WELCOME to the New Year. Yesterday morning, I caught a family of deer munching on Nandina domestica / Heavenly Bamboo. In years past, I thought I had noticed evidence of deer browsing, but dismissed this since everyone assured me that wasn’t the case. Now, I know that the plant frequently loses its leaves at the end of February in preparation for the new growth in the spring, so I’m not terribly concerned, but I am so disappointed. I will still keep Nandina on the deer resistant list since it’s still not one of their favorites, but do keep an eye out for your own plants.
When you get to the section on…Plants Lose Moisture in the Winter…try not to laugh too hard. Yes, we are still experiencing a tremendous amount of rain with no apparent end in sight…save for the snow the other day. Water-logged? I know many plants have already succumbed, and we may lose even more by spring. I’ve been beefing up my research on plants that can tolerate moisture, since I think this may be the norm for a while.
For the past several years, my first choice for deer spray has been Liquid Fence. I buy large quantities in concentrate form, add water plus a laytex product that allows the spray to stick to the plant even when it rains. The spray will generally be effective for 2 months. During the growing season, you need to spray monthly in order to capture new growth before the deer take notice. The bad news about the laytex additive is that you must completely disassemble and thoroughly clean your sprayer after every use, or else the glue will harden. The Liquid Fence available for retail use DOES NOT include the laytex additive which is why it must be reapplied after rain. Unfortunately, even with best efforts, I find the deer will still eat Euonymus kiaut. ‘Manhattan’ in the winter. I have no clue why that is the case. In most situations, the Euonymus new growth in the spring will quickly cover the bare stems.
Ann Pomykala, owner of Gramercy Inn and Koinonia Organic Farm has recently introduced me to Plantskydd. This product is fully organic, and is available as a premixed formula or in a dry powder form to be mixed with water and then carefully strained. The container should be agitated at least 1x/30 min to minimize separation and clots. They claim that their product will be effective for up to 3 months, though during the growing season you’ll need to apply more frequently to capture new growth. I have only just started experimenting with this product, so the jury is still out. I recommend thoroughly cleaning your sprayer after each use to avoid congealed buildup clogging and ruining your equipment.
For any plant spray, use only when 40 – 80 degrees F. If in the middle of the summer, avoid spraying in the middle of the day (11a – 3p) to minimize the chance you might burn the foliage. The spray should have at least 4 hours to dry.
CARING FOR YOUR HARDSCAPE SURFACES
As the winter storms approach, we all worry about staying warm and safe. This includes making our walkways safe for ourselves and our visitors. Many of us have attractive masonry surfaces, and we do want to extend the useful life for as long as possible. Unfortunately, the Ice Melt or other salt products seep into mortar joints causing them to crumble. We have found that even products that claim to be safe for masonry surfaces will cause problems. We used to think that CALCIUM CHLORIDE was better than SODIUM CHLORIDE, but both are harmful to mortar joints. These salt products may also stain the masonry surface, but vinegar and water will usually remove the stains fairly easily.
When a storm hits, the first choice is to shovel a path as soon as possible, before anyone has attempted to walk through the snow. The first rays of sun will melt the small amount that is left.
Second choice is to use Kitty Litter. Our contractors have found that this works even better than sand.
On asphalt surfaces, the salt products are still a fairly good option.
SNOW & ICE
Try to brush heavy snow off of evergreen trees and shrubs. If allowed to stay, the snow could cause abnormal spreading between branches. Such damage is frequently seen in Boxwoods, Arborvitae and Upright Junipers and ‘Sky Pencil’ Japanese Holly. If desired, you can bind the plants with twine, fishing line or vinyl coated wire before the first snowfall. Though somewhat visible, it will protect the plants without your help. The binding can easily be removed in the spring.
Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about ice. If you attempt to break off the ice, you are likely to damage the plant even more. Just hope the ice melts as quickly as possible. In the spring, careful pruning can fix most of the winter damage. New spring growth will take care of the rest.
PLANTS LOSE MOISTURE IN WINTER
I know the severe weather is coming, and am trying to prepare myself and my garden for the inevitable. Plants lose a lot of moisture during the winter, especially the evergreen plants. If you are unable to give your plants extra water, do make sure to keep a layer of mulch or leaves on top of the root systems in order to keep moisture in the soil. A nice layer of snow on the ground would be a big help.
TOOL SHARPENING CLINIC
Do your pruning shears need help? I have prepared a Tool Sharpening Clinic to teach you how to sharpen your own tools. If your group would like me to offer this 1 hour clinic, just let me know. These cold winter months offer the perfect opportunity to get your tools in shape.