December , 2019
Overall, the weather this year has been a huge improvement over the monsoon type conditions we endured last year. The extended drought from the summer into the fall has certainly taken a toll on all of our plants. I was pleasantly surprised to see some nice fall foliage, though some plants went straight from green to brown. Gardens are an ever evolving element in our lives, and it’s best to embrace the loss of plants as an opportunity to try something new.
PREPPING FOR THE HOLIDAYS
As we get ready for the holidays, enjoy trimming some of your evergreens and berries to bring inside. If you planted anything late in the season, no need to water any more. Our ground is completely saturated, and the cold temperatures are keeping the moisture in. I recommend wrapping first year broadleaf evergreens with burlap around the perimeter, or tying up your columnar evergreens with hemp in December or early January. If the plants are right by your front door, you may want to wait until after the parties are over in early January. DON’T FORGET TO TURN OFF AND DRAIN OUTDOOR HOSE BIBS.
SPRING FLOWERING BULBS
If you still have some bulbs left in your garage, go ahead and put them in the ground. Even if the top 2” are frozen, below that is usually fine. DO NOT plant with Bone Meal, since the nutritional benefit is minimal while, unfortunately attracting animals to your bulbs. For Tulips, I frequently plant with some mothballs to help ward off the chipmunks and squirrels who love them.
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 before the first snowfall. Though unsightly, it will protect the plants without your help. The twine can easily be removed in the spring.
For the young, broadleaf evergreens, sometimes wrapping the sides with burlap is sufficient to protect against desiccating winds.
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.
Winter is the perfect time to broadcast a slow release lime product to raise the alkalinity of the soil. For most lawns, an application of lime once a year is sufficient. If you are in a wooded area, there is always something dropping from the trees – flowers, seeds and leaves. As these decompose, they increase the acidity of the soil which in turn contributes to root rot in your lawn. You may need to spread lime several times a year to counteract this natural tendency. Try late fall before the leaves really begin to drop, mid-winter if there is no snow on the ground, and early spring before the new growth begins. In the Maryland area, March is generally a good time for the last application. These days, most lawn service companies are reluctant to apply this much lime due to concerns about chemical runoff. They may only be willing to provide one or two applications per year.
Stay warm, stay well, and HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL.