Neighborly Garden News
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Top 7 gardening trends for 2021!
As we enter the third decade of the 21st century where will our gardening imagination take us? New innovative ideas will always be fresh and fun. How will you ‘kick it up a notch’ in your garden this season?
- Urban gardening. Gardeners come from all places, and we have learned a garden can be created just about anywhere. If you’re lucky enough to have a terrace, the space is yours to plant. Many folks make-do with their fire escape or humble windowsill.
- Raised beds have never gone out of style. They are an indispensible element if you garden in the colder and wetter areas of the country. Utilizing raised beds allows you to plant your garden much earlier than if you garden directly in the ground. Maintaining and harvesting is much simpler too.
- Outdoor Living Rooms. Part of our adjustment to life in a pandemic, is to do more living out-of-doors, to facilitate safe spaces. While maintaining proper social distancing, we can continue to socialize, dine, and enjoy our family and friends in the relative safety of the outdoors. By adding in the elements of comfortable seating, a heat source, and weather resistant speakers for music, or streaming; you’ve created a welcoming outdoor space.
- Garden Accessories. Pantones’ colors of the year for 2021 are ‘Ultimate Grey’ and ‘Illuminating’ (a bright, clear yellow) can make interesting accents in your garden. The grey color would make a great neutral color for a fence. Sunny yellow flower pots can really brighten up your patio, or deck. Get handy and paint your tired chairs a dazzling yellow, or the cool grey. Your choices are limitless.
- Outdoor Kitchens. Newer home designs have created large, spacious kitchens for family and friends to gather in, as the meal prep and cooking are in progress. The cook is no longer segregated into their lonely kitchen by themselves. As we continue to avoid indoor gathering, creating an outdoor kitchen can help keep people safe, by moving the meal prep and cooking outside. Having an outdoor kitchen has been practiced in the south for generations. It is just too darned hot for most of the year to be by the stove inside. Whether you choose to simply move the food prep outside, and cook on your steadfast grill, or acquire a portable stovetop, and oven arrangement, cooking in the great outdoors can be like a camping adventure for adults.
- Smart Gardening. High tech gadgets have come into our gardening sphere. You may already be familiar with Bluetooth enabled watering devices; these can be programmed and initiated from your phone. But did you know there are also robotic lawnmowers? These amazing machines are fully programmed right out of the box, and can mow a designated area of your lawn when you tell it to. It ‘knows’ to get back to its base when it senses rain, or if the battery needs recharging. Another fun device for ‘brown thumbs’ is the wireless plant sensor. This tool will automatically sense the moisture, sun, and fertility levels of your indoor or outdoor plants, and relay this information right to your smart phone. You will always be aware of the health status of your plants, and be ready to provide the best care for them.
- Create a ‘Wellness Paradise’ in your yard. Think about installing an outdoor sauna, or spa tub. The benefits of these can’t be overstated. I won’t go on about the health benefits of using a sauna or spa whirlpool tub, but I will say that they can make you feel terrific. In my mind, anything that feels great, doesn’t make you gain weight or isn’t illegal, is a good thing. There are kits to build your own sauna available online. Some whirlpool spas are portable; you need only fill them with water, and plug them in to an electrical outlet. My husband used to enjoy relaxing in the spa tub, and then jumping into the snow. Talk about invigorating!
February’s ‘to-do’ list
Have you noticed that 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 of light. I’m sure you have noticed the change; your plants have noticed too. Resume diluted weekly applications of fertilizer for your houseplants; half strength liquid fertilizer a few times each week, followed by plain water for the next few days. To help perk up your houseplants, and remove unwanted pests; give your smooth leaved houseplants a shower. This helps to keep their pores open, remove unwanted dust from their leaves, and allows them to breathe! Fuzzy leaved houseplants, like African Violets, prefer to stay dry.
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 hardworking tools. Inventory your garden essentials, and set reminders to order soil and compost, or mulch, and to schedule the ‘heavy jobs’ like gutter cleaning, spring clean ups, and lawn renovation.
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.
Late winter snow storms often bring heavy wet snow and ice. 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 contact the office now to get on the schedule. firstname.lastname@example.org
Check to see that protective mulch has not been heaved up and off your garden beds. If you wrapped your shrubs in protective covering, make sure it has not become loose and pulled away, leaving vulnerable plants exposed to harsh winds. Is there any sign of animal damage/browsing? Hardware cloth wrapped around the trunk or stems can limit what damage they can do. There’s still an opportunity to apply animal repellent, if they’ve been a nuisance in your yard. Please call our office to schedule an application: (413) 458-5586
Ordinarily I would suggest getting out to some of our lovely local greenhouses for a dose of winter warmth, and greenery; but this year all greenhouses are closed to the public. Instead, may I suggest taking a virtual tour of some of the worlds renowned gardens:
Learning new skills is said to help promote brain health. Perhaps this winter may be a perfect opportunity to learn to identify the trees and shrubs in our area. Trees have very distinct identifying features; even during winter. Each species of trees’ unique bud, bark, and twig formation, make identification straightforward and fun. Some books to explore: Identification of Trees and Shrubs in Winter Using Buds and Twigs- by Bernd Schulz (Author), Monika Shaffer-Fehre (translator)Identifying Trees: An All-Season Guide to the Eastern United States by Michael D. Williams.
Growing terrific tomatoes!
Get ready for tomato season! If you grow tomatoes from seed, like I do, you will want to start them indoors early next month. You will need to order your seeds now, for the best selection. You can also pre-order selected tomato plants to ship at the correct planting time for your area.
Growing great tomatoes require the 4 S’s, sun, space, soil, and staking. Tomatoes have a tropical origin, and love warm weather; be sure to plant them where they’ll receive at least 8+ hours of sun, and don’t set out the young plants too early. Wait until night time temperatures are above 55 degrees. There is no advantage to setting you plants out super early, unless you can provide them with nighttime protection from the cold. Indeterminate varieties of tomatoes grow like a vine and need tall support, like a sturdy 5 foot stake or trellis. Staking helps keep the fruit off the ground, and protected from rot, slugs or voles. Determinate or bush varieties are easily grown in a ‘tomato cage’ to protect the fruit, and keep the plant from drooping under the weight of the fruit.
It’s tempting to squeeze that extra tomato plant in the row, but generous spacing, to allow airflow and good sun exposure, really helps minimize potential disease problems. Space the staked tomatoes 2’ apart in the row, with 3’ between rows. I like to use a Velcro tie to attach them to their stake, so I don’t have to fumble tying the plants to stakes. It’s re-useable too.
Tomatoes need the soil pH (the acidity of the soil) to be in the 6.0-6.6 range. Add ¾ cup of pulverized garden lime at transplant time to help sweeten the soil, and reduce the incidence of ‘blossom end rot’. This syndrome is caused by a nutrient deficiency of calcium, and not from an infectious agent. My Grandmother used to believe in the power of aged horse manure to feed her tomato plants. Neither composted manure nor garden compost is very fertile; only 1:1:1 (NPK). Compost has other important benefits; adding microorganisms, organic matter, and buffering pH, which make using compost a good addition to soil maintenance.
Symptoms of Blossom End Rot syndrome
Getting a simple soil analysis allows you to gauge what concentration of fertilizer to apply. If you don’t know how fertile your soil is, using a slow release fertilizer alone, which many organic formulations are, might not give you the results you want. Tomatoes need extra nutrition when they are just setting fruit. Using a liquid fertilizer, like fish emulsion with kelp, can give them an easily absorbed feed of nitrogen and essential minerals. You can apply the fish emulsion to both the root zone, and the leaves. The liquid fertilizer can be absorbed by the leaves as well as the roots, and will also boost the plants immunity to certain pathogens. Do remember to twist off the suckers that tend to grow from the base of the plant. Extraneous suckers compete with the main plant stem for nutrients and sun.
Removing the tomato suckers
Mulching helps the growing process, by suppressing weeds, and maintaining soil moisture. Without consistent soil moisture, the plant can’t circulate the fertilizer and lime throughout the plant effectively. Tomatoes are pretty drought tolerant and a deep watering 1-2X per week is all that is needed. Rainy weather or overwatering may produce cracked fruit that rots. I use my untreated grass clippings as mulch, but black plastic sheeting, craft paper, or straw works well too.
Heirlooms vs. hybrid tomatoes? Heirlooms are a novelty, but you get more predictable results with a hybrid. Particularly if you’ve had some little disease flare-ups, choose a variety bred for resistance to that problem. I also find that hybrids are more consistently productive over a wider range of growing conditions. There are so many varieties and categories of tomatoes available these days, you are sure to find many that will tempt you to grow them.
So many new and unusual plant introductions this year stand to make 2021 a bountiful year for gardeners. Although we are still experiencing limited ability to shop, there has been a huge increase in online shopping availability. All these plants are available to order online, and be shipped directly to you…
Berried Treasure Pink Strawberry is an ever blooming/bearing type fruit plant that has delightful double pink flowers, and luscious fruit. Why choose between growing flowers or fruit? This wonderful plant is both highly ornamental and it produces tasty fruit all summer long. Planting in a container will show off the fruit to best effect, but it can also be grown in gardens. The 12-16″ tall, mounding plants are just the right size for your patio pots or hanging baskets. Hardy to zone 4, Pink Strawberry requires full sun: also available as a white flowered variety.
Berried Treasure Pink Strawberry
Hydrangea arborescens ‘Invincibelle Garnetta’ this smooth hydrangea variety is an exciting color in the world of hydrangeas. The sturdy flowers will bloom for months, without flopping or deadheading. The silvery-pink-deep red flowers come out a little later than typical smooth hydrangea, and this will extend the blooming season. Invincibelle Garnetta’s compact size is perfect for containers or in beds. Hardy to zone 3, smooth hydrangea needs full sun to part sun/shade. Grows 30” tall x 30” wide at maturity.
Hydrangea arborescens ‘Invincibelle Garnetta’
Phlox paniculata Luminary ‘UltraViolet’, what’s not to love about tall garden Phlox, mildew, and other disease issues, that’s what. This new variety of Phlox is highly disease resistant, and the bold color is just unforgettable. Phlox add spectacular color, fragrance and substance to the summer garden. Phlox are attractive to pollinators, and provide many weeks of bloom. Grows 36” tall x 32” wide, and requires full to part sun.
Phlox paniculata Luminary ‘UltraViolet’
Philadelphus coronarius ‘Illuminati Arch’ is a modern form of the old fashioned Mock Orange shrub. This mainstay of older gardens was beloved for its delicious scent, but the plant wasn’t the prettiest in form, and habit. Illuminati Arch, instead, has an elegant, arching habit, sweetly fragrant flowers, and handsome, clean foliage that looks great all season. Imagine a fragrant hedge, or a striking specimen – or plant this shrub in your perennial garden and bring back those memories of Grandma’s garden! This hybrid Mock Orange will grow 48” tall x 48” wide at maturity, and will grow in full sun to part sun exposures.
Philadelphus coronarius ‘Illuminati Arch’