~ December 10, 2008 ~
Today is a good stay inside kind of day. Even though the sun is as bright as can be, do not be fooled, the thermometer reads a
frosty frigid 29°. We knew it was coming. The snow, the sleet and the biting wind. Are we any more prepared than we were last year?
Not me. I can't shake the distaste I have for cold weather. The thought of bundling up to take Sam Parker for his walk does
not excite me at all. I have the proper attire, I just can't stand to put it all on. The heavy coat, scarf, boots, hat and
gloves. I am worn out just talking about it. After I am done typing this editorial I am going on-line to plan a nice sunny
spring vacation. I hope I can survive until then.
The kids were hoping for a snow day today. No such luck. They went so far as following a ritual taught by some friends. Let
me see if I can remember what they did... I believe it was a spoon under the pillow and a fork under the bed. Much to their
dismay it did not pay off. I still remember those days. I use to sit and watch the snow fall and hope and pray that we wouldn't
have school the next day. Even though I'm not fond of the snow it is fun to relive those childhood memories with my own children.
Nature's Drip Irrigation...
From the "silver lining" department - one benefit of that
layer of ice and snow 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 and ice 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 harmful chemical de-icers.
Ashes To Garden?...
You may have heard that using wood ashes on your garden can help
make the soil more fertile. Though ashes do contain significant
amounts of potash, they contain little phosphate and no nitrogen.
Most Kansas City-area soils are naturally high in potash and do
not need more. Also, wood ashes will raise the pH of our soils,
often a drawback in Kansas where soils tend toward high pH.
Therefore, wood ashes add little benefit, and may harm, many Kansas
soils. In most cases it is best to get rid of them. However, one
possible use for ashes would be as an addition to compost. Compost
is normally acidic and the ashes would help neutralize the pH.
Most homes in winter become dry as bone meal. Keep an eye out
for spider mites on your houseplants - they thrive in that dry
air. Females lay about 200 eggs and the life cycle may be
completed in just 7 days. Do the math - it gets ugly fast!
Household Humidity Help...
You know that dry feeling you get in a heated house all winter long?
Your houseplants like it even less than you do. They actually prefer
a relative humidity of 40 to 50 percent but suffer under humidity levels
of 10 to 20 percent common in many homes during the winter months.
What to do? Humidifiers are an excellent way to increase the relative
humidity in the home. Grouping plants together is an easy way to raise
humidity levels as well. The water evaporating from the potting soil,
plus water lost through the plant foliage, will increase the relative
humidity in the vicinity of the houseplants. Another method is
to place houseplants on trays (saucers) filled with pea gravel or
pebbles. Add water to the trays, but keep the bottoms of the
pots above the water line. The evaporation of water from the
trays increases the relative humidity.
By the way, misting houseplants is not an effective way to raise the
relative humidity. The plant foliage dries quickly after misting
and would have to be done several times a day to be effective at all.
Pacing Your Paperwhites...
As the holidays near, you can adjust the bloom time of your forced paperwhites.
If they are coming along too quickly, place them in a cool room (50-60ºF) and
water less frequently. If you need to speed them up a bit, place them in the
warmest room in the house. With a little luck they'll be blooming right on time!
If you are using guy wires around newly planted trees make
sure hose sections (or other protection) are still covering the
supporting wires or ropes. Without sufficient protection the
recent windy weather could cause a young tree's bark to be
stripped away by bare wire or rope.
Sharpen Mower Blades Now...
Last week we talked about putting the mower away for the winter. Now is also an excellent time
to sharpen mower blades so they'll be ready next spring. Sharpening rotary mower blades is
fairly straightforward. The following steps will guide you through this process:
- Check the
blade for major damage. If you can't fix it, it likely will need
to be replaced.
- Remove grass and debris from the blade with a
moist cloth. Dry before beginning to sharpen the cutting edge.
- Remove nicks from the cutting edge, using a grinding wheel or
- If using a grinding wheel, match the existing edge
angle to the wheel. If hand-filing, file at the same angle as the
- Grind or file until the edge is 1/32 inch, about
the size of a period.
- Particularly with a grinding wheel, avoid
overheating the blade as this may warp it.
- Clean the blade with
solvent or oil for optimum
winter storage. Avoid use of water as it will promote rust.
Following these tips can help you better prepare your mower for
winter storage and also save you some steps this coming spring.
"Is the fancy too far brought, that this love for gardens is a
reminiscence haunting the race of that remote time when
but two persons existed - a gardener named Adam, and a
gardener's wife called Eve?"
~ Alexander Smith