Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Protect new plantings

If you haven’t chucked out your Christmas tree, use loppers or a saw to cut off the branches and place a light layer of those branches over shallow-rooted plants in your garden. The branches help to shade the plants, preventing thawing of the soil around the plants and damage to the roots when it refreezes. Have an artificial tree? Your neighbor may be thrilled to share their fresh-cut one. Any evergreen branches from fallen trees, or that you used to decorate around your house will also help plantings survive our freeze and thaw cycles — the most dangerous part of winter for most plants.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

It’s tool clean-up time

If you haven’t already cleaned up your tools for winter, do so now. It’s much easier to take a morning or afternoon now to remove dirt and rust from gardening tools than it will be in the spring. After they are clean and dry, sharpen any tools if necessary. Then coat the metal parts with oil and give the wood a thin layer of wax. In the spring, you’ll be happy you took the time now. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

December gardening chores

Here are some December outside chores: Put a leaf or pine needle mulch over any beds of perennials. Place pine needles over strawberry beds and cut down and dispose of raspberry and blackberry canes that fruited this year. Allow leaves to remain under bushes both as protection for the roots and as a home for many moths and butterflies that spend the winter in the leaves. In the spring, those caterpillars will provide food for the birds as well as beauty for your garden.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The extreme drought continues...

New England’s drought worsened in November. As the map from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows, conditions have not been improved by our November rains, and extreme drought now covers more of the region than a month ago. Areas in red are more than ten inches below normal in rainfall for 2016; gold areas are down between eight and ten inches.
What should you do now?  If a plant’s roots are dry, it will be much less able to withstand winter. Because the ground is still not yet frozen, you can help your plants: using a hose or bucket, thoroughly soak the root zone of every tree or shrub you have planted during the past two years.   (Be sure to create a ring around the tree of mulch or soil to hold the water in place so it does not run off).  Ideally, you need to put ten gallons on each shrub over two or three waterings, and up to twenty gallons on each tree.   In four or five days, repeat the process.  The goal is to fill the roots and branches (and, on evergreens, the leaves) with as much water as possible before the ground freezes in December.  Watering after the ground has frozen will do no good.
In December, after you have watered all your woody plants, spray the branches of them with Wilt-Pruf or another product designed to prevent the loss of moisture from the buds on deciduous trees and shrubs (those that lose their leaves), and on the leaves and needles of your evergreen trees and shrubs.  Again, this keeps them from drying out during the winter.  Once the ground has frozen, they cannot take up more water and need to hold on to what they have.  Spray only when the temperature is above 40 degrees and try to repeat monthly through the winter.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Let them be

We’ve all been trained to cut our perennials to the ground in the fall. Now, experts confirm that, ecologically speaking, leaving those perennials in place is a better idea. Birds will eat the seeds on top of stalks throughout the winter. Native bees will over-winter in the hollow stems of many flowers. Some butterflies and other beneficial insects winter over in the leaf debris at the base of the plants or under shrubs. So, save yourself some time and, unless the perennial is diseased, leave it up for fall and winter.