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January 11, 2006

Planning For Spring...
It was fun watching it snow yesterday. Noah, our oldest son, and I were walking in the school parking lot trying to catch the flakes on our tongues. We were twirling about caught up in the beauty of the moment. When we got in the car he exclaimed, "Wow mom can you believe how big those flakes are?" I just smiled and said, "No, I can't." It was true innocence at its best and it is moments like that you hold onto forever.

The mild January weather has been quite a pleasant surprise. I have actually been able to do quite a few things in the yard. Now is the perfect time to start thinking about what your spring "plan" is going to be. Will you be transplanting some plants, putting in a new walkway or retaining wall? Will you be creating a new garden? If any one of those things are on your list now is the time to start thinking about whether or not you are going to do the project or if you are going to hire it done. Once March 1st rolls around, landscape companies become swamped so be sure to plan ahead. Call around, make inquires and meet with different companies. You'll want to work with someone who gets your vision. Spring will be here soon enough and we will all once again be where we belong - in the garden.

~ Shelly  

Blowin' In The Wind...
When those north winds blow we humans find ourselves feeling colder than the actual ambient temperature would suggest.  We know that as the "wind chill factor".  For warm-blooded animals, wind chills can have a profound effect on their ability to keep warm.  However, plants do not respond to wind chills because they do not need to maintain a temperature above that of the outside temperature.  It's not all good news for the plants however.  Wind is desiccating and can dry plant tissues.  Plant tissues require moisture to survive and high wind speeds can cause excess moisture loss from those tissues.  This desiccation may be great enough to injure or even kill tissue, particularly the smaller size wood as in peach twigs, apple spurs or blackberry canes.


Don't Forget The Birds!
It's hard for our feathered friends to find food in the winter months. Keep your feeders full and you will be rewarded with beautiful garden visitors year round.  If you're interested in attracting specific birds here are some popular birds and their favorite menu items:

Bird Type Favorite Foods
American Goldfinch Niger thistle seeds, broken sunflower hearts, oil-type sunflower seeds.
Northern Cardinal Sunflower seeds of all types, safflower, cracked corn, millet, other seeds, unsalted nutmeats, raisins.
Black-capped Chickadee Oil-type sunflower seeds, cracked unsalted nutmeats, safflower, suet.
Dark-eyed Junco Red or white proso millet, finely cracked corn, oil-type sunflower seed, unsalted nutmeats.
Grosbeaks Sunflower seeds of all types, safflower, cracked corn.
Mourning Dove Oil-type sunflower seeds, white and red proso millet, safflower, cracked corn, wheat, milo, other seeds.
Native Sparrows Red or white proso millet, oil-type sunflower seeds, cracked corn, some safflower.
Woodpeckers Suet, unsalted nutmeats, sunflower seeds, cracked corn.

Reconsidering Grow Lights...
When ambient light is scarce many indoor gardeners turn to "grow lights".  These pricey items are designed to emit light primarily in the red and blue regions of the light spectrum.  However, grow lights actually give off less light than standard fluorescent lights.  A standard fluorescent unit containing two regular 40 watt fluorescent tubes or one cool white and one warm white tube will provide adequate light for house plants and are much more economical.  Save your money for the plants!



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Anxious For Asparagus...
Want to grow asparagus from seed, but hate to wait the extra year to harvest?  Try seeding the asparagus indoors in late winter to get two year's worth of growth in one season.  Plant seeds 3/4 inch deep in flats.  Sow them 1 inch apart in rows 2 inches apart.  Provide as much natural light as possible and supplement it with fluorescent lighting.  Fertilize the seedlings every three weeks once they have their true leaves.


Rethinking Repotting...
Upon purchasing a new houseplant a common mistake made by many is immediately repotting it in a decorative container.  Unfortunately this puts additional stress on a plant that may already be pretty stressed out.  A better solution?  Simply place the plant, with it's existing container, inside the decorative pot. Now you have the best of both worlds. 

African Violet Troubleshooting...
If you grow African violets, take note of the causes of these potential troubles:

  1. Spotted leaves - this occurs if you allow cool water to contact the leaves. Use only room temperature water.
  2. Small plants with pale yellow leaves - often caused by too much light and inadequate fertilization.
  3. Leaves curled downward - may be a result of too low temperatures (below 60 degrees).
  4. Long leaf stalks and a few or small blooms - often results when plants don't get enough light.
  5. Buds dry up - this might happen if there is not enough moisture in the air or soil and if temperatures are too high.
  6. Plants wilt quickly and crown rots - likely they are getting watered too frequently and/or the drainage may be poor (due to potting mix or lack of container holes) or the plants were set too deep into the soil.
  7. Leaf stalks rot where they rub against pot edge - high salt concentrations on the sides of the pot and near the soil surface damage the leaf stalks allowing the Botrytis disease organism to enter. You can protect the stalks by putting a strip of aluminum foil, paraffin, or a cardboard cover around the rim of the container.
  8. No flowers - may be due to one or more of the following: temperature too low, soil is overfertilized, too much light or too much shade, too much or not enough water, or air contains stove gas.


Time To Wrap...
Now is the time to wrap your shrubs with twine for the winter. The branches of plants like boxwood, arborvitae and columnar junipers are susceptible to splaying or breaking under the weight of snow and ice. Secure the twine to the bottom of the trunk and wrap it upward in a spiral form. After reaching the top of the shrub, begin wrapping downward in the same spiral pattern until you reach the starting point. Finish by tying the twine securely to the trunk. Twine should be removed as soon as the threat of ice and snow has passed.

"In gardening one's staunchest ally is the natural lust for life each plant has, that strong current which surges through everything that grows."

~ Jean Hershey

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