This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

Missouri Organic Mulch, Compost, Bulk Soil

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January 10, 2007

Pop-Up Surprises...
Have you seen signs of daffodils, tulips and crocus coming up out of the ground? I have even seen crowns of perennials such as Salvia, Black-eyed Susan and Columbine already starting to green up and the first official day of spring is more than three months away. I am interested to see how all of our plants will be affected by this crazy weather pattern. It sounds as if winter (ice and snow) is being reintroduced to us this weekend and then the temperatures are expected to steadily climb back into the 40's by late next week. This weather pendulum is becoming a difficult one to ride.

Are your garden beds adequately mulched? If not you may have some over-eager bloomers poking out.  Without mulch they will also be susceptible to damage from the coming freeze. Keep in mind that as long as your plants have not gone to flower they should be fine but keeping 2-3 inches of mulch around them is like having a little extra insurance against leaf burn. At this time of the year it's best for spring and summer blooming plants to remain unexposed to the elements. Small areas can be mulched with the leaves you haven't raked up yet.  For bigger areas consider a bulk delivery from our friends at Missouri Organic.

~ Shelly  

A Heavy Load...
Certain evergreen shrubs, such as yew, juniper and arborvitae (northern white cedar) have a tendency to accumulate snow during snowfalls.  The weight of the snow bends the branches of the shrubs, and can cause breakage or kinking.  It is a good idea to remove most of the snow on these shrubs to reduce such damage.  Do not, however, beat the shrubs with a snow shovel or other implement.  Doing so will only cause additional damage.  Use a broom or a brush and as gently as possible remove the snow from the upper surfaces.  Donít be alarmed if the shrub does not immediately rebound to its former shape.  It is likely that in the spring, when sap is flowing through the shrub, it will recover from any bending that may have occurred.  


Really Early Bloomers...
Reiterating what we mentioned above:  There are lots of confused plants that have decided to come out to play in our recent mild weather.  This is the earliest we can remember seeing this problem in recent years.  Timing is everything of course and it looks like some very cold weather is right around the corner.  If you have bulbs or other plants peeking out of the soil you would do well by spreading some mulch or leaves over them before the cold snap hits.

Watering Evergreens...
Evergreen plants, particularly broadleaf evergreens like hollies and some azaleas, appreciate a good soaking when it warms enough to get the hose out. This is especially true in a dry or snow-free winter. Remember that it is deep watering that is most helpful, so when you do get out to water, make sure the water soaks in to the roots.



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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.


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. 

For 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.

Wrap It Up...
If you're worried about snow or ice damage now is the time to wrap your shrubs with twine. 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.

"It may be argued further that real beauty is neither in garden nor landscape, but in the relation of both to the individual, that what we are seeing is not only a scenic setting for pool and fountain and parterre, but a background for life."

~ Sir George Sitwell

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