Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Garden Tips of the Week

Bulbs~~March 12, 2014
Garden on March 2, 2015

It was cold and sleeting all day Sunday with icy roads as a result, so we were pretty much stuck inside.  I spent a good part of the day looking through gardening magazines and my garden journal, and thinking about my to-do list for the garden this spring.  While looking through my journal, I came across several tips written by Washington Post garden editor Adrian Higgins. I am a huge fan of his, and he's one of the reasons we still get the daily paper. Every Thursday I look forward to reading his column on gardening, as well as his weekly gardening tip. I often cut these tips out and paste them in my garden journal because I find them so useful. Here are some of his tips from the past, mainly ones that are geared toward winter and early spring. 

My garden journal

~~If the ground is not frozen, winter is a good time to check for excessive soil moisture in garden beds and turf areas, which may be the reason for poor plant performance or weed infestation. After a period of dry weather, use a sharp planting shovel, a sturdy trowel or a long-handled bulb planter to dig down at least six inches. Soil that is consistently waterlogged or soft will present problems for many plants. Fixes include installing drains, building raised beds or planting trees, shrubs and perennials that tolerate wet soil.~~December 31, 2014

~~Mild winter days are perfect for beating back winter weeds that are now growing and will become a nightmare in early spring if left unchecked. Clear seedlings with a sharp hoe and spread a thin layer of shredded leaves or compost to prevent further germination.~~January 15

~~Birds need fresh water for drinking and bathing in winter. An elevated birdbath will attract a range of songbird species, but it should be refreshed with tap water at least twice a week. Immersion heaters are available to prevent freezing. If possible, place a feeder near shrubbery to provide cover against cats and hawks.~~January 20, 2015

~~Many fungal disease organisms spend the winter as spores on last year's leaves. It is important to clean up fallen leaves and dead plants that could harbor various blights.~~December 31, 2013

~~Take advantage of mild, dry winter days to get a jump on soil work. If beds are not waterlogged or frozen, you can add compost or other organic amendments to enrich and lighten the soil.Spread amendments evenly and then dig them in with a spade or fork, working backward to avoid treading on freshly turned soil. You can return in March to cultivate and rake the soil smooth for planting.~~January 8, 2014

~~Begin to cut back the remaining top growth of last year’s perennials and grasses, especially if snowdrops and winter aconites are beginning to bloom. Sharp hedge shears are perfect for the job. This is also a good time to lift, divide and move grasses, before the appearance of spring growth.~~February 12, 2015

~~To avoid squirrels digging up spring bulbs — they may eat the tulips and crocuses — plant the bulbs more deeply than recommended (seven inches is a good depth) and pack the backfilled soil with the back of a hoe. Hide signs of soil disturbance with a thin layer of mulch. In containers, cover the bulbs and their soil with a generous rodent-thwarting layer of gravell.~~October 22, 2014

~~Winter weeds are waiting for mild March weather to flower and seed; pull or hoe such pesky species as chickweed, speedwell, bittercress and henbit. Stay out of beds that are waterlogged.~~February12, 2014 

~~Winter jasmine, often confused with forsythia, blooms on and off through the winter but will finish with a floral flourish in early April. Old thick mounds can be rejuvenated by a hard prune after flowering. Use lopping shears to cut them back to just a few inches above the ground. Vigorous fresh growth will return, along with next winter’s flowers. Stems that have tip-rooted can be dug and potted up and given away.~~March 12, 2014

~~As part of the pre-spring cleanup, ornamental grasses should be cut back before fresh growth emerges from the crown. The old top growth should be cut back at about two inches above the soil line. Hedge shears work well. Work on clumps in sections. On hilly sites, begin from the uphill side for a better view of the cut.~~January 22,  2014

~~Don’t wait until spring to set into motion garden projects that involve hiring stonemasons, carpenters, painters or other contractors. It can take weeks to get estimates and schedule work, especially if building permits are required. The early bird might also get a break on prices.~~January 29, 2014

~~Tree and shrub branches that have been damaged by ice and snow should be removed before new spring growth for the health and look of the plant. Remove the damaged stem back to the nearest branch or leader, leaving the natural swelling or collar at the join. Lopping shears will handle smaller branches. Use a pruning saw for thicker ones, but leave branches that are large, high or near power lines to an arborist.~~February 19, 2014

~~Pine trees shed old needles in the fall.  Needle clusters closest to the trunk naturally turn yellow and fall in advance of fresh growth next spring. This is not a sign of distress. Fallen pine needles can be gathered and used as a light mulch. Keep them stored dry in leaf bags for use in next season’s vegetable garden.~~December 4,  2013

~~In winter, songbirds still require sources of water for drinking and bathing. Make sure birdbaths are replenished on days with temperatures above freezing, and changed regularly. An immersion-style water heater will keep the water from freezing but doesn’t negate the need to change the water. Don’t use antifreeze.~~January 22,  2015

~~Forming a crisp edge between the lawn and plant beds is a simple way to freshen the yard in spring. Use a sharp spade to create a one- to two-inch deep vertical edge between the grass and the bed. Guide the line first with string pinned with long nails. If you attempt to eyeball the line, the edge will look crooked.~~April 9, 2014

~~As part of the late-winter cleanup, avoid the temptation to cut back ragged-looking lavender plants. A hard prune will kill this herb. Wait until fresh growth appears in April for a light trim of dead wood. Similarly, a lavender that appears dead from the harsh winter might resprout in a few weeks. Be patient.~~March 19, 2014

~~For a jump on spring, cut stems of early flowering trees for forcing indoors. Saucer magnolias, flowering cherries, apricots, quince and forsythia can be cut for the vase. Make fresh cuts whenever the water is changed — at the first sign of clouding. Wait until month’s end to force apple and dogwood blossoms.~~March 7, 2013

~~Winter weeds are in flower, offering a final chance for the gardener to destroy them before they produce seeds for next year. Hoe or pull henbit, bittercress, chickweed, speedwell and annual bluegrass.~~March 20, 2013

~~Mulch should be applied as a thin layer — no more than two inches deep — to conserve moisture and minimize weeds. It should not be used to smother the garden. Thick layers become a growing medium for plant roots, with disastrous results as the mulch rots away. Mulch must not be mounded against the trunk of a tree; this common but misguided practice damages vital bark.~~May 7, 2014

~~Birdhouses or nest boxes should be constructed, purchased or, in the case of existing boxes, repaired and cleaned out in advance of spring nesting season. Wrens and chickadees are among species drawn to birdhouses that are correctly sized and positioned. ~~February 19, 2015

~~Final call to prune rosebushes: Use thick gloves and lopping shears to remove dead, weak and conflicting canes. Keep about half a dozen canes around an open center and cut them back to about 18 inches, just above an outward facing bud. Remove any suckering canes emerging from the soil. ~~March 26, 2014

~~Tying and braiding daffodil foliage will reduce the energy the leaves put into restoring and increasing bulbs for next year. A hoop of green string will tidy a splayed clump. Long-established daffodils that are weak bloomers should be lifted, divided and replanted in a sunny and well-drained location in full sun or partial shade. Do this in about a month’s time as the leaves fade.~~ May 14, 2014

~~Sweet basil should not be planted out until nighttime temperatures are consistently in the 50s or warmer. Plants in hand can be grown together in 12-inch or larger pots. Bring them under cover on cool nights. In May, transfer the basil to garden beds or keep it as a handy container-grown plant. Buy more for your garden beds. Small ones will grow vigorously in the heat of the next few weeks.~~April 23,  2014

~~A fungal disease named clematis wilt results in the sudden collapse of budding clematis stems. Cleanly cut entire affected stems — the afflicted plant should regrow for blooming next year. To minimize its recurrence, be careful not to damage fragile stems, remove leaf litter from the base of the plant, and apply a fungicide labeled for this treatment. The best remedy is to select a planting site with good air circulation and to choose clematis varieties less prone to the disease, such as small flowering hybrids and species.~~ April 30,  2014

~~Stake peonies now to prevent flopping caused by wind and rain. Plastic-coated wire grids work well to prevent storm flattening. The type of peony materially affects a grid’s performance: Single or semi-double flowered varieties fare better than top-heavy double varieties with a high petal count.~~May 15,  2013

~~Container-grown tomato plants should be of the determinate type, which are more compact than garden vining tomatoes. Place a cage or stake in the pot when the tomato is still young to avoid later damage. Popular and high-performing varieties include Patio Princess, La Roma, Red Robin and Bush Early Girl. Buy small transplants, which will establish better than larger ones already in flower.~~May 28, 2014

1 comment:

  1. I'm finally catching up on my blog reading, and this post is wonderful. So much good information here! Thanks, Ellen. xoxo