Peas on Earth

“Peas” on Earth
I have a holiday and Christmas wish for Michigan this year. An El Nino’ winter because my opinion is we deserve it after the last two winters we’ve all endured. I remember past El Nino’ November months in West Michigan. Wearing short sleeve shirts as we put the garden to bed for winter and stringing lots of Christmas lights outdoors to celebrate the holidays ahead. We would unload Christmas trees, in by November standards, warm temperatures. These were the years that due to a lack of ice and snow people would be inclined to string a lot of Christmas lights on the home and in the landscape. The final leaves of fall are raked in November and tilled into the garden. Anticipation of the upcoming holidays builds as we begin to decorate indoors and out. I am not a meteorologist, but when scientists predict an El Nino’ winter due to warm Pacific Ocean water temperatures it gets my attention.

After two very cold winters could the winter of 2015/2016 be an El Nino winter in the Midwest?
After two very cold winters could the winter of 2015/2016 be an El Nino winter in the Midwest?

Warmer November temperatures allow us to “hoe hoe hoe” extending the gardening season in West Michigan and get the ladders and extension cords out to string some “electric ivy”. I call it “peas” on earth and good “till’ towards men and women to enjoy the great outdoors in November.
November is a great month to take cuttings from the natural landscape to add to fresh greens for Porch Pots. These entry door containers are an inviting welcome to holiday visitors. Pruned Rose Hips from the rose bushes, lengths of Russian Sage, Red Twig Dogwood branches or Birch Branches as examples are great compliments to fresh evergreen boughs in containers for entryways. Now that the flowers are frozen but the soil is still workable, arrange the branches in these containers and they will look great through the holidays into February.

Porch Pots provide a great natural welcome to guests arriving at your home
Porch Pots provide a great natural welcome to guests arriving at your home

Forcing bulbs for indoor color is another way to brighten the home. Paperwhite narcissus and Amaryllis are easy to grow bulbs to flower indoors otherwise known as “forcing”. You can also still purchase Tulips and Daffodils or Hyacinths to plant outdoors or “force” indoors into bloom.

Bulbs for forcing indoors are wonderful little orbs of potential
Bulbs for forcing indoors are wonderful little orbs of potential

 

 

 

Finally don’t forget that indoor foliage plants are our friends as we spend more time indoors in the winter months. They can improve indoor air quality and keep us connected to nature as the winter months arrive. Try to give your foliage plants a brightly lit window and rotate them from time to time. Remember not to kill them with kindness as the shorter days and less light of winter causes them to require far less water than the summer months.

Foliage plants like these Sanseveria (pictured) are a welcome and healthy addition to any home!
Foliage plants like these Sanseveria (pictured) are a welcome and healthy addition to any home!

You work “Yard” for the money

You work “Yard” for the money. Thinking of how to stretch your dollar in the garden? To have green thumbs not by the amount of currency handled but rather results in your landscape? Look no further than the months of September and October for help.
You can use your Dis-“clover” card or your “Grass”-ter card or even maybe your Hosta la Visa card with confidence in the fall for a number of reasons. Discounts on plant material are usually readily available. The weather is cooler and rain generally plentiful making it good weather for both you and the new fledgling sprouts.

Fall is for planting
Fall is for planting

Weed control is more effective in fall. Plants root readily in warm soil in fall as the plants put more energy into establishment instead of top growth like they do in the spring. The reasons are numerous why fall is for planting. Bulbs can be planted, lawns established and repaired, landscapes planted or rejuvenated and even annuals like Pansies or Ornamental Kale can be planted.

Ornamental Kale or Cabbage are perfect additions to the landscape for cool season color
Ornamental Kale or Cabbage are perfect additions to the landscape for cool season color

Plants established in fall have a jump start on their counterparts planted in spring and you look like a neighborhood genius.
Start to prepare your tropical deck foliage plants for cabin fever and the move inside. Soon tropical breezes will turn into whatever winter pleases. Your tropicals or houseplants should be inside and behind glass by then. I’m referring to plants like Hibiscus, Mandevilla, Crotons, Boston Ferns, Palms, Ficus and the like. It’s a good idea to bathe the plants before bringing them inside. Maybe some fresh sterilized potting soil is in order or systemic insect granules to keep the bugs at bay. Make sure soil is not saturated so we don’t create a fungus gnat issue in the home. Without the long warm days of sunshine and breezes the plant will need much less water in the months ahead.
Fall is the time to invest in bulb planting. With a good well drained soil and proper depth it is as easy as dig drop done. And oh “deer” if Bambi is a problem in your neighborhood not to worry. Bulbs like Dutch Iris, Alliums, Daffodils, Fritillaria will do just fine.

Fall planted pansies and Tulips planted in fall will be a treat next spring
Fall planted pansies and Tulips planted in fall will be a treat next spring

If you want to plant Tulips or Crocus you will need to have the repellant handy next spring. I successfully had a great batch of yellow tulips this spring and protected them with Milorganite and a repellant. They were beautiful and the deer were “deerly” departed to another area in the neighborhood.
Make your effort and your money count by actively gardening in the fall. You work “yard” for the money and next spring you’ll be glad you did.

Sprout it from the rooftops!

“Sprout” it from the rooftops! Spring has finally arrived.
April is an amazing month in West Michigan. We all emerge from our homes and become reacquainted with our neighbors as the sounds of lawn mowers once again fill the air on a spring evening. The lush green grass grows so fast it seems you can watch it grow. Tulips and daffodils push their way out of the soil and the once dormant stems of forsythia, lilacs and magnolia seem to swell with pride as their buds pop open. Easter celebrations and Arbor Day tree plantings symbolize a new beginning.

Say "yellow" to spring!
Say “yellow” to spring!

“Sprout” it from the rooftops….spring is finally here!
April is a good month for soil preparation, top dressing planting beds with compost and refreshing mulched landscape areas. Consider application of pre-emergence weed control in landscape beds as the soil warms up. Most weed seed will germinate when soil temperatures get to around 60 degrees. The same applies to your lawn as this is month to avoid crabgrass by applying pre-emergence crabgrass controls in April. An organic weed seed suppressant and natural nitrogen source you may want to try for both your lawn and landscape beds would be corn gluten.
Remember that after a long cold winter the deer and rabbits will find the emerging new vegetation a wonderful salad buffet and taste treat. Oh “deer”! Use some natural repellant sprays on emerging vegetation like tulips and hosta before they are “deerly” departed. Many good repellants use garlic and herbal oils as well as other smelly and bitter tastes to make the sprouting buffet less attractive. I also like to use Milorganite as a fertilizer at the base as it will also double as a helpful repellant to foraging creatures.
If you’re doing some tree planting or tree care to celebrate Arbor Day this month, make sure to do it right. Tree planting depth is an important consideration when planting. Trees planted too deep or trees that have a “volcano” of mulch mounded at the base do not establish well and suffer in future years. Good taper at the base, root collar health at the soil level and roots that are allowed to spread and work their way into the upper profile of the soil to seek out nutrients, water and footing are important considerations for your tree.

If this tree had been properly planted years ago issues like poor taper and girdling roots would not be an issue now
If this tree had been properly planted years ago issues like poor taper and girdling roots would not be an issue now

As you “sprout” it from the rooftops remember that even though we get some nice warm April days the overnight temperatures can drop to below freezing. We often get a few “zinger” overnight frosts in April and our last frost date is usually not until between May 10 and May 20. Some plants like Pansies can handle light frosts but other tender vegetation and sprouts may need to be protected from time to time so watch the forecasts and harden off tender plants gradually before planting outdoors. Container gardening affords you this opportunity by giving you the flexibility to move plants inside on the occasional frosty night.
Have fun and “sprout”it from the rooftops….it’s finally spring!

Pamper your Plants

In social media lately a post has been circulating about the use of diapers to improve your plants. If you want to “pamper” your plants or give your houseplant a “huggie” I suppose you could consider using a diaper. You see the super absorbent material in disposable diapers is just that….”SAP” or super absorbent polymers. The “bottom-line” is it’s much easier to use “Soil Moist” granules where you can use just a few in the soil to help retain moisture. Each granule can hold 30 times or more it’s weight in moisture. Understanding OVER-watering kills many plants be careful how much you use. Want to learn more? Check out this video of a recent TV segment I did on the subject……

http://www.wzzm13.com/videos/life/home-garden/greenthumb/2015/01/30/22575631/

Diaper dandy idea for your plants
Diaper dandy idea for your plants

That’s a Wrap

That’s a wrap. No more “hoe hoe hoe” and lots of “ho ho ho” as another gardening year ends and the holidays arrive. How was your year? Here’s “ho ho hoping” your tomatoes were all you thought they would be this year and your landscape brought you the “ho ho horticultural” joy you were seeking. Were you naughty or nice? Doesn’t really matter at this point with the ground frozen solid. What matters are visions of sugar plums and spring blooming dreams dancing in your head.
Provide the wild birds a holiday “tweet” with some seed and suet offerings in this season of giving. The landscape color they provide in a white and grey tundra backdrop is a welcome sight as we approach the shortest days of the year. Make sure feeders are clean and seed stays dry so your feeding station is the gift that keeps giving.

When the weather gets cold backyard birds need more than just bird seed....they need a water source and suet too!
When the weather gets cold backyard birds need more than just bird seed….they need a water source and suet too!

Make sure to keep fresh clean water in the tree stand so your live cut Christmas tree continues to draw fresh water. If not, the base of your tree trunk calluses over and then has a “drinking problem” unable to pull water into the tree similar to a straw. One way to check the water level at a glance is to float a ping pong ball or fishing bobber or other small floatation in the bowl. You can visually gauge the level versus having to crawl under the tree and use the finger method. A household pet can usually provide a good indication too based on their level of interest.
Poinsettias provide great seasonal color indoors and are quite festive and durable through the holidays provided you avoid a couple conditions. First and foremost is over watering. Most people kill the plants with kindness. Don’t commit involuntary plant slaughter by drowning your plants. Secondly avoid cold drafts. I’m not referring to a holiday draft brew, save that for yourself. I’m talking about drafty doorways sure to bring on rapid decline of the plant.

Proper care for Poinsettias...don't over water and avoid cold drafts
Proper care for Poinsettias…don’t over water and avoid cold drafts

Conversely the dry air of close proximity to a heat register is not good either. Look for a well lit area that is removed from “extremes” and you should be just fine. Today’s improved varieties of poinsettias developed by breeders for longevity and color should easily survive until April when your thoughts again return to the great outdoors and the plant is pitched into the trash.