This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

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December 6, 2006

Out And About...
Last week when I was typing my editorial it was sleeting outside and as they predicted, the snow began to fall. We ended up with about 6 inches. The kids loved it! They were happy to be out of school and happier to be outside despite the bitter cold. Today it is sunny and the ice and snow are slowly melting away. The brief warm up we are experiencing sure feels great. It is nice to see the green grass again. It sounds as if we will be having mild temperatures for the weekend. A good thing - we still need to put up our Christmas lights!

I was the guest speaker Tuesday for the Central Exchange women's group and I had such a lovely time. I have spoken for them before so it was nice to see some familiar faces and to meet some new ones as well. What a delightful group. I talked about how Kevin and I started our little business and then we shared stories and information about our own gardens. I can't think of anything more fun considering it was way too cold to be outside. If you can't be in your garden you might as well be talking and sharing your thoughts with other gardeners. That is what keeps people like myself from going crazy in the winter. So if you are feeling a bit cooped up, take in a lecture, get a good gardening magazine and dream about your gardening space. It will make you feel better about the gray, cold sky and the snow on the ground.

~ Shelly  

Nature's Drip Irrigation?
A great benefit of that white stuff on the ground is its slow release of moisture into the soil.  It may not be a lot of water but because it melts slowly into the soil it can be a more effective irrigator than a hard rain.  You can even increase the benefit by shoveling sidewalk and driveway snow to areas of the garden that will eventually benefit from the added moisture.  Just make sure the shoveled snow doesn't contain any salty or chemical de-icers.

Preventing Snow Mold...
last week's snow probably caught some Savvygardeners off guard.  Many still had a fair amount of unraked leaves on the ground and they are now covered with 4-6 inches of white stuff.  First on your "to do" list once the snow melts - rake up those leaves.  It's just not healthy for the turf to have wet leaves smothering it all winter.  Snow mold is the most likely possibility and it is best avoided.

What Snowmelt Reveals...
In Kansas City a November/December snowfall doesn't usually stick around long.  Keep an eye on the melting progress.  Those areas of your garden and lawn that melt first reveal warmer microclimates that could serve as places to grow marginal perennials that otherwise might not be hardy enough for our Zone 5 winters.


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Put Your Mower Away...
If you are done mowing for the year, be sure to service your mower before putting it away.

  • Drain the gas tank of gasoline powered engines or use a gasoline stabilizer. Untreated gasoline can become thick and gummy.
  • A few drops of oil squirted inside the spark plug hole (after you remove the spark plug) will help lubricate the cylinder.
  • While you have the spark plug removed, replace it with a new one.
  • If your equipment has a battery, clean the battery terminals of any corrosion that may have occurred during the season. A wire-bristle brush is a good tool for doing this.
  • The battery can then be removed or connected to a battery monitor that will keep it charged over winter.
  • If you remove the battery, be sure to store it in a protected location for the winter season (a cool basement works best).


Wind Damage To Evergreens...
Cold winter winds can cause injury to evergreens. Needles and leaves of evergreens may become discolored or develop a bleached out appearance, especially on windy sites. "Winter burn" is caused by the wind blowing over leaf surfaces and drawing water out of the plant, desiccating the plant tissue. Locations in full sun tend to fare worse. To protect plants, be sure soil is evenly moist up until freeze. During a dry fall, you may need to water up until the ground freezes. You may also want to consider protecting plants by wrapping them in burlap or putting up some sort of barrier to break the wind. Another option is the anti desiccant spray. These are available from your local nursery or garden center. Anti desiccant sprays create an invisible film on the leaf surface that reduces the amount of water lost to the wind and sun. If you choose to try an anti desiccant, be sure to read and follow the product labeling.


Getting A Handle On Gift Giving...
If you're thinking about buying garden tools as gifts for that special gardener make sure you choose them carefully.  Getting the basics right can be the difference between a tool that helps the gardener versus one that frustrates.  

  • Grips - The right tool starts with a good grip. For starters, it should be pliable and non-slip.  A pliable, soft grip will protect your joints and help keep your hand from cramping.  A non-slip handle means you don't have to waste energy hanging onto the tool.
  • Handles - Tools with longer handles will make it easier to garden by saving you from bending over or overextending your reach in the garden. A long handle will also give you some leverage and help you in using the tool.
  • Weight - Check the weight of any tool you're going to buy.  It should be heavy enough to be durable but not so heavy it is fatiguing to use.  A lightweight tool means more energy to garden.
  • Quality - Good tools, well taken care of will last forever.  Those tools that get daily use (trowels come to mind) should be made of materials that are both durable and effective.  Stainless steel and carbon steel blades are best.  


Holiday Window Boxes...
If your empty window boxes are begging for some winter substance try filling them creatively with evergreen branches inserted into the soil.  If the soil is already frozen soften it with warm water first.  You will find that balsam fir branches will hold their blue-green needles until spring.  For added color try bittersweet, holly berries, and strawflowers.

"An important part in the winter landscape is played by the dead grasses and other herbaceous plants, especially by various members of the composite family, such as the asters, golden- rods, and sunflowers. Wreathed in snow or encased in ice they present a singularly graceful and fantastic appearance. Or, perhaps, the slender stalks and branches armed with naked seed-pods trace intricate and delicate shadows on the smooth snow."

~ Mrs. William Starr Dana

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