Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Oh, Christmas Tree...

Your Christmas tree can have a second life.  
When it’s time to take down your tree, cut the branches from your tree (making it easier to remove from the house) and add them (or additional mulch) over the top of perennial beds and any plantings put in during the fall.  This will protect the plants during freeze and thaw cycles.  You don’t need to wait for a January thaw to put down branches:  place them on the snow atop those perennial beds. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Winter Protection for Roses

If you have roses, and temperatures at your home dip below 5˚F, you need to protect roses. Your goal is to lessen the effects of winter’s freezing and thawing cycle, and to keep the branches from whipping about which, in turn, causes roots to loosen. Reduce stress on roses going into the dormant season by irrigating adequately before the ground freezes.

Hybrid Teas, grandifloras and floribundas should be protected from winter damage after a killing frost but before the soil freezes. Reduce breakage of tall canes by winter winds by cutting them back to 24 to 30 inches and tying tips together. Remove dead and fallen leaves around the plants – cleanliness now helps reduce disease next year. Mound soil over the center of the plants in broad, rounded mounds 8 to 12 high and 12 inches wide. Never use soil from the bed—you are robbing the roots to save the crown. Cover the soil mounds with a mulch of leaves, straw, boughs, or some similar material.

An alternate way of protecting roses is to use a lighter material that will include many air pockets such as wood or bark mulch. In the spring, the mulch can be spread around the rose bed and won’t need to be carried away. Other rosarians prefer to construct wire mesh cylinders to surround each plant, which they fill with mulch, leaves or straw. Or, you may use rose cones (inverted paper maché or plastic baskets), or burlap to wrap individual plants. When the first signs of growth appear in the spring, carefully remove most of the mulch and soil from around the bases of plants.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Protecting Trees and Shrubs

Plants can be protected with wind screen or cages stuffed mulch, straw or leaves. Plants susceptible to branch break from heavy snow need special help. Tying branches together with heavy twine can be effective. For small plants, structures allow good air flow while preventing crushing snow loads from building up.

If you have tightly wrapped your plants in burlap or plastic to protect from breakage from wind, heavy snow or road salt, undo it now! Wrapped plants can suffer heat stress on warm days, and become a cozy home for bark gnawing rodents. Wrap them instead in plastic “chicken wire” style fencing. The plastic is nearly invisible to you but thwarts the dining deer, keeps branches from damage from heavy snow loads, and allows the cold air to flow through your plants making life less comfy for rodents and wintering insects.

For plants near roads where they may be doused by road chemicals, set up a burlap barrier to stop the damage. And, in the spring, remove the soil cover under affected plants and replace it with fresh, clean (salt-free) mulch.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Those leaves are your friends

The late-October nor’easter accelerated the seasonal leaf drop across all of New England. Don’t be discouraged and rake the leaves away. Any leaves not chopped up the first time the lawn is mowed will be taken care of as you continue mowing the lawn until the ground begins to freeze at the end of the month. Remember the leaves will add nutrients and improve the soil with no cost and very little extra work on your part. Leaves that fall on driveways and sidewalks can be raked up for use in compost bins, or chipped with a mower and used under shrubs and around perennials for winter protection.

Mow short now. Cool temperatures slow growth so, by Thanksgiving you can usually do your last mowing of the season. Do it short (1 1/2 to 2 inches). Leave the clippings and mowed leaves in place. They will completely break down over winter giving the lawn a booster shot of nutrients in the spring.