Winter was in a hurry to get here this year, wasn’t it? As the leaves fall lazily to the ground, so the pace of gardening slows. We get a chance to rest and get recharged for a new year of gardening. Well, we are almost ready … here are a few things to consider.
Fallen leaves make a great soil amendment, mulch or compost additive. Left to overwinter on lawns or evergreen plants, they block needed sunlight and could foster disease.
Established plants will not need to be watered more than once every two or three weeks in the absence of rain. Winter berry-producing plants like hollies may need more water if conditions are dry. New transplants need to be monitored to be sure soil remains moist, not wet. Again, the frequency will be less than those planted at warmer times of the year.
Shrubs, trees and perennials can be planted on mild days all winter long. A good layer of mulch will help moderate soil temperatures. By the time summer arrives, the root system will be more capable of supporting plant processes during those brutal triple-digit temperatures that we know will return.
Top growth has died on many of our perennials and ornamental grasses. All can be cut back and mulched to protect the crown of the plants or left for wildlife value. Winter is one of my favorite seasons for enjoying the grasses. The plumage and movement are beautiful components of the winter landscape.
Once the last of the leaves have been mulched/collected by the lawn mower, it can be drained, cleaned and have the blade sharpened for next year. Rust on tools can be removed with a steel brush, and oil will inhibit more oxidation. Wooden handles will benefit from conditioning with oil (sanding first if wood is rough). Sharpening the blades on my hoes, pruners, etc. is a satisfying activity for me when I am not so rushed to get outside. It may be the only time I know just where all my tools are located, too, so maybe that is why.
This is a great time to get outside and take pictures of your landscape. Photos really expose weaknesses in design and highlight what works well, especially now, when the “bare bones” are visible. If you keep a garden journal and continue season by season and year by year, you will be able to mark the progress all your hard work has accomplished and be reminded about what you don’t want to repeat.
Maybe the most fun early winter “work” is sitting by the fireplace with a cup of coffee and some seed catalogs. The most popular selections are often sold out by the time procrastinators start looking. This might require a long afternoon or two, but, hey, someone has to do it.
If you have any gardening questions, you can reach the Big Country Master Gardener Association’s hotline by calling the Taylor County AgriLife Extension Office at 325-672-6048. Email us at [email protected] We love to hear from you.
Until next time, happy gardening!
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Frankie Muzio, organic gardener and owner of Frankie’s Organic Fruits and Vegetables Market in North Haven, provided a program about how to use praying mantis and other organic techniques to raise healthy fruits and vegetables. Frankie has been using organic gardening for many years and encourages home gardeners to learn more about how to be successful with this approach.
The use of praying mantis in the garden is one of the key elements in Frankie’s approach to gardening. Mantis have an enormous appetite the moment they hatch from their egg case. As young mantis, they eat aphids, leafhoppers, mosquitoes, caterpillars and other soft-bodied insects. As they mature, their appetite also grows and they eat larger insects, including ticks, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, and many other pests.
Fall is the perfect time to look for the egg case that the mantis lay on shrubs. They especially like to use weeds such as mug wort and golden rod, but the egg cases can be found on a wide variety of plants and items. They can be wintered over in the garden shed to protect the eggs from being destroyed by predators. A mesh container designed for praying mantis provides a safe place to keep the egg case. As the weather warms in the spring, place the egg case out in your garden so the babies can begin eating as soon as they hatch. Frankie reports that his garden remains free of most pests because the mantis are numerous and active.
In addition to praying mantis, Frankie also recommends using diatomaceous earth (DE) for natural insect control. This is a dust made from crushed freshwater diatoms, the fossilized remains of marine phytoplankton, that will cause soft bodied insects to get cut by the minute sharp crystals and die, yet the dust feels soft to us and does not cut our skin. DE can also kill insects such as fleas, ants, bedbugs, and cockroaches, which have an exoskeleton, because it can work its way under the shell and puncture the body. There are no chemicals in the product and it is safe for organic gardening. Food grade quality is recommended, not the DE that is used for swimming pool maintenance. You will find more details about using DE in the garden and home available on the Internet.
Daytime Gardeners of North Haven is a member of the Federated Garden Clubs of CT, Inc., New England Garden Clubs, Inc., and National Garden Clubs, Inc. New members are always welcome. For information on our activities and membership, email [email protected], and be sure to visit us on Facebook at Daytime Gardeners of North Haven.
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DUQUOIN, Ill. — Although she claims to have something less than a green thumb, Du Quoin’s Karen Glynn she has always enjoyed gardening.
After retiring from a career as a college professor, Glynn taught business, marketing and consumer behavior at the University of Northern Iowa and DePaul University, she and her husband retired in Du Quoin.
In retirement, Glynn returned to her figurative roots, earning Master Gardener status. Earlier his year, she was named an Outstanding Master Gardener by the University of Illinois Extension Service.
“I’ve gardened all my life,” she said. “My husband and I retired down here 10 years ago from the Chicago area. In Chicago we lived in an apartment. Beyond house plants, we didn’t do anything. We have a small corner lot, a small. It’s perfect for us for playing around and doing what we want.”
The Master Gardener program is administered through the U of I Extension Service. Applicants take a 16-week course.
“It starts out with basic botany,” Glynn said. “After you get through with the botany and soil, to soil nutrients, into types of plants, perennials, annuals, shrubbery, turf. It’s very comprehensive. There is enough there you can make it whatever you want. You can keep it very fluffy, or you can get really into how do I communicate very complex concepts.”
She said the program was perfect for her needs.
“It serves three things I require — it had to have an intellectual capacity, you can really get into the botany and science and things, or you can keep it within ‘that’s really a pretty flower,’” she said. “Another requirement for me is it had to have a physical component. The last reason, I wanted something with a social component. It’s very social. There are only 12 master gardeners in Perry County. We do a lot of programming. That’s fun, I enjoy that, developing programs for kids.”
And, it is the service component that results in a person being named an Outstanding Master Gardener.
“We ran a part of a program that a colleague of mine put together in the Du Quoin public schools,” Glynn said. “It was a six-week program through the auspices of the 4-H. We took them through basic botany. We had digital microscopes. We took seed, different types of soil, seed germination. We dissected seeds that were germinating and just examined these all pretty closely.
“We provided grow bags for them. They took their plants home and they enjoyed it a lot. They like taking flowers apart. It’s quite fun under the microscope.”
Despite the accolades, Glynn said lack of rain in September and early October took a toll on her garden.
“Right now, it’s pretty horrible,” she said. “It’s been so dry and it’s the end of the season. It was quite lovely. I have some pictures from earlier this summer. I’ve contracted my gardening since I’ve gotten older. I have four raised beds and a little arbor.
“I’m doing primarily the native flowers, the blazing stars, the angelonias. Those are kind of fun to work with. I have a couple different varieties of black-eyed susans, a dwarf and other species. One of the big endeavors is we take care of the gardens in front of the grandstand at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds.”
Participating in the Master Gardener program has not only provided mental and physical exercise for Glynn, but has also given her a deeper appreciation for her adopted home.
“It gives me a deeper appreciation of Southern Illinois,” she said. “I knew about Giant City. I knew nothing about the Cache. I maintain two pollinator plots for them (at the Cache River Wetlands Center). I didn’t know anything about the Cache, period. I was like ‘my goodness, cypress trees.’ That was a sheer pleasure. We have a very beautiful area we live in. And, also, to give back to the communities, to promote our communities to each other.”
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QUESTION: Is there no hope for a rose that has the rosette disease? Can I cut away the stems that are affected? I hate to lose this rose bush, as it is an old fashioned rose that has been in our family many years.
ANSWER: You can cut it back hard and try to save it. However, if the rose rosette disease comes back next year, it will be time to replace it with something other than a rose.
QUESTION: When is the optimal time to prune my landscape boxwood and holly bushes plus some small trees that are also in the beds? Additionally, when should my gardenia and knock out rose bushes be trimmed. They are very leggy and unattractive right now. Should azalea bushes be trimmed in the spring or can they withstand a light trimming now?
ANSWER: These are good questions, because there are different times to do your pruning, depending on the type of plants you have. The best time to prune holly and boxwood is late February, just before they start to make their new growth. As evergreens, they need their leaves through the winter to help insulate the stems from the cold.
Small deciduous trees can be pruned any time after they have gone dormant this fall. Once they have dropped their leaves, you’ll be able to see the limb structure and trim them the way you want. As for your roses, you can cut back very leggy stems now, but the major pruning on them should be done in February. By mid-February, you should see small red leaf buds developing on the stems. When those buds get ¼ to ½ inch long, it’s time to do your serious rose pruning. Lastly, your azaleas and gardenia already have their buds for next spring’s blooms. Consequently, you should hold off on any needed pruning on them until after they finish blooming in the spring.
QUESTION: About a year ago, I lost a 20-year old Bradford Pear tree in a wind storm. All summer long, I was continuously removing as many as 10 sprouts a day growing off of the surface roots. My question is: How do I stop these sprouts, or will they stop themselves over a period of time?
ANSWER: Since your tree was alive when it blew over, the roots are still trying to produce leaves to produce food. It does take some patience, but the sprouts will eventually stop, if you keep removing them as soon as they pop up. By preventing them from producing leaves, the roots will gradually starve to death. Since your Bradford is deciduous, it’s dormant now, and you shouldn’t have any more sprouts until next spring.
QUESTION: We have had what appears to be English Ivy growing in our yard and up the two large hackberry trees there. Having pulled all the vines off the trees and up from the ground, we would appreciate any advice on how to keep the area ivy-free. The area on the ground is about 50’ X 40’. Having heard negative reports on Roundup, I would rather you recommend something different.
ANSWER: If you plan to grow grass in that area, once the ivy is gone, you could use a selective broadleaf herbicide, used to control broadleaf weeds in turf. Right now, you can cut the ivy to the ground, removing all of the leaves. In the spring, the ivy will sprout and you can treat it with the herbicide when its new leaves are about the size of a quarter. The disadvantage to many broadleaf herbicides is they leave a residual in the soil that can affect shallow rooted plants growing under the treated area. Also, you cannot plant grass in the treated area for a couple months. Be sure to use a product that will not hurt grass, and not a “total vegetation” control product.
Of course, the most organic control is to mow the ivy to the ground and prevent it from coming back, by continuing to mow it. By not allowing it to make mature leaves, the roots will eventually starve to death, due to lack of photosynthesis.
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