A rolling stone gathers no moss…..or so they say. So why is it that a stationary rock can provide such a great habitat for its green growth? The other day during our January mid-winter thaw I took a walk through the woods and admired the eccentric shades of green moss growing on the forest floor. At a time of year when there is little else growing or green I found the moss a welcome friend in the landscape.
During the growing season many people contact me for methods of ridding themselves of moss in their lawn, landscape, on tree trunks or landscape structures. I happen to like moss and admire it’s ability to survive and locate. So why does moss grow seem to grow so well in some areas? Moss is a survivor. It is often said that moss likes nutrient poor soils or acidic soils and surfaces. I don’t necessarily agree although this can certainly be the case. The truth is that moss is smart and thrives in areas where there is little or no competition. This often happens in acidic, moist, poor or compacted soils because other plants can’t survive or compete in those areas. Even on a stone……provided it’s not rolling.
It’s one thing to stand on the ground and gaze up at a giant Tulip Poplar. It’s another thing to jump off one. A massive Liriodendron tulipifera provides an exhilarating platform as you “leaf” your feet and zip through a forest canopy of Southern Magnolia, Hemlock, Pine and Sourwood trees. Fly above a Hackberry tree, a Fraser Fir and zip past a Buckeye tree. For someone who appreciates trees I enjoyed my zip line adventure….it gives you a “tree”-freshing perspective of their beauty and stature.
The heat and drought of this summer are hopefully past and now we enter one of the best times of the year to yard and garden! I know you work “yard” for the money. Late August through October is the perfect time to “grow” get em and re-establish “lawn” and order in your landscape. It’s a great time for both plants and people. You’ll have a green thumb by both improving your odds of success in the yard and from the currency you’ll save by being smart and investing in your “hort”-folio. Here are 5 reasons why with a bonus comment to boot!
1) Feeding. We’ve been pouring on the water during heat and drought to keep our lawns alive. August to October is a great and efficient time to feed your lawn because it will thicken your lawn and improve density. Lots of root establishment occurs in fall. You’ll be miles ahead next spring by pampering your lawn a little this fall.
2) Fall is for planting. Late August to October is the perfect time to plant in Michigan. You can generally find deals and discounts for plant material. In addition fall planted landscape plants put their energy into establishment and root growth….not into top growth. You will be further ahead next spring with a plant that has rooted itself in your garden and is ready to go.
3) Seeding. Grass seed is relatively inexpensive. You can repair bare spots, seed a new lawn, or overseed an existing lawn by buying bulk grass seed and doing it yourself. The best time of the year to seed and establish turf in West Michigan is between late August and October.
4) After the heat and drought of summer you need some instant color to rejuvenate your landscape and patio planters. Consider Mums, Ornamental grasses and Pansies. Mums are perennials giving you beautiful color this fall and will come back again next year, so will ornamental grasses. You’ll get more than just the fall season with them. Pansies can be planted for fall color and they will survive under the cover of this winter’s snow to bloom again next spring! You’ll get more than one season for the money.
5) Split your plants! If you want to divide or move plants August-October is a great time to do so! From Peonies to Iris……Daylilies to Hostas you can double your money by digging and dividing and two or three for the price of one! One final note to our list……Exercise! Late August to October after the heat and drought of this past summer is a perfect time for people too! You can save on your club membership and get fresh air and exercise outdoors. It’s a perfect time for people and plants!
(But don’t be surprised if I come running through your neighborhood to supplement my yard and garden workouts)
When it comes to your Christmas tree it’s not much different than a tree in your landscape…..it needs “re-hydration” when nature calls so to speak. Foliage or in this case needles transpire like people perspire when things warm up. In the case of an evergreen they’ll transpire indoors when you turn up the heat.
Due to a decrease in hydrostatic water pressure in the needles as they transpire the tree “pulls” water upward through the xylem to re-hydrate the tree. The same applies to trees and plants in your landscape. The big difference of course is that the Christmas tree in your living room has no roots to reach out.
You have to reach out and provide the water to your tree so the “FMC” does not drop to unacceptable levels at which point “yule” have to reach for a vacuum cleaner. FMC is Foliage Moisture Content. Make a fresh cut on the bottom of Christmas tree and immediately place it in water. When you get a wound your body begins to clot and scab the wound naturally. The tree does the same with sap at the cut which in turn inhibits or cuts off moisture flow through the tree.
When the “FMC” drops below 25% needles will drop and the tree may no longer draw water even though it is sitting in water. The greater the water pickup results in higher foliage moisture content which also provides the best ignition resistance.
Trees with a high “FMC” tend to self-extinguish versus a dry tree with low “FMC” can go up like a torch if subjected to an ignition source. Light up your holidays the right way and get long lasting fragrance and beauty from your tree by making a fresh cut, put the tree immediately in water and keep the water bowl full until you remove the tree after the holidays. Placing a fishing bobber or ping pong ball in the water will help you see at a glance the water level in the bowl. Pay attention to your tree’s “FMC” and it will make all your Christmas “Greens” come true!
As we head towards spring, decide to join the “crop” of yardeners who resolve to grow green this year. No, this is not another article to preach or “guilt” you into being green. It’s not hard, it’s fun and rewarding to feel like you’re making a difference in your own backyard. I took this picture to illustrate rain water harvesting (see the barrel?) Also container gardening (right plant in the right place, you can put a container anywhere). I took these pictures at the National Botanical garden in Washington DC. Notice in the picture to the right there is a compost bin and a tomato plant in the foreground. It’s “green” to mix vegetable and herb plants into an “edible landscape” (grow your own food). Composting has moved from behind the garage to a visible spot in the landscape. Be thoughtful and sustainable by not only planting the right plant in the right place, but also embrace diversity. Monocultures breed problems, diverse groupings of plants hardy to your area are healthier (there is strength in numbers). You’ll also see from the picture that some vertical gardening is a great way to provide the light, support and air movement some plants need to naturally resist disease. See the path? Clearly defined traffic areas help reduce soil compaction around the plant material (healthy soil = healthy plants).
Vegetable plants and small fruit are making a comeback in popularity. That said, for the typical American household, we love our lawns. Nothing wrong with that! Lawns trap runoff and dust, they provide cooling and oxygen for the environment. They are “nature’s carpet” minimizing erosion, water runoff and providing a natural weed control. You can “grow green” by caring for your lawn properly in simple ways. Consider using some organic fertilizers like Turf Revolution (alfalfa based) or Lawn Restore or Nutri Plus (dried chicken manure). Sharpen the blade on your mower and raise the deck, don’t put your lawn under stress by scalping the lawn. Don’t forget to aerate the lawn (healthy soil = healthy plants). There you have it, some simple ways to be a more thoughtful gardener and not feel guilty when someone tells you they’re “sustainable”. Healthy and clean fun that’s rewarding and it’s all right there under your feet……on your small piece of America……your backyard!