Good Gardening in 2020 

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February's opening is a true celebration of visual aesthetics and excitement in the outdoors, at garden centers, MO. Botanical Garden's Orchid Show / Sale, Faust Park's Butterfly House and beyond. Everyone's watching a special Ground Hog to see if he makes a shadow, when President Washington and Lincoln were born and celebrate President's Day, Valentines are given and party on Tuesday Mardi Gras all are happening! At the same time expect to see flowering from winter aconite (minor bulb a few inches tall) upward to top of silver maple trees. Accompanying winter aconite could be crocus, Dutch bulb iris, snow drops and grape hyacinth with woodies chiming in striking pink flowering almond, yellow cornelian cherry, white star magnolia, yellow witch hazel and subtle pussy willow and never know what else may bloom and surprise. Remember that February with its longer daily daylight (though there are lots of days with total cloud cover of course), slightly warmer temperatures can trigger insect activity from egg hatching, morphing into next life phase, to hibernating adult emergence from diapause i.e. scale (numerous types i.e. white flecks on pine and euonymus, aphids sucking on emerging or evergreen foliage, along possibility of mites (miticide), thrips, beetles, tent caterpillars so keep watching for ‘bugs' while welcoming nature's emerging floral and foliage  beauty.

New Season-Welcoming Action for Indoor Greenery-as new growth or flowering begins fertilize at ½ label rate, considering re-potting (either in same pot-helps maintain current size or one slightly larger) water plant, tip pot and gently remove from existing pot, shake slightly to remove existing potting mix, then either place back in same or new pot (only 1-2" larger is advisable for best acclimation / new growth), backfill with potting mix and water, good time to shape and prune, check plants stems, top / underside of foliage and potting mix for insects

Important One Liners

Extended dry spell (three weeks without 1" moisture) recommend watering all evergreen trees / shrubs

Squeeze and smell warm season bulbs in storage throw out any mushy or rotten smelling

Rake / remove or mow over areas where remaining fallen leaves have accumulated

Growing seed or cuttings indoors-use potting mix formulated specifically for ‘new plants'

Flowering houseplants-fertilize ½ label rate (days are short, overfeeding can cause stress)

Get jump on spring bloomers take 1' cuttings bring indoors and place in water filled vase   

Prune and or re-pot houseplants if needed, remember don't overwater any potted plant

Bird food supply is diminishing be a good friend and provide quality seed

Check ornamental / fruit tree branches for unnatural lumps likely insect eggs remove

Prune raspberry canes, grapes, remove winter damaged foliage on edibles and herbs 

Triple 12 fertilizer formulated for use on annuals i.e. agricultural crops 

Action Against Insect Trouble Makers-application of Dormant Oil, effective insect ‘killer' during this time of year, spray can be applied widely on woody plant material where observed or suspected insect presence is considered, spray covers and suffocates any and all life stages of bugs with minimal if any damage done to plant material (deciduous or evergreen) but as always read and understand label related to mixture, apply during noted optimal temperature range to get best results-Non-chemical control-Eastern tent caterpillars (webs on branch)-use broom handle or pole and physically destroy protective web which exposes caterpillars for bird consumption, pulling bag worms off (bag info-insecticide cannot penetrate, do contain multiple eggs waiting to hatch a little later)   

Be Aware of Accelerated Damage Levels by those Soft Furry Cute Intruders (though present / gnawing, eating on landscape plants throughout past few months anticipate surge especially with new births)-repellent (organic / inorganic) can be hit and miss related to effectiveness but maybe worth a try expect to see more squirrels digging through mulch and or in soil reduces insulation factor possibly exposing surface feeder roots, perennial plant crowns and or bulbs increasing chance of cold damage-prevent or minimize by laying metallic physical barrier i.e. chicken wire / screen / cyclone fencing over important spots, skunks rutting lawn for grubs which migrant upward as weather warms to consume plant / lawn feeder roots-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 which moles listen for and burrow towards, eating most insects (milli / centipedes, insect larva of any type, crickets, spiders...) found during earthworms search-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 mole birthing month so population / tunneling damage could increase-other problematic 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 with baited mice / rat traps-biggies are deer who realize home landscape usually have easily accessible food vs. agricultural fields, open areas or woodlands, will eat any fresh / new growth foliage / vegetation as well as conifer and broadleaf evergreen-control ranges from hanging bars of Irish Spring Soap, scented repellents, flood lighted motion detectors...

Reduce Chance of Disease Transmission-clean (soap / water)-window boxes, pots, any containers where bacteria, virus, disease killed or damaged plants last growing season, also discard potting mixes that diseased plants grew-Diseased Garden Bed Space-turn soil, add compost, do not replant same variety of plants in area, check with garden center related for additional recommended action(s), any tools used to remove diseased plants-clean thoroughly-solution 8-9 parts water mix with 1-2 parts bleach   

Tool (Shovels, Trowels, Power, Carts, Mowers, Hoses...) Check-Up-for proper workings of everything for viability, handles to cords, blades to spark plugs, batteries to wheels-replace or repair as needed in other be ready when as the Garden Gates and Fun Games Begin

Road Trip-take opportunity and travel to favorite garden center then consider going to one that is brand new never know what you may find-like challenging bare root plants (not potted or balled burlap-roots are wrapped to prevent dehydration prior to installation) have full understanding entire prep and installation procedure before taking challenge types of plants available range from fruiting berry canes, smaller trees, grape vines, some deciduous shrubs, roses, additionally making a donation to Audubon Society can mean a bare root thank-you gift which is bird attracting-other happenings include; cool season annuals (pansy), edibles (seed potato, rhubarb, onion set, asparagus), cooler season herbs, various seed racks, tropical bulbs / houseplants, pots of hardy bulbs as well as dry goods i.e. soil amendments, fertilizers and take a look around you never know!

Outdoor Plant / Soil Care Maintenance

Ornamental Grasses-cut back to remove dead blades-wrap elastic bungee cord around clump then cut off brown blades height dependent on variety i.e. maiden grass 6-8", fountain grass 4-6"-reminder some types are clump growers meaning center of clump will become open with no new growth, option when this occurs is to dig up clump remove center and replant perimeter which is actively growing

Routinely Adding Compost into Ground Reenergizes Soil and Benefits Plants (from large mature trees to seasonal planting beds, lawn, display gardens...)-enabling plants have necessary nutrients for sustainable growth, enables recovery from many problems to be possible-examples of action needed every few years-shrub / hedge plantings randomly augur 4-6" deep holes into soil and backfill with compost, under canopy of any trees (evergreen-conifer or broadleaf, ornamental, shade, deciduous) start halfway out from trunk to drip line encircle with auguring holes 1-2' apart 4-6" deep, move outward 1-2' augur another series continue with final circle just beyond dripline then backfill holes with compost, cool season lawns (core aerate) then 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

Emerging Perennial and or Germinating Annual Early Season Weeds-fragile, less established, new foliage emergence meaning easier to control whether chemically or hand digging-check everywhere, especially bare, low, wet, historically unstable spots and be prepared to be surprised to see unexpected numbers of unwelcomed guests, varied stages of root / foliage / floral development with wide adaptability, tough durability in well prepared mulched beds to unbelievably bad growing environments, make proper identification before treating to get best results-actions / control options hand digging herbicide (organic or inorganic-pre or post emergent), weeds are very diversified 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 FINAL NOTE-use caution when applying any chemical control may cause problems for pets, children, people or other plants-READ LABEL

Sizing, Shaping, Limbing Up Trees, Shrubs, Hedges (evergreen and deciduous)-if DIY pruning (with sharp bladed tool-will reduce chance of physical damage) give targeted plant full inspection before starting saving, time and energy-even with correct technique and tools amount removed can impact overall performance and plant health, do research / consult experts prior to beginning to insure satisfactory results  

Building a Plant Worthy Bed Space Area-will mean mental and physical work to insure healthiest plants possible-step 1 have existing soil tested to find out what is going on below surface, regional soil types (generally clay oriented) will perform much better when organic (compost) is added to create a raised bed (higher than surrounding ground-edging optional not required)-amount of compost is determined by type of plantings to be installed-native or close relatives add and work into existing soil 2" requires that 1 cu. yd. compost / 100 sq. ft., most exotic i.e. broadleaf evergreens-add total of 6" (2" at a time worked into soil creating best blending)-this scenario requires that 2 cu. yd. compost / 100 sq. ft.-after completion consider having another soil test done-this will help determine what if any additional soil amendments are needed according to plant types to be grown i.e. butterfly garden, vegetables, herbs, flowering deciduous shrubs and ornamental trees, ground covers and shade tree, broadleaf holly and azaleas... 


January ’20 beginning a new decade landscape plantings are spinning, after November severe cold truncated fall color, later in December temperatures warmed as if it was mid spring. Only time will tell what this 2020 will bring, perfect vision outside across natures scenery and or around planned / planted sites public or at home. Indoors tropical houseplants whether recent gifts / purchases or long time family members are a warming oasis offering psychological and visual relief as winter embraces evergreen and deciduous trees / shrubs, herbaceous bed spaces, stretches / patches of ground covering, local birds, squirrels and wildlife.

Likely to Happen – Winter Weather beyond just cold– ice / snow – besides scraping / shoveling steps, walks, patios, driveways spreading: traction sand, cheap bird seed, wood ash, sawdust or vermiculite can help access on slippery surfaces-How Does Ice Happen?-unfrozen (above 32 degrees) water has tiny molecules in constant motion, when water temperature drops below freezing movement stops and molecules stick together forming ice-chemical control thoughts-select salt / ice melts and spread carefully to minimize possible plant material damage, and remember melted snow / ice run-off can have high concentrations of chemicals-additional thought-traditional rock salt can chemically damage hardscapes-Helpful Tips-physically broken / cracked branches limbs on trees / shrubs should be pruned off as soon as possible (don’t jeopardize personal safety) reminder longer limbs / branches should be cut / removed in sections (final cut leaving 1/2” stub) all this is done to minimize tearing of bark (potentially an invitation to future problems)-Snow Removal (advise is to allowing melting) from woody plants (especially evergreens) – but if removal is chosen do not hit branching with any tool recommend gently brushing snow off with broom-Walking Across Lawn-if snow / ice covered or heavily frosted could physically cause crown damage   

Relaxation Time-check catalogs / internet related to tools, equipment, outdoor furniture, seeds, bulbs or plants or maybe Invite Airborne Neighbors Over, Second Opportunity for Cut Christmas Trees and Natural Decorations-can become a seasonal feeding station for local birds, place on patio, deck, or unused walkway area where viewing from indoors is fantastic, branches offer multiple landing / resting spots then offer a buffet of treats from traditional seed (mixes, thistle, sunflower…), suet possible diners juncos, cardinals, finches (gold and purple), doves, chickadees, blue jays, grackles, wrens, sparrows, titmouse, mocking birds, woodpeckers, sapsuckers and who knows, once X-mas tree feeding season ends tree can cut up for top dressing for bed spaces and woody plants or contact local city / state / national parks to see if  natural X-mas (wreaths, trees, garland…remove any artificial attachments) debris be thrown in ponds / lakes offering fish nesting locations, dropped-off for chipping into mulch ala St. Louis Composting

Stop Fooling Around-Get the Facts-have soil(s) tested to make smart decisions related to landscape environment (entire soil picture from chemistry to physical attributes) plants are growing in, best to have each major landscape area tested i.e. butterfly garden, lawn (front, back, side yards) annual bed space, edible / herb or shade garden, foundation plantings…send or take samples to a private company or university agriculture departments-then use testing results to make adjustments to any and all actions / amendments in the landscape-You’ll be amazed how much better things will be, while saving money-additionally attend lectures / classes / plant society meetings to increase understanding of what really works and why  

Enjoying Warmer Days-sometimes don’t just walk around-check existing plant material, make notations related to good i.e. ground cover hiding surface rooting of maple tree, fragrance of fallen conifer needles, bad i.e. uplifting (exposing roots) rootball of tree installed past fall, something gnawing on lower trunk and ugly i.e. discolored foliage on broadleaf evergreens, sap oozing from sap sucker’s holes Look for and Remove Problem Piles-fallen windblown leaves built-up on lawn, ground cover or bed area can create high humidity triggering damaging fungus with damaging echo effect next growing season   

Remembering Good Old Summertime-check (dahlias, cannas, elephant ears, caladiums, etc.) bulbs dug and stored for winter-give a squeeze, peek, sniff discard any soft, smelly-rotting ones ASAP minimizing contamination 

Don’t Winter Prune-maple, beech and birch have high wintertime sap flow-best to prune summer, routine (not related to storm damage) of needled or broadleaf evergreens will leave twigs / branch more exposed making more susceptible to weather related damage / kill during severe low temperatures / wind chills

Doing Wintertime Deep Root Feeding and Soil Aeration-when ground isn’t frozen consider taking action under any and all trees (ornamental, shade, evergreen) this will improve soil quality making easier access to nutrients, moisture and air (compacted soil detrimental tree health) by tree feeder roots- auguring concentric circles / holes (each hole 1-2’ apart, 6-8” deep) start half way from trunk to dripline 2’ between each circle then backfill all holes with compost continue process to just beyond tree drip line, repeat process every few (3) years healthier soil and trees

Tropical Warmth (visual oasis)-new plant(s) or long timers in your den, kitchen, bedroom many place, wide range of possibilities with differing texture, forms, colors, some fragrance and depending upon plant variety amount of light (sunlight and or grow lights) for healthy plants varies-just like amount of light needed for sustained aesthetics warm water is advised with frequency and proper amount being essential, especially problematic is overwatering which can cause root rot / plant decline death this can occur whether plants are under grow lights, in front of a window basically any circumstance, fertilizing blooming plants is suggested but at ½ label rate so keep these thoughts / actions in mind when trying to keep your paradise thriving whether rosemary trimmed into conifer shape, dwarf citrus, exotic lilies, night blooming cereus cacti, traditional holiday seasonal plant, cutting from grandmother’s collection or…other tips-wash or wipe foliage if it appears dusty, watch for insects along stems and underside of leaves-identify correctly then research best control, realize there can be ‘gnats’ living in potting mix as well-simply keep an eye open for any and everything that doesn’t seem right determine what is happening and decide if anything needs to be done, sometimes plants have to be discarded as sad as it may be    

The Outsiders-activities / destruction (minimal to deadly) can occur from underground roots, tubers, bulbs, bark at base of tree trunks, evergreen vegetation, low hanging branches, flower / foliage buds, just about anywhere sometimes even structural damage by chewing / gnawing to wood surfaces: deck posts, eaves and…perpetrators are part of nature ranging from feral cats (urine), male deer (rubbing / marking territory), single mole (tunneling) or local squirrels (munching) they all need place to go to bathroom, moisture, nutrients to keep healthy and will head anyplace to find necessities-actions minimizers deterrents range from physical barriers, chemical / scent repellants, sound / lighting, poisons and or traps-ultimately damage should be addressed with proper action dependent on damaged plant(s) ability to recover      

Fragile Lawns-our region is transitional zone where warm and cool season grasses butt heads with each season / year climate making for, its anyone’s guess-many things impact health and durability ranging from de-icer run-off, people walking, dogs running back and forth, extreme dry cold periods, invasive cool / cold season weeds, fungus growth under leaf piles-just know that every year will bring something new unexpected or a long reoccurring problem Stay Real take necessary action when weather allows it







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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