2018, November 2018, What to do in the garden

Take care of tender perennials

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It’s starting to get colder, and soon the snow will start to fall. This is great for the plants, as snow is an excellent insulator. But what if it doesn’t snow? What if it’s just really cold for awhile, first? Straight – up cold can be devastating for perennials, especially tender ones that are at the limit of their cold hardiness, or new ones that got planted late.

What to do? Well, it’s better to hedge your bets and give your most precious plants some protection than just hope that there will be snow. This doesn’t mean anything too complicated – just cover the crowns of the plants with salt-marsh hay, or evergreen tree boughs. (You can supplement these later with boughs cut off your Christmas tree, if you have one.)

Roses can also benefit from a little cover. Plastic fencing or chicken-wire, wrapped around them, and stuffed with leaves works well. You can also buy things made especially for roses, but then you have to figure out where to store them the rest of the year. But in the end, it’s up to you. Anything you can do to help the plants will be greatly appreciated by them, and they will reward you in kind in the summer.

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February 2018, Garden ramblings

Snow fertilizer

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When I get to this point in the winter I am like a petulant child on a long road trip. “Are we THERE yet? How much LONGER?” I have been patient, and now I’m ready for things to wind down and to start to be able to think about working outside. It’s a bit soon, however, and so, like the child in the car, I must think of distractions to keep my impatience at arm’s length.

I am definitely a fan of thinking ahead and doing things now that will make life easier in the future. I always put the Christmas lights away carefully so that they won’t be a nightmare to unwrap next year, for example. Well, Mother Nature does that sort of thing, too. The snow, while nicely insulating the plants, also provides needed nitrogen for the soil.

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Nitrogen is essential for plant growth. It can get into the soil in a number of ways; through the decomposition of plant and animal wastes, through the planting of plants in the bean family which fix Nitrogen in their roots, and even as the result of lightning! And, of course, there is man-made fertilizer. But snow collects nitrogen from the atmosphere as it falls, and then slowly releases it into the soil, so while it may be a pain to shovel, it is actually doing its job as a pre-emergent fertilizer of sorts.

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While that, perhaps, isn’t enough to make the child in the back seat stop whining completely, it is at least enough to make me feel like snow has a purpose in the garden. And you have to admit, it is beautiful. So while we aren’t THERE, yet, perhaps there is still some of the journey left to be enjoyed.

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