This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener

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January 4, 2006

Ring In The New Year...
It is hard to believe that 2006 has arrived. The holidays have come and gone - decorations have been taken down and packed away for another year. We survived the hustle and bustle of the holidays, barely. My mother's father passed away December 20th and we laid him to rest on the 28th. The circle of life continues although not as easy as we would like. Rest in peace grandpa - your love of life will be missed but remembered by all you touched.

I worked outside all day New Year's Eve. I needed to be outside, busy with my hands, feeling the fresh air blow across my face, raking leaves and cutting back perennials that I never got around to in the fall. Doing all of those things made me feel better. Gardening is therapy for the mind, body and soul. Nothing makes me feel better when things are hectic and stressful then working a few hours outside. Nature has a way of soothing the mind. I think it is because there is always something growing, thriving and alive. Just like real life itself.

Looking forward to many great gardening moments in 2006!

~ Shelly  

Houseplant Help...
This month is a good time to remember your houseplants. If any of them are getting too big for their pots simply divide them and re-pot. While you are at it give them some TLC by doing the following:

  • Prune judiciously. A light trim is usually sufficient.
  • Check for bugs. Aphids and other critters can usually be eradicated with some insecticidal soap.
  • Make sure the low winter sun isn't hurting your plants placed near windows. You can relocate them or simply rotate them periodically if necessary.
  • A different window related problem may be the cold. Leaves don't like touching cold glass.
  • If your house is really dry (like mine) make sure you mist your plants occasionally.

Boughs For Beds...
Many of our readers are disposing of a Christmas tree in the very near future.  Why not put that tree to some beneficial use? 

  • Evergreen boughs are great insulators and can be effectively used as a mulching material on flower beds. 
  • The whole tree itself makes a nice temporary protective habitat for birds.  Place it in the garden near your bird feeders.

Spring Dreams...
The New Year's somewhat milder weather has us dreaming about spring! Looking at the calendar, it seems like a long way off but guess what?  There are several flowers whose seeds can be started this month!  They include Begonia, Browallia, Geranium, Larkspur, Pansy and Vinca.  Check out When to Start Seeds Indoors for more details.


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Savvygardeners, Sappy Trees...
If you have ever pruned trees in late winter to early spring, you may have noticed that some weep sap from fresh pruning wounds.  Different species of trees vary in how easily and how much they "bleed."  Those that are most susceptible to bleeding include maples (silver, sugar, amur, Norway and hedge), black walnut, pecan, birch, mulberry, Osage orange (hedgeapple tree) and grape.  Though bleeding may look as if it would cause considerable damage to the tree, that's not the case.  Even if large amounts of sap are lost, there is no apparent long-term damage.  However, many people find the appearance of this bleeding objectionable.  Pruning during the winter when temperatures remain below freezing will help minimize sap flow.  So if you have any of the "bleeders" that need pruned, you might want to do it while the weather is really cold.


Belated Bulb Burial...
It seems like every other year I just don't get around to planting my bulbs in December. It happened again in 2005 and probably happened to several other Savvygardeners as well. If you didn't get your bulbs planted before the ground froze, plant them now in individual peat pots and place the pots in flats.  Set them outside where it is cold and bury the bulbs under a thick blanket of leaves.  If we're lucky the ground will thaw again this winter and we can use the opportunity to transplant them into the garden.

Asking About Ashes...
A common question this time of year concerns the spreading of wood ashes from the fireplace into the garden.  Many gardeners have heard that wood ashes increase soil pH.  While this is technically true it would take very considerable quantities to have any significant effect on pH.  Just spread them as evenly as possible and try not to overdo it.

Keep Off The Grass...
When temperatures plummet your grass will respond by moving water to areas outside the cells.  Ice accumulates in spaces between the cells and individual grass blades become brittle.  Walking on frozen turf will force the ice and cells together and can cause permanent damage to your lawn.  Do your best to avoid it.

"Gardeners and couturiers possess many of the same talents: imagination, knowledge, and industry. Both know which colors shock or coordinate, which textures rasp or soothe, and both see fashions change - but they never forget that the concept of beauty is timeless."

~ Rosemary Verey, British Author and Gardener

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