Neighborly Garden News
This year, try these steps for a painless garden make-over:
The dead of winter is the best time for planning changes to your gardens. With no garden chores beckoning, you can devote your spare time to serious thought about those niggling garden problems. Every garden has some area, shed, tree, etc. that just isn’t harmonious with everything else. You can try to disguise the problem, plant over or around it; but every year it’s always there.
Starting your renewal project early allows time to move sensitive plants at their correct time; usually when they are completely dormant. If you do move mature trees and shrubs, be sure to mark their orientation to the sun; some plants develop sensitivity to being reoriented from their original sun exposure.
1. Make a plan; draw out your garden beds so you can visualize the space. Consider dimensions of the bed versus mature sizes of desired plants. Group your plants according to their similar sun and water requirements to minimize upkeep.
2. Take a serious look at your ‘Big Picture’. Cut back and prune any plants that are not in proportion and harmony with other plants.
3. Define your edges to delineate planting spaces. Nothing neatens up a garden than cleanly edged beds.
4. Identify your ‘backbone’ plants. These are the plants that have interesting foliage or extended bloom times, and hold your interest all season long.
5. Identify and correct your problem areas. Take steps to thin out over crowded perennials. Re-position taller plants that shade out the shorter ones. Move plants that have the wrong sun exposure to one more favorable to their needs.
6.The desired effect from your newly re-designed garden should be similar to a ‘Slow Marching Parade’; like the Thanksgiving Day Parade, something exciting is happening all the while it travels along its route. Something exciting and eye catching will be be blooming or growing in your garden continuously through each season.
February’s ‘to-do’ list:
Have you noticed, we are moving back into the light? As of February 1st, we will be experiencing almost 10 hours of daylight; by the end of the month, we will be receiving over 11 hours. If you have noticed the change; your plants have noticed too. Don’t forget to resume diluted weekly applications of fertilizer for your houseplants; half strength liquid fertilizer each time you water; during the last week of the month use just plain water. To help perk up your houseplants, and remove unwanted pests; give your smooth leaved houseplants a shower. This helps to keep their pores open and able to breathe. Fuzzy leaved houseplants, like African Violets, prefer to stay dry.
Late winter snow storms are often wet and icy. Remember to shake off evergreen branches weighed down by ice and snow. If you should happen to get some broken branches, be sure to prune off the stump cleanly. A ragged tear will inhibit proper healing, and invite infection from pathogenic organisms.
Continue pruning ornamental and fruiting trees. Always remove broken or diseased looking wood. Now is the time to safely prune grape vines, leaving 7-10 buds per fruiting cane. Don’t prune shrubs that bloom in early spring now, or risk losing some blooms. Don’t miss the opportunity for dormant pruning. Please call the office now to get on the schedule.
Minimize winter burn damage by using an anti-desiccant spray. Winter burn of susceptible evergreens is most likely to occur during February, more than any other month. The 3-way punch of strong winds, frozen soil, and bright late winter sun, sets up conditions that can lead to leaf burn or browning. Choose a spray period when the temperatures will stay above freezing for 24 hours, and follow the label instructions for your product.
Two great gardening events coming up:
Amherst Orchid Society’s annual Orchid Show and sale, Feb. 23rd-24th, 2019, at Smith Vocational High School, 80 Locust St Northampton, MA.
Smith College Spring Bulb Show, Mar. 2nd-17th 2019, Lyman Plant House, 16 College Lane, Northampton, MA.
What have the deer been up to? Has your yard become a deer diner? It’s never too late to begin thinking of strategies to protect your landscape investment. If you are truly fed up with deer browsing, it may be time to upgrade your deer protection, and replace or move plants.
Inspect and prepare your garden tools. Nothing beats a sharp blade to speed up garden chores like dead-heading, pruning, and hoeing. Before your garden life becomes hectic, take a morning to lubricate and hone your hard working tools. Inventory your garden essentials, and set reminders to order soil, compost, or mulch, and to schedule the ‘heavy jobs’ like gutter cleaning, spring clean ups, and lawn renovation.
Grow your own winter greens right on your window sill!
Instead of throwing away your kitchen scraps, re-cycle them into growing plants! This can be a fun way for kids to start growing (and eating their veggies)! Beets, carrots, turnips, can all be grown for their nutritious leafy greens, on your window sill. The leafy greens are excellent sources of essential vitamins and fiber and iron, and are great in salads, stir-fry or steamed.
Next time you shop, buy your bunches of beets, carrots or turnips with the tops still attached. Cut the tops off the beet, carrot or turnip, leaving about 1/2’” of root vegetable. Trim off the tops, and place the vegetable root-side-down, in a dish of water. Place the dish in a sunny window. You’ll be amazed how much they can grow in only a short time.
Similar results can be achieved with a variety of other typical kitchen veggies. Leeks and other members of the onion family can be grown for the sprouted shoots. Instead of throwing out the root end of the leek, trim back any extra roots so it can sit flat in a dish of water. You can place several together in one dish, and place the dish in a sunny area. Harvest the shoots as they grow.
Bok Choy, Lettuce and Cabbage and Celery can also provide free food throughout the winter. Instead of throwing away the bottom white part of the Celery, Cabbage, Lettuce or Bok Choy place it in a glass or small bowl with a couple of inches of water. In about 2-3 weeks you will see roots starting to grow; a new plant will grow from the center. At that time you may transplant it into soil.
Recycled Romaine Lettuce
It is recommended that the water be changed every few days, and misting the leaves occasionally will help with indoor humidity. Depending on your indoor temperature, growing times may be plus or minus my averages.
When all the leaves dropped last fall I noticed that birds had built nests in many of the trees I have planted around my house. I strive to create a bird friendly environment, with accessible water, un-mowed, and mowed areas, and a lot of trees and shrubs for food, and protection. So if you provide the resources, birds will follow. Some of their favorite trees and shrubs are:
Cornus florida: Flowering Dogwood, is the princess of the New England woods. No less than 28 species of birds eat the Dogwood fruit. This native tree requires consistently moist soil, and dappled shade to do its best. Flowers are available in shades of white, pink or red. Develops good fall leaf coloration. Can grow to 35’ tall x 20’ wide, but more typical is 20-25’ tall x 15’ wide.
Cornus florida fruit
Malus spp: The apple family, most bear some kind of fruit that will attract many kinds of birds and mammals through the winter. Malus will also provide rich nectar for butterflies and hummingbirds. There is a specimen for every sized garden; mature sizes can range from 6’ tall x 8’ wide for dwarf specimens, to 25’ tall x 15’ wide for standard sized trees. Best grown in full sun.
Malus ‘Donald Wyman’
Malus ‘Donald Wyman’ fruit
Crataegus phaenopyrum, and Crataegus viridis: Washington and Green Hawthorns provide food and nesting sites for many native songbirds. Small mammals will eat the Hawthorn fruit too. It is also considered an outstanding small stature tree for May blooms and summer/fall fruit. Develops good fall leaf coloration. Washington and Green Hawthorns can grow to 25-30’ tall x 20’ wide. Likes full sun to partial shade, native. Their thorns can be 1-3” long, so plant away from high traffic areas.
Crataegus viridis ‘Winter King’
Crataegus viridis ‘Winter King’ fruit
Lindera benzoin: Spicebush earns its name from its fragrant sap; crush a leaf to release the pungent odor. Lindera is very attractive to migrating birds for the high fat content fruit it develops. The Spicebush is the host plant for the native Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly, which lay their eggs on the leaves. Attractive greenish-yellow flowers are borne in April. The fall leaf color is brilliant neon yellow. Slow growing shrub can reach 6-12’ tall by 6-12’ wide. Likes full sun to part shade, native.
Lindera benzoin fall color
Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly
Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus: Native Coralberry or Buckbrush will develop into a spreading and arching shrub. Pale yellow flowers later develop into purplish-red hanging fruit, which will persist into winter. Symphoricarpos will tolerate poor soil and shade. Coralberry shrubs provide shelter, food, and nesting sites for both songbirds and game birds. Grows 2-5’ tall x 4-8’ wide.
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus fruit