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  • January 16 - Douglas C. Berry
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  • January 16 - Douglas C. Berry
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Summer growth of table grapes in Northern Missouri

This season's weather has included an abundent amount of precipitation; hence it is looking to be a bumper corn crop in Missouri.  Chariton County located in the north central part of the state has fared well when it concerns rain; abundent but not too much to flood out the crops.  The soy bean harvest is still up in the air at this point, but the corn harvest looks to be a confirmed good one. Gardens have seen the appearance of the dreaded Japanese beetle.  These beetles were in my table grape vineyard in Mendon, MO, which means they will most likely only get worse in the future.  Worse than the beetles was the damage in my vineyard due to 2-4-D herbicide spray drift from the surrounding corn and soybean fields.  I opine that every town in the Midwest should have table grapes planted only if to be indicators of herbicide drift into our communities where we live.  Grapes in particular are very sensitive to herbide drift and exhibit damaged leaves and twisted shoots that are easilly identifiable.  Grapes are like a canary in a coal mine when it comes to alerting us of high levels of herbicide drift.  The grape cultivers Mars, Vanessa, Neptune, Venus, Canadice, Concord, Van Buren, America,and  Sunbelt were negatively impacted by glyphosphate and various 2-4-D herbicide drift.  The grape varieties Price, Steuben, Reliance, Joy, and Edeilweis showed some resistance.  One older variety from the University of Arkansas breeding program called Mars was almost killed from the spray drift.  I will post some further updates on spray drift resistant table grape varieties from my home vineyard in Chariton County, Missouri in the future. When you live in such a friendly town as Mendon and in such a pretty part of Missouri as Chariton County who can complain?  We have had such a moist summer that the table grapes have mostly rebounded after being poisoned and have made excellent growth with one vine of Steuben actuallly reaching over ten feet high and wide that began as a small transplant this spring! Happy gardening and good luck farming!


Missouri Spring

 The past few days have seen the return of our robins and each morning instead of silence we are greeted with their singing.  The grass is starting to green up and grow.  Dutch white clover seed is sprouting... It is early spring in north central Missouri.  Area farmers are busy preparing for spring planting.  Here at Gem Metro we are also gearing up for the season ahead.  Now is the time to get your garden landscaping cleaned up:  hauling off brush, trimming roses, removing leaf piles, picking up any windblown trash, laying out vegetable gardens,... so much to do!  This season keep in mind that if you mow your grass turf at a higher cut this will allow the grass to better compete with weeds such as crab grass.  Spraying for crab grass is a waste of time and expense; instead keep your lawn grass taller during the hotter periods of the season.  Getting rid of weeds is all about turf managemant.  Take care of the turf grass and it will be thick and vigorous.  Many "weeds" actually are only trying to cover the bare soil from the effects of wind, compaction, and erosion.  Most weeds are annual pioneer plants that are covering bare ground.  To beat the weeds battle them with cultural practices and good soil management; treat the cause not the symptoms.  A thick stand of crab grass or prostrate knotweed in your lawn is evidence of poor cultural practices and soil compaction that will never be solved with the use of herbicides.  Think smart this season and beat the weeds.


Deciduous Azaleas: Garden Royalty

Fall Color of Exbury Azalea

Fragrant Spring Flowers in Bright Tropical Colors in shades of white, pink, red, orange, and yellow

The deciduous azaleas are known for sweetly scented bright spring flowers and vivid orange, yellow, and red tinted fall foliage.  These long lived perennial bushes are winter hardy through USDA Climate Zone 5; the cold resistent Northern Lights strain from Minnesota are hardy to Zone 4 and some even to Zone 3! Their upright bare branches in winter are topped by interesting buds which contain the next spring's flowers, which also makes them resistent to damage from ice storms in the Midwest, such as often happens in Missouri, Arkansas, and even out West in the Columbia Gorge in Oregon.  Unlike evergreen rhododendrons, these azaleas can be coated in ice and the weight of snow will never weigh them down to break their bare branches.  An unusual trait for being in the rhododendron family is after they are done flowering and are pruned new buds will form anywhere along the pruned stem near the cut, unlike most rhododendrons that sprout only at the growth nodes.  This trait makes deciduous azaleas easier and quicker to prune.  These ericaceous plants need soil conditions on the acid PH side, just like blueberries, which make a nice edible companion plant for them.  The soil MUST be fast draining, have high organic content, and be on the acid side.  Add sulphur to lower the PH (Potential Hydrogen) in the soil near concrete foundations which may be alkaline.  NEVER use aluminum sulphate to lower the PH as this will cause an eventual toxic builup of aluminum in the soil profile.  Do not cultivate deeply around these azaleas as their roots are near the surface, mulch them with a surface layer of bark or acidic pine needles instead.  Site these beauties in partial shade as too much shade will make for lanky plants with few flowers.  In cool summer western Oregon they can be planted in full sun for increased flowering, but my planting in hot summer Missouri requires some shade and as such are planted on the northeast side of my house.  Check the summer heat index for your planting zone along with the minimum winter temperatures.  My personal collection currently numbers 21 plants, which is a lot of ground covered considering they predominantly grow 4-6' tall by 3' wide and are about 4' from each other for good air circulation.  Many of the Exbury types of these plants were developed and collected by the Rothschilds in England and there are other large collections here in North America at such places as the Biltmore Estate; so these plants really are garden royalty with a following from discriminating gardneners wolrdwide.  The deciduous azaleas will not be happy in the hot desert but will be at home in most situations in United States USDA zones 5-8.  They are prone to powdery mildew on the foliage some years, but are mostly a low maintenance plant.  Fertilizing lightly spring with cottonseed meal is best, while ammonia sulphate is adequate.  I just love the sweet fragrance and vivid colors of the beautiful deciduous azaleas! To purchase named clones of tried and true deciduous azalea cultivars note the flower appearance in the spring but purchase plants in the late fall.  Nurseries and garden centers have a hard time selling them in the fall when they are bare of leaves and flowers, this is the opportunity to buy these expensive plants at bargain prices.  In the USA you may be able to save over 63% purchasing them in late fall instead of spring when they are in bloom; for example a $ 30 plant will usually sell for around $ 10 USD.  Plant them as soon as you receive them in a previously prepared bed or other location.  I imagine it would be a similar bargain situation for purchasing these plants in England, Europe, and New Zealand during the end of the season.  God speed and don't forget to give Yahweh the honor for the knowledge and skill plant breeders have in refining these pleasant flowering shrubs that help make our world in which we live even more beautiful: HalleluYah! (Praise Yahweh!)  Douglas

They can also be grown in large containers on a deck or patio



Unusual Climbing Vines: Maypop (passiflora incarnata)

The Maypop vine is a perennial vine that is winter hardy to around USDA Zone 5.  She dies back at the top every year, and then pops back to life come May (thus "Maypop").  The flowers are very intricate and interesting when viewed up close.  One caveat with this plant: she likes to roam around and can become somewhat invasive.  In fact, she may move 20 or more feet from where you originally planted her until she finds a sunny spot that suits her best.  I tried setting her in a big ten gallon pot set into the ground, but she still managed to roam away and send new sprouts at some distance away from the buried pot.  Put her up in the best part of your garden near the nicest shed and she will still pack her bags and try to hitch a ride with some stranger to some new town across your state.  She is a dandy, but she is a rambler in oh so many ways.  You can hold her for a moment but you can never tame her to a domestic life of garden parties under the shade tree; she was born to leave you for someplace else; that's in her passionate nature.  She is often found in abandoned roadsides and fields of eastern north America, but I find her so interesting I decided to put up with her wild ways anyhow...she is such a garden Drama Queen but beautiful none the less.  She has foliage that supports specific native butterflies and has small seeded fruit that are almost edible.  Oh sure, you could plant a climbing rose instead, but this large climber is disease free and vigorous.  Keep her away from the house siding itself to avoid moisture damage, construct a trellis for this growing situation. 


Working Double

This summer of 2015 was plenty busy!  Long days and a lot of hauling along with all kinds of work.  Ran into the yellow jackets about four times this year, luckily the bald faced hornets left us alone this season (they usually ambush us when we are working near wooded areas).  The odd weather saw wildlife acting odd too; such as deer wandering around residential areas where we have never seen them before.  It looks like the fall leaf removal season will be starting early this year, so we are gearing up to make sure all the properties will be claened up and looking good ASAP.  Remember to clean up your gardens this fall to help get rid of many overwintering pests that could cause you trouble next year! Give us a call if you need help with that fall season chore!  Thank you again to all of our long term clients and friends; we love making your properties look great! Douglas


Tomatoes fresh from the garden

     This summer proved to be a good one for tomtoes grown with natural methods.  No reason to fill the garden soil with petroleum based caustic chemical fertilizers to get great tomatoes...instead we merely added some leaf mulch and compost and, presto, big great tasting perfect tomatoes.  We did not grow any "Early Girl" tomatoes because the patent on that hybrid is owned by Monsanto corporation, an entity that has been involved with shady unethical business practices here and abroad.  Instead, we chose "Celebrity" which is a fine tasting determinate mid sized slicer.  The best choice in cultivated varieties, or cultivars, often can be found in the open polinated types of tomatoes.  A particularly good one, if you can still find it, is caled "Lisa King."  Lisa King was marketed out of London Springs, Oregon by Territorial Seed Company.  The outstanding feature of this cultivar is not only is it a healthy flavorful slicer, but the home gardener can save the seeds to replant every year.  We used to have an early strain with good leaf cover that we selected over about a ten year period that was just the best tasing tomato ever! Did you know the Bible is for and details good farming and breeding practices in agriculture, but prohibits mixing different kinds of animals and crops together such as the new Genetically modified crops?  Fascinating and true, check it out for yourself!