St. Francis is the patron saint to all who love nature, especially birds and small animals. Give the birds a special treat and corn for the squirrels.
Poison Ivy – Dig and spray before foliage turns wonderful fall colors. Cover your hands and any exposed skin with Dawn Ultra (antibacterial), let it dry, and when you finish wash the Dawn off.
- HYDRANGEA – Prune back Annabelle hydrangeas no more than every third year and then when the blooms turn brown. If stems are leggy and weak cut back only to 18” give support to spring growth.
- BULBS – Plant tulips 12” deep or three times its height depending on the bulb. The deeper hole will increase the number of years the bulbs will continue their original size. If it is a new bed, plant daffodils this year and other subsequent years and daffodils exude a toxin squirrels and other rodents don’t like. It is a good idea to always wear gloves when gardening especially if sensitive to lilies(any member of the family).
- Houseplants – Protect houseplants outdoors when temperatures drop below 50 overnight. Bring them inside between the time the air-conditioning is turned off and heat turned on. Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti need to remain until the night temperatures are consistently 50 or less, in order to set their buds. Protect indoors plants by isolating those coming indoors, especially recently purchased plants.
- Lawn – Pick up branches, twigs and toys before mowing. They can be dangerous projectiles. Make sure small children are not in the yard and do not hold them while mowing or riding back to the storage area.
- Vegetables – When spent plants are removed, compost those not diseased and take a soil sample to your Extension agent to test what it is lacking. Do not save seeds from hybrid plants as this year’s seeds will not come back true and do not carry the resistance of their parents.
Some hydrangeas are pruned in the fall, some in early spring and some not at all. How am I to know which variety my hydrangea is and when it is supposed to be pruned or not? Proven-Winners has the simple answer.
Of the 49 species of hydrangeas, four are native to America, and only six types generally grown in our gardens. Those that produce flower buds on old wood are
- bigleaf (mophead and lacecap)
New-wood bloomers include
- panicle(PG or peegee) and
- smooth (Annabelle series).
By not pruning old wood that produces buds formed earlier this year, the hydrangeas are more apt to be protected over winter. Late freezes do not harm new-wood bloomer, as their buds are set after all chance of a spring freeze. If buds are frozen, more will be produced.
New Proven-Winners(P-W) this year include old wood bigleaf (aka florist, mophead or lacecap) “Let’s Dance Can Do” and “Let’s Dance Do It”. Both stunning.
New-wood introductions include Firelight Tidbit, a dwarf bush with large flower heads, and Quick Fire Fab (true to its Fab name). Both are panicle or peegee, so named for the panicles(cluster of flowers) of large or grandiflora flower heads.
There is an hydrangea for every situation, from 1-2’ to 4-6’, colors from white to magenta and almost every color in between, easy to grow, bloom seemingly forever and some repeat. They do best in moist, well-drained soil and more sun than generally given. Peegees are known for their sun tolerance. They are shallow rooted and will dry quickly. Mulch helps retain water.
DID YOU KNOW…
You know that hydrangeas likes water, but did you know that ‘hydra’ refers to the seed capsules that resemble ancient Greek water-carrier vessels?
If you receive a lily for Easter, you know that lilies as with any true bulb are easy to care for in the house, and then planted out after the last frost. In the meantime enjoy their elegance inside. (WARNING: This plant is poisonous to cats!) Part of its charm is that its pure white petals reflect even the lowest of light whether indoors or in the garden.
A true lily, with a little care Lilium longiflorum will rebloom in mid-summer, having acclimated to its natural bloom period. Until planting out, keep it in bright, indirect light, 60-65 degrees, mist frequently to keep humidity high, and turn the plant every few days. When the flower dies, cut the stem to the base. Plant on a south-facing slope as it likes moist but not wet feet. Plant 6” deep in loamy soil. Clay can be amended by working peat and perlite. Do not worry about the exact depth, the bulb will adjust to its preferred depth.
THINGS TO DO
Groundhog Day – Punxsutawney Phil claims his Spring predictions are 100%, any error is due to his interpreter’s miscommunication. My prediction is based on phrenology and when Easter is. It is early this year(April 4) therefore spring will be earlier than normal.
Birds –Keep bird baths clean and filled as we are averaging less than half our normal rain for this time of year. Clean birdhouses. Install bluebird boxes on fence posts and martin boxes on tall poles where both birds have plenty of flying room. Face the boxes openings away from the prevailing winds.
Trees – Order trees for planting in March. Survey trees and shrubs for maintenance they leaf out. Remove crossed branches, hanging branch can cause injury. Crape myrtles grow well here providing us late summer non-stop blooms. The Indian-named myrtles developed at the National Arboretum are cold hardy to Zone 6. Good source: The Crape Myrtle Company (crapemyrtle.com)
Vegetables – Sow herbs, bunching and bulb onion, and pepper indoors. Finish cleaning the garden. Repair supports and trellises.
Tools – Clean out your tool shed or wherever you store tools and supplies. Organize a hand tool carrier. Paint handles a construction pink or yellow. It IDs your tools and makes it easier to find in grass and leaves.
Long handles that are broken or too short can be replaced at most local hardware stores. Rake handles should come to the top of your shoulder. If there is height difference in the family, buy multiple rakes and paint handles difference colors. Save old paint and chemicals in a container marked for disposal at your county’s free-disposal day in the spring.
Warm spring, mild summer and plenty of water this year produced a bumper crop of vegetables. Some continue to produce more. No doubt you have given lots of vegetables and fruits to friends and neighbors, and frozen and canned the rest. What do you do with the remaining vegetables? Our grandparents saved them in the root cellar. Few of us have , but can create similar
Not all vegetables have the same storage requirements. Some prefer cold and dry, others cold and moist.
Storage is similar to that of tender flower bulbs. Store in a cool basement, unheated attic but not in an enclosed garage as the roots will absorb vehicle exhaust. Occasionally check as to moistness or dryness, rot, or root growth. If vegetables freeze, use them as soon as possible.
It is important to store vegetables at a consistent temperature. Insulated coolers packed with hamster bedding, straw, or newsprint are ideal. Vegetables that like cold and damp prefer 32-60 degrees with high humidity. Radishes and rutabagas store for 2-3 months; and beets, carrots and turnips 4-5 or 6 months. Remove excess foliage and keep roots from touching to reduce rot.
Cool and dry vegetables prefer 40-60 degrees. Store in wire baskets for greater air circulation, lower humidity (60-70 percent). Place onions( on high shelves(warmer). Hang garlic in mesh bags in a dark location Both onion and garlic will last 5-8 months.. Place beets, radishes and turnips into soil, in a bright window to provide winter harvest. Sweet potatoes will last 4-6 months, require 55-60 degrees and darkness. Keep winter squashes at 55-60 degrees. Store on an upper shelf individually. Acorn, small pumpkins and spaghetti squash last 1-3 months, buttercup and large pumpkins 3-4, and Hubbard and butternut 6 months.
Things to Do…
Watering your plants
If you’re watering your houseplants with chlorinated water, allow the chlorine to outgas from the water by filling watering cans or bottles 24-48 hours before using. To avoid confusion as to what was watered when, mark a calendar that is kept with houseplant supplies.
- Plant tulips now, but start daffodils in December. Tulips like moderate planting weather, and daffodils, cool to cold. Plant bulbs pointing up. Sometimes it is difficult to determine corm roots. If in doubt, plant on them on their side. Mark planting site using plastic knives or spoons to prevent planting on top of them.
- Continue to treat broadleaf weeds. Protect good plants by placing carboard between spray and good plants. Let the spray settle before moving to the next plant. Sprays can be used during temperatures to 40 degrees and at least three days before a rain.
- When mum flowers fade, plant in ground and cut back nearly to the ground.
- Check attachments of climbing rose cane and retie as needed. Tie with strips of nylon stocking as they are soft and stretch.
- Order live and/or cut Christmas trees for delivery no sooner than mid-December. Select the location for the live tree and prepare its site. Contact in advance your city, park or school to donate your live tree.
- Continue to plant new trees. Stake (two on per tree) through one season to let it settle in and build a strong root system.
- Remove spent plants and continue to harvest producing ones.
- Pull up tomato plants, and in an unheated place, wrap individual fruits in paper to ripen.
- Wash, dry, and apply liquid wax to pumpkins to extend their useful life.
- Dig root vegetables to store for the winter, except parsnips which sweeten the longer they stay in the ground.
Garden Tasks and Tips
- Pansies are in full bloom. Given protection and a mild winter they will remain blooming through the winter.
- Roses are at their peak. Prune only after they go dormant to reduce root damage from canes being whipped by high winds. Remove matted leaves from flowering plants. Cut flowers to encourage the last bloom of the fall. According to moon signs, today is the best day to plant those that flower. Fertile days the rest of the month are 25-26 and 30-31.
- Lawn –Mow with the leaf shoot facing away from beds. Attach the grass bag to catch mulched leaves. Add to a compost pile or no more than 3 inches deep and away from shrub and tree trunks. Tree bark does not grow roots. It does soften when covered, setting it up for rodent and insect damage
- Insects – Shorter days and cooler temperatures have brought stink bugs in for the winter. They are not destructive, just stink if frightened. They lay eggs in winter, nor bite. Controls: wipe screens with the strong smelling fabric softener sheets; Sarah Welsh, farmanddairy.com, recommends mixing in order: 2 cups hot water, 1 cup white vinegar, and ½ cup dish soap. Or use a tissue to pick the insect up, taking care not to pinch or step on it as it will stink. It is more efficient to vacuum to collect a large group, but discard bags immediately as they will hold the odor.
- Vegetables – Grow tomatoes all winter. Bring in producing plants now to continue for a while. Bonnie L. Grant suggests planting tomato varieties Red Robin(best indoor variety) Yellow Pear and Burpee Basket King(hanging plants). Sow every two weeks for continuous production. Place in a sunny, southern window and turn for even growth.
Burpee is offering a reusable $10 discount on $25 plus orders through June 10, 2021. Limited to one discount per order.