A sight for sore eyes

A sure signal of spring is the hauntingly beautiful and unique emergence of witchhazel blooms! If you’re keeping score at home or want to research the plant on the web, the botanical name is Hamamelis. The blooms arrive in March in Michigan and are a sight for sore eyes after a long winter. Relatively easy to grow, the best characteristic of this woody plant is the fall color! It’s a plant that starts early in cold climates and saves the best for last in October.pictures-for-web-and-inserts-044.jpg

Wake Up!

pictures-for-web-and-inserts-025.jpgWhen the snow finally melts, its time for a little lawn and order in your yard. There are two easy ways to give your lawn a kick in the plants. The first is a simple leaf rake. Raking up the matted lawn and cleaning up debris from last fall will open up the turf to allow the sun to warm the soil and improve air movement to fight off snow mold. Besides, raking is great exercise. But did you know that a famous character in American history may have known years ago that gypsum or as they called it plaster of Paris, could flocculate the soil and wake up your landscape to spring?

That’s right, Ben Franklin seemed to know that gypsum was a beneficial amendment to his gardens in spring.¬† Ben was known for more than his electric personality. He carted in gypsum to use at his Philadelphia farm and was known to have some of the best gardens around. green-turf1It is said that Ben would apply gypsum to areas of clover and write words with the application that would become evident when the calcium and sulfur did it’s thing. Prior to computers it was his version of what I would call “see-mail.” Ben understood the benefits of clover……it’s a nitrogen fixing plant taking nitrogen from the atmosphere and storing it in it’s roots……fixing nitrogen or feeding the soil naturally. Ben also knew the benefit of gypsum to gardens and “lawn” areas (in his case clover fields). But did Ben, the inquisitive genious he was, know that the calcium in gypsum would help flocculate the soil. This action helps draw the soils sand, silt and clay particles together giving the soil breathing room. clay-soil-handThat’s why gypsum is said to be a remedy to help “soften” or open up clay soils. It’s important to note that gypsum is not a substitute for aeration. A compacted lawn needs to be mechanically aerated. Gypsum just helps in waking up the lawn, to take a deep breath after a long winter and give the greening and growth process a “kick in the plants.”

Gypsum today is available pelletized making it easy to apply to the lawn. The calcium is very beneficial to the lawn and the added benefit is it helps neutralize salt out of the root zone faster with the spring rains. Gypsum pellets sold in a garden center also have a percentage of sulfur which is great for giving the lawn a dark green color.

Travel at the speed of “ground” and now that the yard work is done, let’s go fly a kite! (Just don’t do it during a thunderstorm like Ben).

Don’t lose your composture!

hellebore-blog.jpgThere comes a point after a long winter that you simply cannot take anymore snow! March is the end of a period in your landscape when no visual change has taken place for months. Suddenly the change happens, and when it does it happens fast!

Three things to do……one, don’t lose your “composture” because spring will come.

Two, take a picture of your landscape now before everything springs to life. If there is something in your landscape you don’t like now, odds are you won’t like it later. Decide to make that change before it’s forgotten when a lot more is going on to distract your attention.

Third, make sure to add plenty of early spring bloomers, like robins they are harbingers of spring and reliably good at cheering your spirits after winter. My two favorites are still Witchhazel and Hellebores or Lenten Rose. Both plants open the door to spring, are tough and will force the issue that were not going to take it anymore! Think Spring!

Here we grow again……

Some vines grow so fast they require a new zip code by the end of summer! Vines like like these¬†Hops or especially Woody vines like Wisteria need to be showed who’s the boss.

That’s right, a vine will be content to grow and grow in lieu of producing blooms if you’re too nice. If planted near lawn areas, they often get too much residual nitrogen from lawn feeding giving them a “kick in the plants” to produce more foliage. Try some triple super phosphate, some root pruning with a shovel and hold back on the watering a little bit. Some stress and enough sunlight might get that vine to cooperate with some flowers!