Good Gardening in 2018 

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HELLO FEBRUARY-January’s severe cold spells, spiced by later month warm-ups may have done damage (heaving / thawing / refreezing / tearing and upheaval to root systems) not only to newer (3 years or less) installations but to plants considered well established. As soon as possible irrigate your landscape to give root systems a needed thirst quencher, it could make a big difference related to damage / recovery. Begin and Finish ASAP (exception allow fall blooming perennials foliage to remain until new growth is obvious usually at ground level-provides protection to plant crown during any extreme cold snaps) Cleaning-Up last year’s plant debris to help reduce possible troubles i.e. insect (overwintering eggs…) and diseases (spores…). Watch for Signs of winter relief; Cornus (cornelian cherry) multiple small yellow blooms exploding open almost overnight by this cousin of classic dogwood, Hamamelis (Ozark witch hazel and cousins) larger multi-stemmed shrub with small fragrant yellow / orange flowers, while underneath small blooming bulbs usually first to show color Eranthis (winter aconite) yellow blooms, followed by native Claytonia (spring beauty) multiple white / pinkish flower upright clusters, immigrant Crocus (Dutch crocus) variety of colors usually with streaked petals, Galanthus (snowdrops) white dangling flowers, also perennial Hellebores (Lenten rose +) flowers color varies according to variety but all hid under evergreen foliage. As daylight length increases indoor tropicals wake up expect to see emerging foliage, elongating stems, flower bulb forming / opening some fragrant all saying winter may not be over but let’s party. While all this plus more is going on cool season lawns could show signs of blade growth, just remember any and all of these plant events will be dependent upon weather patterns, plant exposure, plants historically receiving correct care and maintenance and always a bit of luck.



1). Improve Soil Quality Routinely (from large mature trees to seasonal planting beds, lawn, display gardens…)-enabling plants provide anticipated aesthetic rewards and personal satisfaction, to better withstand attacks from trouble makers (disease, insects, storm or man’s physical damage)-do so every few years-under canopy of any trees (evergreen-conifer or broadleaf, ornamental, shade, deciduous) starting halfway out from trunk to drip line encircle with auguring holes 1-2’ apart, move outward 1-2’ augur another series continue with final circle just beyond dripline then backfill holes with compost, cool season lawns (core aerate or auger holes) top dress with ½-1” compost spread over surface, perennial beds and garden areas minimize damage herbaceous plants wait to augur holes / compost until emerging growth is visible, unplanted areas rototill or shovel compost into ground-light watering areas ‘augured / compost’ is recommended / advisable

2). Fertilize any and all plant showing signs of growth (indoors and out)-best results-is to use a fertilizer formulated for specific scenario i.e. lawn, tree and shrub, bulbs, acid loving plants, guidelines provided by results from soil testing-option also includes organic and inorganic

3). Mobile Garden Lovers - Get Window Boxes / Containers / Pots Ready-with existing potting mix (unless contained diseased plant material-then discard, in addition wash contaminated containers), blend with some new potting mix for a ‘breath’ of freshness then refill to correct level, check containers for cracks / flaws determine if still functional, optional cleaning all containers inside and out (dish washing / liquid soap / water) allow to dry before re-filling

4). Be Conscious of Rising Air Temperatures-(watch for anything unusual, unexpected, unnatural) in anticipation of germination / launching / hatching / morphing, wildlife activity, spore eruption by trouble makers damaging insects, maddening diseases, hassling weeds and bothersome wildlife triggering germination or spread; fungus / bacteria, scale (black, brown, white small immobile bumps), mites (numerous colors-almost microscopic-spider family member) along with other bugs overwintering eggs hatching, anything suspect and if unsure what if any action is needed check favorite garden center for identification and control recommendations-i.e. dormant oils (scale), miticides (mite control traditional insecticides-not effective), Eastern tent caterpillars (webs in branches)-use broom handle or pole and physically destroy protective web exposing caterpillars to be consumed by birds---before applying any chemical READ or REREAD and UNDERSTAND LABEL to get best results and lessen chances of damage-(continue to monitor tropical / houseplants for problems-too early for moving outdoors)-Various 4 Legged Trouble Makers-will be active from underground to high branches in trees and everything in between expect wildlife to become more prominent in your neighborhood, near-by common ground, woodlands with spill over likely right into your yard / garden / lawn / garden space. Depending upon where you live everything wildlife from squirrels digging that exposes roots, crowns, bulbs to cold damage-lay physical barrier / screen over important spots, skunks rutting lawn for grubs-apply grub killer-moles damage landscapes as surface food seeking tunnel exposes plant root system to dehydration and cold damage-main food source earthworms will become more active creating underground sounds with moles listen for and burrow towards, eating most insects (milli / centipedes, grubs or larva of any type, crickets, spiders…) found during earthworms search-mole control university studies indicate traps (choker loop or spear traps to be most effective), if there is history of mole damage check routinely for new activity-reminder February is birthing month so population / tunneling damage could increase-other rodents voles, mice and chipmunks eat some bulbs, bark, bird seed, roots, bugs while using abandoned mole tunnels for easy access to food, while living under porches, patios, steps-control baited mice / rat traps-deer do realize home landscape are easily accessible food source vs. agricultural fields, open areas or woodlands, eating any fresh / newly growth foliage / vegetation-control-wildlife repellents, bars Irish Spring soap, physical barriers effectiveness iffy-Unwanted Plants-weeds or out of place plants (herbaceous and woodie) growth is triggered by soil temperature (related to air temperature) monitor bare, lower, wet, unstable spots and be prepared to be surprised to see unexpected numbers of unwelcomed guests even among healthy well established planted areas, wide invasive adaptability, tough durability in well prepared soil or unbelievably bad growing environments, save yourself grief make proper identification before any treatment other than hand digging or results could be counter-productive control options; organic or inorganic, pre-emergent (kills seeds at germination), post emergent (kills actively growing) or hand digging, weeds lifespan vary from annual, biennial to perennial with basic categories broadleaf-leaf wide veins branched-i.e.-dandelions, violets, chickweed, spurge, grasses-slender blades veins running parallel to edge-i.e.-crabgrass, wild onions or garlic, goose grass, sedge-greenish yellow grass-like triangular stem at ground surface-i.e.-nut or water grass-Rule 1-before acting correct identification is first step towards best control or could waste time / money-Disease Details (leaf spot, mildew, cedar apple rust, anthracnose …)-damage can range from cosmetic, general weakening or killing outright, any and or phases can happen to new cuttings, 2” cell packs to established lawn, perennial garden, massive mature trees any and every plant is susceptible-first determine what is going before taking any action, if cosmetic with actual, suspected or potential fungus problems (rose, crabapple, lilac, lawn…) realize in some scenarios regardless to what is done nothing will help---Use caution when applying any control whether chemical or physical, organic or inorganic to avoid causing problems for pets, children, people or other plants…Finally UNSURE what it is, what should be done GET PROFESSIONAL HELP

5). Be Smart and Start with Clean / Sharpened-Tools, Equipment and Accessories (especially if used to eradicate known disease problems)-anything used for application of chemicals, in or on soil, potting mixes either indoors or out-reduce potential carry-over of last year’s problems; wheel barrows, hand to power tools, wheels, rollers, carts, rakes, shovels, boots / work shoes, pots, containers, mower or rototiller blade-use diluted bleach (9 parts water 1 part bleach), dishwashing soap and water) or professional cleaning solution-ask at favorite garden center what they use

6). Be Realistic-give strong consideration to removal, correct rejuvenation (may be long term recovery) renovations to locations, any / all plant (lawn, ground cover, shrubs and trees, houseplants, also) material with a history of weakness, disease / insect troubles, generally weak underperformers no matter what-these sites or plants are basically incubators for another series of new whoa, mental tears and frustration or a rerun of past heartaches


7). Stay Conscious-related to weather, slowing down, speeding up of emergence of Enjoyable Qualities you have worked for with time, effort, real, mental monies while participating in this great Plant Marathon-give yourself a Tip of the Trowel-you deserve it!!!       


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

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