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February 1, 2006

Bring It On!
Tomorrow is Groundhog Day. Punxsutawney Phil will crawl out of his hole while we anxiously wait to see if there are going to be six more weeks of winter. I am going to make a prediction and say that he is going to see his shadow. Due to the extremely mild weather we had in January we will certainly be made to suffer through some real Midwest winter weather before spring arrives. Hopefully Phil will see his shadow. Six more weeks of the weather we've had recently?  I say "Bring it on!"

I know that many of you are champing at the bit to get out and get some work done. Go for it. I worked outside all day yesterday - raking, cutting back dead foliage, etc... It was great! Keep in mind that it is still too early to remove any leaves or mulch you have covering your beds. I always keep my beds covered until at least mid-April. Better to be safe than sorry. There is always plenty of clean-up to do, so do it now. Take advantage of the weather and get a jump on getting your gardens in order. Don't forget to water. We have not had much moisture lately so a good soaking would be a good idea.

~ Shelly  

Early Risers...
If January's mild (let's call it warm) weather has some of your bulbs making a premature entrance into the winter world, you're not alone
(photos). There's not much you can do about it - once they're up, they're not going back in. Unfortunately we will very likely get whacked with some really cold weather between now and April.  You can help your early risers by mulching them with leaves or other loose organic material.  Don't over worry either, as long as the bulbs aren't flowering yet they will likely survive a freeze and even flower this spring!

Groundhog Day Explained...
Groundhog Day, February 2nd, is a popular tradition in the United States. It is also a legend that traverses centuries, its origins clouded in the mists of time with ethnic cultures and animals awakening on specific dates. It is on this day that the Groundhog comes out of his hole after a long winter sleep to look for his shadow. If he sees it, he regards it as an omen of six more weeks of bad weather and returns to his hole. If the day is cloudy (and, therefore, shadowless) he takes it as a sign of spring and stays above ground. The groundhog tradition stems from similar beliefs associated with Candlemas Day and the days of early Christians in Europe, and for centuries the custom was to have the clergy bless candles and distribute them to the people. Even then, it marked a milestone in the winter and the weather that day was important. According to an old English song:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.


Seed Starting Savvy...
It's getting to be seed starting time around here.  Depending on how adventurous you are there are seeds to start indoors now and many, many more to start in the weeks to come.  Need some help getting started?  We've got two very handy (and popular) articles that you might enjoy:


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Valentine's Day Looks Rosy...
Valentine's Day is fast approaching.  If you are giving or getting potted miniature roses we have some tips to keep them looking great.  

  • Start by providing the plant with as much sun as you possibly can.
  • Keep it cool.  Avoid temperatures above 75°F and never place your rose near a heat source.  
  • Keep the humidity high by placing it on a tray of pebbles filled with water.  
  • Remove faded blossoms and turn the plant frequently to counteract its tendency to reach for sunlight.  
  • Monitor it carefully for spider mites and discourage mite infestation by giving your rose a shower in the bathtub every two weeks.
  • When warmer weather arrives in April, you can plant your valentine gift in a sunny position in your garden or move it to a larger container to add color to a corner of your deck or patio.


Thank Heaven For Houseplants...
This time of year many Savvygardeners turn their attention to houseplants.  It's not the same as gardening outside during the other three seasons but it's gardening nonetheless.  Repeated requests for information on houseplant care (cleaning, fertilizing, containers, and light requirements) have prompted us to post an informative article on Houseplant Care.  Find it in our Features section...

Appropriate Use Of Force...
One of the great winter pleasures is forcing the stems of certain woody plants into bloom for indoor display.  Three of the easiest are forsythia, pussy willow and flowering quince.  These plants have now gone through enough cold weather to satisfy their chilling requirement and should bloom if given the right conditions.

Choose a day that is above freezing for collecting branches for blooming.  Cut the stems, keeping the stem length to 3 feet or less and place them in a bucket of water.  Once you have all the branches you want, bring them into the house and soak them in warm water for several hours to ensure that the stems and buds are fully hydrated (a bathtub works well for this).  Next, place them in a container that has a warm preservative solution and place them in an environment with high humidity and plenty of light.  Floral preservatives accomplish two functions; they prevent bacterial growth in your water and provide nutrients and energy for the life processes of the plants.  

Normally, forsythia will take about 9 days to flower, quince will require between 12 to 20, and pussy willow needs from 5 to 15 days.  The time required will vary depending on your indoor conditions and how late in the winter the branches were collected with less time being required for later collections.  Most woody plants will remain in flower for about a week before the blooms start to fade.


Oh, Deer...
With the rise of deer populations, damage to landscapes has increased because of browsing. However, deer have preferences and will avoid some plant species if more desirable food is available. K-State Extension has given us this short list of plants deer normally do not bother. Remember that feeding habits can shift due to changes in food supply. Also, some deer may have different preferences than most of the group.

  • Trees: Blue Spruce and Russian Olive
  • Shrubs: Barberry, Boxwood, Redosier Dogwood, Yew, Russian Olive, Rose of Sharon, European Privet
  • Annuals, Perennials and Bulbs: Yarrow, Ageratum, Columbine, Snapdragon, Lily of the Valley, Purple Cornflower, Daylily, Lavender, Sweet Alyssum, Daffodil, Russian Sage, Marigold, Lamb's Ears, Thyme, and Yucca.


"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike."

~ John Muir

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