Whether you are hoping for a big harvest, a beautiful landscape, or a little stress relief, knowing the when and how of gardening will help you be a success. Use these timely garden tips to eliminate some of the guesswork. For more gardening tips, check out Melinda's gardening books.
Give the gift of flowers this holiday season and be kind to your budget and the environment. Reuse attractive pasta sauce, pickle and other glass jars as vases. Fill the "vase with cut flowers, tie a ribbon around the upper lip of the jar and you have an attractive gift for your friends, relatives or hostess. Plus, there is no need to return the vase as the recipient can simply reuse or recycle the vase guilt-free.
Gardening Tips for Flowers
Keep planting hardy bulbs. Those in warm regions may just be getting started, while those in cold climates are winding down. If the ground freezes you can still plant, it just takes a bit more time and effort. Use a shovel to break through the frosty covering and outline the planting hole. Lift the frozen lid of soil, much like a manhole cover, and plant the bulbs at the proper depth in the unfrozen soil below. Water and replace the soil lid. Some gardeners claim it is a great way to protect bulbs from squirrels.
Collect and save seeds of coneflowers, black-eyed Susans and other perennials you want to plant next spring. Remove the seeds from the seedpods and allow them to dry. Store the seeds in a 35mm film canister or other airtight container. Write the seed name and date on the outside and store in the refrigerator.
Gardening Tips for Edibles
Try growing your own salad indoors. Fill a windowsill container with a well-drained potting mix. Sprinkle the seeds of lettuce or other greens on the soil surface. Add a few radishes for zip. Or make it an herb garden. Basil, marjoram, parsley and many other herbs add a little life to the indoors and flavor to your winter meals.
Protect next year's strawberry harvest now. Cover the plants with a 4 to 6 inch layer of straw or marsh hay once the top half inch of soil is frozen. This is usually after the temperatures start hovering around 20 degrees.
Check on stored produce throughout the winter. Look for signs of sprouting, soft spots and rot. Move to a cooler and darker location if possible. Remove and compost rotten fruit and vegetables. It is true that one rotten apple, squash or onion does spoil the bushel.
Trees, Shrubs and Roses
Hybrid tea roses need help getting through the cold northern winters. Once the ground freezes, it is time to get busy. Loosely tie the canes to prevent wind damage. Mound 8 to 10 inches of compost or soil around the base of the plants. Once the soil mound freezes, cover it and the plant with straw, marsh hay or evergreen boughs.
Or try the leaf method. Surround the planting bed with 4 foot tall hardware cloth. Sink the bottom 4 inches into the ground to keep out the varmints - you'll need to do this part before the ground freezes. Once the ground freezes, cut back the roses to 18 inches and fill the fenced in bed with dry leaves. Pack them in tight until you have a 3 foot layer. Then sit back and relax until spring.
Lawns and Groundcovers
The holidays are approaching and many of us like to give or receive living plants. Protect these blooming gifts on their travels from the garden center or florist to your home and others. Wrap the plants in paper, plastic or place in a box for protection from the cold. Don't leave plants sitting in a cold car while you run errands. Even a brief chill can kill a plant. It often looks fine when you deliver it, but the leaves of a chilled plant discolor and drop in several days. Not the holiday cheer you were hoping to deliver.
Do not fertilize indoor plants. Yellow and dropping leaves are often caused by the change in environment not a lack of nutrients. Plants moved in from outdoors or those adjusting to our shorter days and less intense light often replace their summer foliage with more shade tolerant leaves. You can fertilize plants that are actively growing and showing signs of nutrient deficiency. Use a dilute solution of houseplant fertilizer and only as needed.
Tips for Indoor Plants
Brighten up the indoors with a few flowering plants. Purchase an amaryllis bulb and watch the flowers appear before your eyes. Plant the bulb in a container just slightly, about two inches, larger than the bulb. Leave the pointed half of the bulb above ground level. Keep in a cool bright location and water whenever the soil is moist and crumbly. Be patient, it can take weeks for the flowers to appear. But your patience will be rewarded with a burst of color.
Consider the gift of cut flowers - for others or yourself. Research has shown that flowers can generate a smile in less than 15 seconds. Extend their vase life with a little proper preparation and care. Protect them from harsh weather with a paper sleeve or wrap when transporting them from the florist to yours or your friend's home. Place them in a clean vase filled with fresh water and a little floral preservative. Be sure to cut the stems on an angle before placing them in their container. Keep the container filled with water to maximize your enjoyment.
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