Window box arrangement
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Winter evergreen arrangement
As freezing temperatures set in and the plants in your garden die back, it’s time to ‘Put the Garden to Bed’ for the winter. This means taking care of the following tasks that will prepare your garden for winter endurance and get it in good shape for spring.
1. Lawns: Mow grass to 2 or 2.5 inches. Rake up all leaves and heavy grass clippings. Fertilize lawn for the last time until spring with 5-10-10.
2. Leaves: Non-diseased leaves make good mulch for your garden beds until spring, especially if shredded.
3. Weeds: Dig up and put in lawn bags.
4. Perennials: Cut down to 2 to 3 inches. Compost non-diseased cuttings. Birds eat the seeds of black-eyed Susan and coneflowers, so over-winter if you’d like.
5. Ornamental Grasses: For winter interest, winter-over and cut back in early spring.
6. Annuals: Pull up by the roots and compost non-diseased residue.
7. Vegetables: Same as annuals, but, turn the soil. Apply 3 to 4 inches of organic compost to vegetable bed.
8. Shrubs: Do not prune spring flowering shrubs now. Prune after they bloom in the spring. Remove dead wood anytime.
9. Compost: (winter nourishment) Spread 1 inch on beds before the ground freezes.
10. Mulch: (winter blanket) Apply 3 inches once the ground freezes.
Autumn Crocus – Colchicum
It is common knowledge that you can plant bulbs in the fall that will bloom the following spring. These are known as ‘hardy bulbs’ because they can withstand and often need the cold weather to produce their flowers. But not every gardener knows that there are bulbs that can be planted during April and May (after the danger of frost) that will bloom during summer and fall. These are referred to as ‘tender bulbs’ as they do not withstand winter and must be dug up in the fall before frost to be stored indoors.
These tender bulbs are not all referred to as bulbs. Some are called tubers or rhizomes, others corms. But to simplify things, I will refer to them as bulbs. Bulbs are typically for sale at garden centers just before the correct planting time for that zone. Be sure to plant the bulbs as soon as possible after purchasing them; following planting instructions.
Flowering bulbs to plant in early spring are Ranunculus, Anemone Coronaria, and Dahlias. The flowering bulbs Gladiolus, Freesias, Alstroemerias, Calla lilies,Canna Lilies, Agapanthus, and Begonias, plus foliage producing Caladium and Elephant Ears, should be planted before the end of May. Plant Autumn Crocus, also called Colchicum bulbs (the blooms resemble spring crocus, but are much bigger) in the summer (early August is fine) as they flower in the fall.
I published this blog post last year, but it’s always going to be relevant as long as there are mosquitoes around laying their eggs.
Mosquitoes lay there eggs on the surface of standing water and stick around while the eggs develop. The mosquito larvae will hatch in about a week. If you’ve an area of soil that doesn’t drain well and retains water, mosquitoes will lay their eggs there also. Other mosquito breeding grounds include long standing water-filled rain barrels, bird baths, containers, tubs, flower pot trays, vases, old tires, clogged roof gutters, sewer drains, streams, ponds, and vernal pools.
To decrease the mosquito population, and lessen the chance of West Nile Virus spreading, be sure not to let still water stand for more than a couple of days in any of the above mentioned areas. Mosquito Dunks are effective in killing mosquito larvae for 30 days when added to standing water. The dunks which are formed in the shape of small donuts consist of bacteria known as Bti israeliensis. Mosquito Dunks only kill mosquito and black fly larvae, which die within 24 hours of ingestion. Mosquito dunks will not harm people, pets, wildlife or fish.
You can buy Mosquito Dunks at local garden centers. Bti israeliensis also comes in a granule (grits) form, but the donuts are more readily available. Dunks can be broken up easily into smaller pieces or crushed to a granule consistency. One dunk is effective in up to 100 square feet of water.
P.S. – Mosquitoes won’t lay eggs in moving water. So, water fountains are good resources to prevent this. Also, a bird bath ‘water wiggler water agitator’ (can be purchased via Amazon.com) keep the mosquitoes away.
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Native Violas and water source
If you would like to go Green or Greener in your garden, here are some things you can do to promote an eco-beneficial landscape:
- Always plant the right plant in the right place. Such as; planting sun loving plants in sun, shade loving in shade, and plants that need wind protection along a fence or wall. If an area’s light exposure changes drastically due to overhead tree or shrub growth, move plants accordingly.
- Provide a water source (small pond, bird bath, bowls of water) for wildlife and insects. During the times of year when mosquito’s breed, be sure to put a ‘mosquito dunk’ in those sources of water. Mosquito’s lay their eggs in water and ‘dunks’ kill these eggs within 24 hours. You can purchase dunks at garden centers, and also in hardware stores that sell garden supplies.
- Plant plants that grow naturally (native) in a region for best ecosystem results. Native plants require less maintenance, and keep water clean by filtering contaminated runoff and preventing soil erosion. And, they attract native birds and wildlife.
- Remove invasive plants in your yard by using organic or mechanical methods. As soon as these plants are removed, replace them with regionally native plants.
Let me know the green techniques you already use in your garden, or what you plan on doing. I’d love to know!
If you have recently purchased or inherited a house with an existing garden on the property, and you are not experienced gardeners, here are some basic things to do for spring cleanup:
- Once the snow has melted and the soil has thawed, remove any fallen twigs and dead plants from the garden beds. (Buy a pair of garden hand pruners for cutting back plants) Put all of this debris into lawn bags for the DPW to pick up. If there are leaves on the beds, I recommend that you do not remove them. Many small insects have overwintered, laid their eggs in the leaves, and have begun the leaf breakdown process. The leaves will continue to break down into a natural enriching leaf mulch similar to what you see the woods.
- You may want to have your soil tested to learn the nutrients it needs. Contact the UMass Soil and Plant Tissue Testing Lab for a routine soil analysis which costs only $15.00. http://soiltest.umass.edu/ Once you receive the results, ask a lab technician at UMass, or an expert at a local garden center to help you understand what your soil needs.
- Whether you get the soil tested, or not, I recommend that you apply a two inch layer of organic compost across the garden beds and work it gently into the leaves and the soil. Use either shrimp/seaweed or lobster compost, or composted horse or cow manure. Compost contains nutrients and microbiotic life which are beneficial to soil health. If there are no leaves on the beds, apply a three inch layer of organic mulch on the beds to keep the weeds back and the soil moist.
- All plants need at least 1 inch of water per week. A heavy rain which deposits about 3/4 of an inch of water on the ground, should keep the garden irrigated for about four days. If there is no underground irrigation system, for conservation purposes use drip hoses at night or very early morning when evaporation loss is minimal. Use sprinklers only during the day, because overhead watering at night leaves plants susceptible to disease.
- Pay attention to the plants that come up in the spring. Once the flowers have faded and died, cut them off. This is known as dead heading. Watch for any signs of leaf damage; such as leaf discoloration or small holes in the leaves. There may be a leaf fungal disease or harmful leaf eating insects present.
- Get gardening advice from neighbors with healthy gardens, from knowledgeable garden center employees, or from a professional gardener.To learn more about gardening on your own, join a local garden club, take a beginner gardening class, read garden magazines and books, and search the internet for helpful gardening information.
Helenium – ‘Sneezeweed’
Lobelia – ‘Cardinal Flower’
Fall is a good time to plant perennials.
The weather gets cooler,and plants still have time for their roots
to get established in the soil before winter sets in. There are many
fall flowering native perennials you can plant.
I’ve listed some of them below:
August into September (possibly October) blooming:
- Helenium – (Sneezeweed)
- Lobelia – (Cardinal Flower)
- Bugbane – (Cimicifuga)
- Blanket Flower (Gaillardia)
- Joe Pye Weed
- Black Eyed Susan
- Boltonia Aster
- New England Aster
- New York Aster
- Blue Wood Aster
- White Wood Aster
- Purple-stemmed Aster
- Agastache – (Hummingbird Mint)
- Turtlehead (Chelome)
- New York Ironweed
- White Snakeroot – (Eupatorium)
- Gentian; ‘True Blue’
- Goldenrod (Solidago)
- Hardy Ageratum
Some sources to purchase fall blooming native perennials in eastern Massachusetts include; New England Wildflower Society in Framingham, Project Native in Housatonic, Mahoney’s Garden Center in Winchester, Pemberton Gardens in Cambridge, and Bonney’s Garden Center in Cambridge, Ricky’s Flower Market in Somerville, and Russell’s Garden Center in Wayland.
Fall garden area needs clean up, compost and mulch
Here are some garden tasks to take care of in the fall:
• Dig compost into your garden beds to enrich the soil
• Fertilize acidic loving shrubs such as Azalea, Rhododendron, and Andromeda with an organic fertilizer such as Hollytone.
• Mulch trees, shrubs and perennials with shredded leaves or bark mulch to protect the plants over the winter.
• After you plant spring blooming bulbs, dig a little bulb booster fertilizer into the top of the soil around the bulb planting area. Also, you might want to plant some bulbs that will naturalize (continue to increase overtime without planting more of that variety)
• When you do plant trees, shrubs and perennials in the fall, be sure to plant them at least six weeks before the ground begins to freeze. Cooler daytime temperatures and warm soil promote root growth. Water them well at planting, and continue to water them until the freeze.
• Fall is a good time to take a walk around your garden and do an assessment. Take notes about things you’d like to change next spring; such as adding a new garden bed, moving a shrub to a better location, or the plants you’d like to thin out and divide but don’t have time to do now. Add a wish list of new plants you’d like to put in.
• If you expect a freeze, shut off and drain your garden hoses and irrigation systems.
Chemicals such as Roundup that are used for killing weeds, are harmful to people, animals, and the environment. Below are some methods for controlling weeds naturally.
• Use a sharp hoe to dig out large patches of weeds.
• Cover the weedy area with several layers of newspaper, and then cover the newspaper with compost or mulch. Or, lay black plastic over the weeds for a few weeks. Weeds die without sun exposure.
• Pour boiling water on weeds that grow up through sidewalk cracks.
• Homemade weed killer: Mix together 1 gallon of vinegar, 2 cups Epsom salt, and 1/4 cup liquid dish soap (Dawn dish soap brand works well) Fill a spray bottle with this mixture. Do not spray this mixture near any plants that are not weeds, as it will kill them too.
Some preventative measures to control weed growth:
• Lay landscape fabric on the areas needing weed control. The fabric is a clean and long lasting weed barrier that blocks out sun but allows air, water and nutrients to reach the soil.
• Put down several inches of mulch (shredded bark, grass clippings, shredded leaves, or pine needles) directly on the soil or on top of the landscape fabric.
• Apply a pre-emergent, non-chemical herbicide in early spring such as corn gluten for weed control in your lawn. Corn gluten inhibits all plant seeds from germinating, so don’t use it in a garden bed if you are starting plants from seed.
Keeping ones lawn weed and clover free takes a lot of care. And, so many home owners want their lawns to be like a large green carpet, free of weeds. This effort requires an abundance of irrigation, and the use of fertilizers and grub and insect pesticides, as well as spending money to hire a landscape company to tend the grass. If you let the clover take over the grass, you may want to cut back the clover flowers once they turn brown and before they go to seed, so they don’t spread to a neighbor’s property.
I actually recommend to my clients that they keep their lawn looking natural and organic by letting clover flourish in the grass. White flowering clover grows quickly to six inches high, and can spread to other garden areas, but it does add nitrogen to the soil. Nitrogen is an important nutrient for grass, but grass uses up the natural nitrogen supply in the soil pretty quickly. Clover takes nitrogen from the air and deposits it into the soil via its roots. Growing clover is a good choice because this nitrogen doesn’t leach from the lawn or change the soil Ph.
Clover is a hardy plant requiring low maintenance and infrequent watering. It competes well against weeds, and attracts honeybees and other good insects that are essential to plant fertility. I think the best alternative lawn is to plant the new petite leaved white flowering microclover and grass seed together for an organic lawn. Microclover is low growing, blends well with the grass, and prevents weed growth. For more information about microclover and grass mixtures go to http://www.earthturfco.com/pages/how-earth-turf-works