tomatoes Slow to Ripen?

The extremely hot weather we have had recently not only interferes with flower pollination (see July 11 newsletter) but also can affect how quickly fruit matures. The best temperature for tomato growth and fruit development is 85 to 90F. When temperatures exceed 100 degrees, the plant goes into survival mode and concentrates on moving water. Fruit development slows to a crawl. When temperatures moderate, even to the low to mid 90s, the fruit will ripen more quickly.

Tomato color can also be affected by heat. When temperatures rise above 95 degrees F, red pigments don’t form properly though the orange and yellow pigments do. This results in orange fruit. This doesn’t affect the edibility of the tomato, but often gardeners want that deep red color back.

So, can we do anything to help our tomatoes ripen and have good color during extreme heat? Sure, there is. We can pick tomatoes in the “breaker” stage. Breaker stage tomatoes are those that have started to turn color. At this point, the tomato has cut itself off from the vine and nothing will be gained by keeping it on the plant. If tomatoes are picked at this stage and brought into an air-conditioned house, they will ripen more quickly and develop a good, red color. A temperature of 75 to 85 degrees F will work well. (Ward Upham)

Tomato Cracking

Tomatoes often have problems with cracking caused by pressure inside the fruit that is more than the skin can handle. Cracks are usually on the upper part of the fruit and can be concentric (in concentric circles around the stem) or radial (radiating from the stem). We don’t know everything about cracking but here is what we do know.

Tomatoes have a root system that is very dense and fibrous and is quite efficient in picking up water. Unfortunately, the root system can become unbalanced with the top of the plant. Early in the season it may be small in relation to the top growth resulting in blossom-end rot during hot dry weather. Later it may be so efficient that it provides too much water when we get rain or irrigate heavily after a dry spell. This quick influx of water can cause the tomato fruit to crack. Therefore, even, consistent watering can help with cracking. Mulching will also help because it moderates moisture levels in the soil. However, you can do everything right and still have problems with cracking in some years.

We have evaluated varieties for cracking during our tomato trials at K-State. It takes several years worth of data to get a good feel for crack-resistant varieties but we have found some real differences. Some varieties crack under about any condition and others are much more resistant. The difference seems to be pliability of skin rather than thickness — the more pliable the skin the more resistance to cracking.
The old variety Jet Star has been the most crack resistant of any we have tested including the newer types. Unfortunately, Jet Star is an indeterminate variety that puts out rampant growth.Newer varieties with more controlled growth are often more attractive to gardeners. MountainSpring, Mountain Pride, Mountain Fresh, Floralina and Sun Leaper are smaller-vined types thathave shown good resistance to cracking. (Ward Upham)

Tomato Sunscald

Extreme heat and bright sunlight can sunscald tomato fruit, leaving a light yellow to white
sunken spot that resembles a blister. Eventually this area may allow black mold in invade and cause the tomato to rot.

Sunscald most often happens to fruit that is exposed to full sun after losing foliage to disease, hail or tomato hornworms. Exposed fruit may be shaded with cheesecloth to prevent injury. Fruit can also be harvested as the tomato starts to turn color so they can ripen inside. Tomatoes picked at this stage will be just as sweet as those left to ripen on the vine. Remove affected fruit to encourage more fruit set.
Sunburned fruit are rarely usable if the damage is extensive. Tomatoes with little damage can be used if sunscalded areas are cut out. (Ward Upham)


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