Good Gardening in 2018 

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Birch bark


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Early January frozen in time as yearly baton was passed from December ’17 which was typically untypical, early month warm temps in low 70’s gave way to Arctic blast which by months end daily temperature sank into single digits with severe wind chills, dry soil relieved somewhat by hit and miss occasional rainfall and smattering of snow during December providing some root system relief. Truly no way to determine what if any impact this weather scenario has had on plant material, obviously healthy plants should have least real / aesthetic damage. New (less than 2 years) installations and any under performers may have some major struggles / hangover effect. January weather, temperature and moisture wise will have a say on how well late winter / early spring emerging foliage and flower buds perform and if there will be a longer echoing influence throughout our regions plant world. Anticipation is great, especially for bad circumstances that have been re-occurring on an annual basis but knee jerk reaction could problematic, take time and effort to find out what did happen and determine best course of action, seeking help from multiple sources is best garden path to take.

2018 Ideas-Volunteer at Operation Brightside, Gateway Greening, Forest Part Forever, Missouri Botanical Garden, conservation groups…Spending Time-checking out new plant design options via Catalogs, Classes, Internet-enabling smarter decisions i.e. sizes, silhouette, compatibility with existing near-by plants, amount care / maintenance required…Help Your Yard-soil testing finds out lacking, just rights or way too much, plants will benefit by modifying / eliminating / reducing unhealthy soil chemistry scenarios, Green Thinking-recycle / re-use storm damaged debris or those ‘real’ trees / wreaths -first remove anything artificial, at home cut / place under acid loving plants (azaleas, dogwoods…), donate to parks with fish ponds (call first) provides fish nesting locations, drop off at designated parks or St. Louis Composting for shredding into mulch   

Don’t Go Cheap-regarding your neighborhood flyers and or singers, crows, blue jays, grackles, wrens, sparrows, titmouse, mocking birds, woodpeckers, sapsuckers, juncos, cardinals, finches (gold and purple), doves, chickadees, each having ‘personal’ preferences related to favorite seed. Cheaper seed generally contains high percentage of filler that ends up getting raked out of feeders or simply bi-passed, and then becomes an invitation to squirrels, starlings…Remember birds also need moisture to stave off winters harsh temperatures just like plant material.  

Slippery-How Water Becomes Ice-water is tiny molecules in motion, faster when warm, slower if cold, when water temperature is 32 movement stop and molecules stick together forming ice, colder temperature faster and stronger bonds are formed-Chemical De-Icers (multiple types available-with varied effectiveness) raise temperatures breaking bonds melting ice, most effective type will also break bond formed by ice and hardscape allowing for easier physical removal vs. trying to melt ice require large volumes of product and is environmentally and financially to costly

Take Inventory and Create Visual Interest-though plant installation can’t happen right now (weather and availability at garden centers) by adding evergreen woodies, perennials and ground covers definitely a welcome sight and will make views more interesting-so take a picture with phone, make some notes to improve vistas for future winters 

Wounds Obvious or Suspected (above / below ground)-lower trunk bark chewed-mice / vole, upper trunk branch bark frayed-deer, tunnel / mounds-mole among others each can have long term health impact either vein and or root system loose, take action to stop damage with traps, physical barriers, chemical repellents or combination, series of ¼" horizontal oozing holes on tree trunk is woodpecker or sapsucker-minimal damage to healthy tree 

Lawns-frosted or frozen minimize foot traffic breaks crowns (growth points) causing decline, prevent any blowing leaves from piling up on lawn can smother grass, 2 winter fungus-pink snow mold-symptoms-patches of bleached / pale dead lawn, grass blades can appear slimy / matted, random blades having pinkish tint-favorable conditions temperature high 32-45 degrees, higher humidity levels in specific location from snow melt, areas that fallen leaves were allowed sit (not raked / removed) and or lawn not power raked or dethatched for several years, fall fertilizer with nitrogen level greater than 15%combination of any or all can cause fungus growth, gray snow mold requires snow cover)-symptoms-random gray to straw brown patches few inches to 2’+, not visible until snow melts-initially infected patches grass blades will look puffy dirty bluish tint with shiny crust coating favorable conditions prolonged snow cover- 5 days plus, then temperature high 32-45 degrees  

DON’T Waste Time / Money-by spreading grass seed during snow cover there’s no advantage; seed migrates during melting or strong rain storms, and realize no germination until ground temperature gets above 45+

Serious About Weeds-considering using pre-emergent, purchase soil thermometer and routinely take soil’s ‘temperature’ at various locations (sunny and or southern exposure areas will warm fastest) related to crabgrass and other weed seed germination threshold is 45 degrees (approximate date is when yellow forsythia start blooming) and to control any weeds currently growing (henbit, mouse ear, clover…) hand digging most effective, reason to minimize weed seed production by these cold season loving weeds

Indoor Paradise-tasteful and or fragrant herbs (lavender, rosemary tree, basil, parsley…), exciting foliage maybe flowering; clivia, calla lily, fiddle leaf fig, philodendron, X-mas / Thanksgiving cacti, Mandevilla vine, hibiscus, cactus, bulbs (amaryllis or hyacinth, tulips / daffodils potted for forcing), poinsettias, sansevieria are just a few possibilities-many are in ‘hibernation mode’ whether pace in front of sunny window or not, any under plant grow lights may be more active, overview anticipate foliage browning / dropping, keep watering according to plant variety (minimal-cacti succulent-routinely to orchids)  and once a month shower helps by washing off surface dust, fertilize (bloomers bi-weekly, all others monthly at ½ label rate), keep looking for sticky leaves / stems (bugs) determine cause take action wiping off or application of insecticide, if plant appears to be in decline i.e. blackened stems and or major leaf drop, wilting (over or under watering)-isolate all plants showing trouble to prevent spread chances of recovery iffy at best, any trouble take picture to favorite garden center for advise on action ranging from discard, either minor or major adjustments to care / maintenance, NO TRANSPLANTING right now, disrupting root system could be bad news




                                                 Take Time to Enjoy the Nature of Plants both In and Outdoors 



December-2017 calendar growing season comes to an end, looking back this year had a wonderful, spring explosion, difficult late summer / fall due to lack of rainfall, unexpected fantastic fall coloration. Now as usual who knows what Mother Nature has in store related to temperature (last year was wonderfully mild) and rainfall amounts. Landscape that were care for and maintained properly should experience minimal adverse impact, but remember in this great marathon called ‘gardening’ expect the unexpected. Make sure to relish good memories, learn and remember past disappointments. Page through catalogs, attend classes / lectures, stop at favorite garden center and Missouri Botanical Garden to gain insight, either subtle or obvious for 2018. Look forward to enjoying diversity of great outdoor and indoor plant material that you can, could, may, might delve into.

Should Ice, Sleet, Snow Occur-don’t beat if off your plants (bruising is slow to heal) and remember using rock salt (sodium chloride-though it is cheaper) can de-hydrate ground / root system, may damage hardscapes, alternatives calcium chloride (90% less de-hydration) or traction sand are less damaging

Stop Guessing Game-find out what is overly abundant and or lacking in your soil by Getting Soil Tested and do so every few years, avoid potentially costly disaster (mental and financial) don’t wait until there’s an obvious problem, don’t bother with do it yourself home kit-several private, universities and not for profit organizations offer service-go on line for possibilities

Indoor Seasonal Pizazz-any plant in bloom, fertilize using type for tropical plants apply at ½ label rate every few weeks while flowering continues-plant options include: Bromeliads-easy care, striking foliage, keep in bright light or color fades, keep water in center leaf cup, Christmas/Thanksgiving cactus-do not over water, set in bright sun repositioning may cause bud drop, Cyclamen (bulb) same care as cactus, Poinsettias-place sunny window (min. 4 hours sun), keep soil slightly damp (not wet)

Iffy Planting Spring Flowering Bulbs-ground is getting colder and possibly freezing (cold soil restricts root system development by bulbs and could impact flowering) but better to plant previously purchased crocus, tulips, daffodils, grape hyacinth etc. into ground or larger containers / pots-ASAP, depth 3-4X diameter of bulb, backfill, water, with 1-2” mulch vs. leaving them sit in the garage

Woody Plant Installation-can continue until ground is frozen, dig hole 3X diameter of root ball, only 75-80% as deep to keep crown above surrounding ground if settling should occur, no fertilizer, 3-4” mulch after hole is backfilled, minimize mulch contact with plant bark (bagel factor)

Keep Any Tools Ready to Go When Needed-from shovels / spades to leaf / snow blowers / mowers, store out of weather, sharpen blades, routinely start and run for a few minutes anything motorized

Living with Tropical Houseplants-don’t overwater (if wilting and plant has been watered recently likely root rot cause vs. dry potting mix) so water as needed (look for gap between potting mix and inside of pot-exception blooming plants keep potting mix slightly moist not ‘wet’), no problem keeping small amount of water in saucer to maintain higher humidity level (exception any cactus / succulent-water infrequently-monthly at most), turning plants to encourage more even growth-optional, no fertilizer unless blooming (1/2 label rate) always keep an eye out of anything unusual on all plant parts and yes even in, get proper identification before making any type of treatment-unsure ask at favorite garden center, any infected / infested plant should be isolated during treatment or discarded

Flying Activity Abounds Birds-be entertained by crows, wrens, chickadees, juncos, gold finches mingle with cardinals, blue jays, doves, purple finches are just a few examples of flight patterns to expect, feeding can be in ‘official’ feeders or scattering seed on any hardscape surface, have water available is a plus also-feral cats can be problematic along with thieving squirrels take action if you feel it is needed

Popular Seasonal Decorations (simple string of colorful lights, dangling ornaments to monster sized inflatable)-use common sense whether stringing, hanging or placement as each can generate heat or physically rubbing bark causing potential long term damage to bark, twig, branches to evergreens broadleaf and or conifers, lawns and even herbaceous plants overwintering just below surface

Lawn-easy to forget with so much happening, this past year was very difficult for lawns of any type, from flooding to drought, not unusual fluctuations in air temperatures, unhealthy soil (lack of aeration / composting) could set up an unhappy 2018, last opportunity for winterizer fertilizer (not 12-12-12-components may trigger damaging growth surge on cool (blue, fescue) season lawn, mow (blade height 2 1/2 - 3”) to keep elongation of grass blades and to prevent tree leaf debris build-up both create high humidity / moist environment triggering one or two fungi-yellow patch / winter brown patch, or pink snow mold (no snow needed for this fungus to be present) walk around routinely checking for bleached / pale spots maybe some slimy appearing lawn blades, or overly matted spots with blades having ‘pinkish’ tint, not advisable to core aerate any lawn-exposes crowns of plants to severe damage in extremely cold spells

Yes, There Are Weeds Growing (annual i.e. chickweed, henbit, and perennial i.e. dandelion, purslane, clover) require hand digging but worth effort, herbicides become ineffective  

Looking Out a Window or Walking Through Yard-enjoy sights and sounds and give any and all aspects thought, have energy / time for additional bed space planting, is area / existing plants overgrowing dedicated space, time reduce quantity, convert to another new interest-give any ideas time to be mulled over before setting a course of action

Soil Aeration and Composting Under Trees-makes for healthier soil and trees-every 3 years equipment needed electric drill, earth auger (drill bit size 1-2 inches and length 1-2’) and compost to backfill holes, first series of holes is 1/3 distance from trunk to tree dripline ((circular pattern-each holes 2’ apart and approx. 6”-1’) when entire trunk is encircled with holes move out 2’ repeat process, final circle should be just beyond dripline, it is easier if holes are filled with compost as each circle is complete 

Pruning-minimize routine shaping, size reduction but do remove storm damage ASAP to prevent worsening troubles

Unwanted Guests-Canada geese, voles, squirrels, field mice, deer…closer to homes activity increases as natural habitats go dormant reducing growing season food source, use physical (fencing, corrugate pipe…), chemical (repellents, safe household products-moth balls, Irish Spring soap)-routinely change course of action and products

Don’t Over Mulch-yes, mulch has great aesthetic value with plant / bed space highlighting but to much could damage plant material so add new mulch to maintain depth 3-4” around woodies (evergreen and deciduous) and 1-2” over areas where perennials / ground covers are growing

Potted or in Ground Roses-cut back to 1-2’ (exception don’t prune climbers, shrub roses remove ½ current stem length), cover with 8-10” mulch, treat shrub roses like woody plant only 3-4” mulch

Keep Fallen Leaves Raked Up or Mulched with Mower-to reduce potential fungus troubles







Wonderful Gifts-All Unique One of a Kind!!! designed and made by Tracy

@ Tracy’s E-Store - Full of Creative Re-Purposed Jewelry-

go to then type in TracysTimeWarp



Good Gardening--To each and everyone that stops by-I say to you the world of life and gardening is simply wonderfully wild and crazy

Paint and Brush