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Garden Solutions - December 2011

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Local Blogs - Hillermann Nursery & Florist
Monday, 05 December 2011

The month of December brings the holiday season and warm thoughts of family, friends and community. I would like to say "Thank You" and I wish you and yours a "Blessed Holiday Season" with all the best in the New Year! Furthermore, fall will turn into winter this month. With the addition of fire pits in our outdoor rooms, evenings outdoors can still be enjoyable sampling hot chocolate or cider with friends around the blaze of a comfortable warm fire. You can even gather the kids for the making of s'mores! Enjoy the crisp cool weather.

It may not always be the most comfortable time to be planting anything in your landscape, but it is a great time for the plants. Trees and shrubs are completely dormant now, so the concept of transplant shock does not apply. However, you do need to treat any new plantings the same now as you would if it were the middle of summer. New plantings need to be thoroughly watered in regardless of the weather conditions. If it is below freezing but the ground is not frozen, go ahead and plant, taking care to backfill the hole with as loose a soil mix as you can. As soon as the temperatures are back, above freezing go back to your new plantings and water them in. If you have spring bulbs that you have not planted in the ground yet, you need to make that a priority. A little bone or blood meal placed over the planting areas will help keep the squirrels away from your bulbs. They are also great additives for your bulbs.

Leaf removal is the next task. I had all of the leaves collected out of my yard a week ago, only to see a lot of my neighbors leaves come to visit my yard, with the help of the wind we have had. The point I am trying to make is that leaf removal is an ongoing task. Composted or mulched leaves are great as flower bed coverings for winter and a wonderful addition to your compost piles. So recycle your leaf collections and put them to good work in the garden!

Trimming or pruning of some of your trees and shrubs can be done at this time. Basically it breaks down like this, if the tree or shrub flowers before the 1st of June don't touch it now. If it flowers after the 1st of June, you can safely cut it now. Resist the urge to cut back everything. Most perennials benefit from a layer of mulched dead leaves. If you had any fungus or disease problems in an area, go ahead and cut back the plants in that area and rake up the debris. Mulch any plants that need extra protection, like those hardy banana trees! Keep your ornamental grasses up until mid-March (I'll let you know when it's time to cut them back).

Roses: a winter "hair-cut" can be given, but don't cut them back all the way. Some winters can be so cold that the roses could get winter die-back which would need to be removed in the spring anyway, so plant on your heaviest rose trimming in spring around the first of April. Apply a thick layer (10-12") of mulch at the base of your roses now.

Lawns: It is still a great time to apply a Winterizer fertilizer to the lawn. This fertilizer will help keep your cool season turf greener, even in the coldest part of the year.

Plants get "chapped lips" too. Cold, dry winter winds and bright winter sun make our skin chapped and unhealthy. Those winds have a similar devastating effect on your plants, which are out in the winds all winter. No wonder your evergreens don't look so great come spring. This drying effect is called desiccation and is often the most devastating aspect of winter damage on plants in our Midwest region. To fight desiccation, first choose the right plants for windy, dry areas. Especially try to avoid placing broadleaf evergreens, such as azaleas, in places shady in summer but sunny and windy in winter. Second, make sure to water your evergreens well through early December, before the ground freezes and plants cannot "drink" from the soil. Third, mulch your plants for winter to retain soil moisture as well as soil temperature. Fourth, use an anti-desiccant. These products coat leaves and needles to slow down the loss of moisture. One of the best products to use is Wilt Stop by Bonide. This product is a natural polymer that covers plants with a FLEXIBLE coating to lock moisture in the plant tissue. The flexible coating is important to keep on the plants through winter as they bend and sway in the wind. Wilt Stop lasts 45-60 days so apply the first treatment in early December and again in early February.

Pink cyclamen bloomsHere are a few tips on winter houseplant care. When the heat goes on and the daylight becomes shorter, houseplants sometimes begin to yellow and drop their leaves. It may be necessary to move the plants to a different place in the home and to give them different treatment from that given during the summer. Flowering plants need at least half a day of direct sunlight to develop flower buds. Cacti and many succulents require a sunny location, and coleus and crotons need direct sun to maintain the decorative color. The ideal temperatures for foliage plants are 68-70 degrees during the day and slightly lower at night. Flowering plants retain blossoms longer at lower temps. Remember, windowsill locations are much colder during the winter and plants may need to be moved to prevent getting chilled. The amount of water the houseplants need declines during winter, so increase the amount of time between watering. Reduce fertilizing as well: flowering plants should be fertilized half as often and foliage plants should only be fertilized if needed.

Some of the plants in your landscape can help you decorate for the Christmas season as you prune them for next year. Holly and Boxwood can be trimmed now with some of the cuttings used to accent wreaths or live indoor plants. And, some of the inside growth of evergreens such as White Pine, Norway Spruce, Blue Spruce, even some of the seed heads of ornamental grassed can be used to make a harvest wreath or basket for your front door or porch. Talk about recycling! After Christmas, you can take them to your compost bin and make them future fertilizer! Along with these Holiday tips, here are a few other ideas for the month:

  • Use caution when spreading salt or calcium on ice or snow packed walks or driveways. Salt can damage lawns and plantings, calcium is much safer to use. Be sure to designate areas to for piling snow from plowing in advance to prevent damage to trees, shrubs and lawns.
  • Continue to feed our fine feathered friends and place heated birdbaths with fresh water out for them.
  • One last task is to remember your tools. Steel and wood don't like dirt and water. Keep them clean and well oiled and they will serve you for years to come. And gasoline powered tools should also be serviced according to the manufacturers specifications so that they will start for you on the first pull next year.

Again, I wish you and your family a very Blessed Christmas season. Let's get to work on planning that beautiful garden scene for next year!

See you in the Garden..............

Sandi Hillermann Mcdonald

Articles posted to the Local Blogs section are the opinions of the authors and not necessarily that of or WASHMO Media, LLC.

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