~ January 5, 2011 ~
So how about the wacky weather we had right before the New Year? Temperatures last Wednesday were in the mid 50's and Thursday was
a pleasant, spring-like day with temperatures topping out in the high 60's. Early Friday morning, most Kansas Citians were awakened
by lightning, thunder, rain and hail. And once the cold front moved through the early morning rain turned into ice
(photos). Kansas is
notorious for its ever changing weather but I must say that I have never seen anything quite like that. In a matter of 24 hours the
temperature went from a balmy 68° to a brisk 16°. Wacky weather indeed!
What does a gardener have to do to get some rain? Seriously, it is so dry. We have had little precipitation and I am worried about the
evergreens. We have had so much wind that many evergreens around town are looking
desiccated. I'm hoping that this weekend's system is
going to bring us some much needed moisture. At this point I don't care if it is rain or snow, just something really wet! Since we have
been fortunate to have a few warmer days don't be afraid to pull out that hose and water. Particularly those evergreens that look really
thirsty. Come spring time you will be glad you did.
A Heavy Load...
Snowfall has been pretty light and scarce this winter - so far anyway. When it does arrive remember that
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. Don’t 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.
When ice and snow pile up it's not unusual to
reach for a deicing agent to help melt the frozen stuff away. Deicers work by lowering the freezing point of
water, creating a brine (chemical-water solution) and allowing
water to evaporate. The oldest and most common deicing agent is
sodium chloride (rock salt), but calcium chloride, potassium
chloride and magnesium chloride are also used. The damaging
effects of these materials on plants come from their reducing the
ability of plants to take up water and the effects may not show up
until late spring or summer when water stresses begin to prevail
so don’t expect damage to be immediate.
Limited use of deicers and spreading the ice
slush when scooping it away over a wide area will lessen
potential damage. Heavy applications of water in the spring
season can also flush salts downward through the soil.
Belated Bulb Burial...
If you're like me you were counting on warmer weather in December
to finish your bulb planting. Between unpredictable weather and the
crush of the holidays it just didn't get done. Here's a trick I've
gotten used to using each year: Plant your bulbs now in individual
peat pots and place the pots in flats. Set them outside where it is cold
and bury the bulbs under a thick blanket of leaves. With luck the ground
will thaw again this winter and we can use the opportunity to transplant
them into the garden.
These past few weeks of wintry weather have us dreaming about spring! It seems
like a long way off on the calendar but guess what? There are several flowers
whose seeds can be started this month! They include Begonia, Browallia,
Geranium, Larkspur, Pansy and Vinca. Check out
When to Start Seeds Indoors for more details.
If you have ever pruned trees in late winter to early spring, you may have
noticed that some weep sap from fresh pruning wounds. Different species of
trees vary in how easily and how much they "bleed." Those that are
most susceptible to bleeding include maples (silver, sugar, amur, Norway and
hedge), black walnut, pecan, birch, mulberry, Osage orange (hedge tree) and
grape. Though bleeding may look as if it would cause considerable damage to
the tree, that's not the case. Even if large amounts of sap are lost, there
is no apparent long-term damage. However, many people find the appearance of
this bleeding objectionable. Pruning during the winter when temperatures
remain below freezing will help minimize sap flow. So if you have any of the
"bleeders" that need pruned, you might want to do it while the weather
is really cold.
This month is a good time to remember your houseplants. If
any of them are getting too big for their pots simply divide them
and re-pot. While you are at it give them some TLC by doing the
judiciously. A light trim is usually sufficient.
- Check for bugs.
Aphids and other critters can usually be eradicated with some
- Make sure the low
winter sun isn't hurting your plants placed near windows. You
can relocate them or simply rotate them periodically if
- A different
window related problem may be the cold. Leaves don't like
touching cold glass.
- If your house is
really dry (like mine) make sure you mist your plants
Keep Off The Grass...
When temperatures plummet your grass will respond by moving water to areas outside
the cells. Ice accumulates in spaces between the cells and individual grass blades
become brittle. Walking on frozen turf will force the ice and cells together and
can cause permanent damage to your lawn. Do your best to avoid it.
"Of all the ingredients we employ in the creation of a garden,
scent is probably the most potent and the least understood. Its effects can be either direct and immediate,
drowning our senses in a surge of sugary vapour, or they
can be subtle and delayed, slowly wafting into our consciousness, stirring our emotions and colouring our
~ Stephen Lacey