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March Gardening Calendar

March Gardening Calendar

March brings with it a sense of change, a feeling among all that there is light at the end of the tunnel. While there will still be plenty of cold days and nights ahead, and undoubtedly some more snow before it is all finished, all can sense that true Spring is just around the corner.

While most of us might hardly notice the passage of Fall into Winter, we all notice the first day of spring this month. Be it balmy or blustery, the first day of Spring marks a mental turning point: Warmer days are ahead. March is also a time when the pace starts to pick up for those of us who garden in the Southern Great Lakes region:

1.  If the weather stays consistently moderate, gradually start to remove mulch from early flowering perennials as they break dormancy.

2.  If you haven’t already done so, finish removing foliage and dead flower stems from your perennials beds. Also start trimming ornamental grasses: Remove the dried plumes and foliage. Place back any perennial that has heaved out of the ground.

3.  Although it might be tempting, leave the mulch and soil mounds around roses for a few weeks longer. There are still plenty of opportunities for more cold weather and snow in the weeks ahead.

4.  Continue to prune fruit trees and grapevines this month. Finish this task by the second week of the month at the latest.

5.  When the temperatures are above 50, apply dormant oil spray to fruit trees and deciduous ornamental shrubs and trees.

6.  Look around your yard and see where things are starting to grow. Look to see where similar plants are still dormant. These are microclimates, and by observing frost patterns and where plants break dormancy early or not, you can use this information when siting new plants.

7.  Continue to start seeds indoors.

8.  Towards the end of the month, start removing your windbreaks around such plants as your rhododendrons. Keep your hydrangeas macrophyllas covered a little while longer.

9.  As leaves of your spring flowering bulbs start to emerge, scratch in a little bone meal or organic fertilizer in the soil around these plants.

10. Get the lawnmower and other power tools ready to go for the upcoming season. The time to mow will come sooner than you think!

11. Take advantage of pre-season sales to purchase yard maintenance equipment.

12. If you didn’t do this last fall, now is a good time to empty your soil from your pots and hanging baskets. Add the old soil to the compost pile or your gardens. Clean and sterilize your containers before using, and buy new containers while the selection is still good.

13. Get bids for any big landscaping projects. If you use a lawn service, now is a good time to get bids from several different services before the busy season begins.

14. Maintain your cold frame. Keep it open on warm, sunny days to prevent the plants from getting too warm.

15. Continue to take branches of early spring flowering bushes in for forcing. The closer to the time when they normally bloom, the easier they are to force.

16. Pot up some pansies for early outdoor color. They can stand it down to about 30 degrees. Bring them up to the porch or another protected spot if the temperatures threaten to dip lower.

17. Scratch in some cottonseed meal or other organic fertilizer around your azaleas and rhododendrons as their buds begin to swell.

18. Start your summer bulbs indoors such as dahlias and begonias the last two weeks of this month.

19. Don’t forget to keep feeding the birds!

20. Take in a flower show. Many cities host many home and garden shows. It is a great way to spend a weekend day. Also take a simple walk around the yard to see what’s cookin’. You might spy a crocus or more already in bloom!

December Gardening Calendar

December Gardening Calendar

 

Holly

Holly

December is, as it is everywhere, a festive season in the Southern Great Lakes Region. It is a busy time for all: Shopping, decorating, and entertaining all take top billing this month. Fall changes officially to winter this month, but with the winter holidays, one hardly notices the official passage into winter.

Generally, our region has already experienced a good snowstorm or two by the official turn of the season. Some years, however, autumn lingers long into the month. By now, planting chores and winter prep are completed with the garden and yard. Many of the leftover chores are hold-overs from last month’s list. Yet, there are a few other things we can continue to do in the home, yard, and garden this month:

1.  Purchase some Christmas Cactus, Kalanchoes, Cyclamens, and Poinsettias to make your home more festive. Be sure to remove any foil wraps on the containers. These can hold water in the pots, which might cause the plants to rot from excess moisture. Make sure these plants are well wrapped before leaving the store for the trip home.

2.  Buy some amaryllis bulbs to grow on the windowsill. Depending upon variety, some staking might be required.

3.  Houseplants can suffer from the lack of humidity. Growing plants in pebble filled trays and saucers can help maintain humidity around plants. Set your plants on the pebbles, and fill the saucer or tray with water to just the top of the pebbles.

4.  If your roses aren’t protected, do so early in the month. Spray anti-dessicant on any exposed canes when the daytime temps are above 40. Mound soil, mulch, and leaves around the base of the plants to about 18 to 24 inches above the base of the bushes. this is especially true of hybrid teas, floribundas, and roses that have been growing in the yard less than two years, and any other marginally hardy rose. Some of the bush roses, such as the Explorers, Rugosas, Mordens, and Buck’s roses can overwinter successfully in our zones 5a to 6a region without protection. Again, if any variety was newly planted this past season or has been in the ground less than two years, protection would still be a good idea.

5.  Continue watering outside when the weather is above freezing, if there has not been sufficient precipitation and the ground has not frozen. Drain hoses after removing them from the faucets to prevent damage to hoses and plumbing.

6.  Try to take a daily walking tour of your yard, as the weather permits. Observe frost patterns in your yard in early morning. See where frost lingers, where frost does not hit, and write this down in your diary or journal. Often a surprise plant or two will be blooming in a protected spot. These are indicators of microclimates, and you can use this information when planning on where to site plants.

7.  Check the coldframe for any problems. Make sure plants are overwintering without the problems of standing water, field mice, disease, insects, or excessive cold. Prop it open on days that are sunny and above freezing to prevent excessive warming of your plants.

8.  Continue to keep birdfeeders filled. Birds offer a lot of winter interest, and by making your property attractive to birds, these helpmates might decide that your place would make a good home next year. Many birds migrate to the region from further north, but many birds make our region their year-around home.

9.  Take cuttings of holly and evergreen boughs indoors for Christmas decorating. Also fill outdoor window boxes with Christmas greens and decorative bows.

10. Keep fresh-cut Christmas trees in a cool, not freezing location. After bringing a tree home, cut 1 to 2″ from the base and plunge it into a bucket of tepid water with preservative added to prevent the cut end from sealing over. Don’t let the water run dry! When bringing a tree indoors for decorating, allow it to rest in the stand with water in it for several hours to allow the tree to “relax” its branches as it becomes acclimated to indoor warmth. Then decorate.

11. Gardening catalogs should start arriving this month. Start a list of items that you want to purchase for planting next spring. This is also a good time to take out any pictures you have taken of your gardens during the past growing season. You can see what you might need to add to your gardens and yard.

12. Potted Christmas trees should be placed in a cool, not freezing, area until brought indoors for decorating. These trees should not be brought in for extended periods. A day or two before Christmas and a few days after will not harm them. If kept too long indoors, they will break dormancy. After Christmas, take the tree out to the area where you prepared the planting site earlier (see October’s calendar), and plant it. Water well and mulch.

13. Continue to keep bird feeders full. Word will get around, and you will be amazed at how many visitors will come to call during the winter months if you provide a steady supply of suet and seed!

14. Remove any stray leaves that may have blown in around your plants. If they are not shredded, they can mat down around your plants and smother them or promote rotting.

15. Continue to apply mulch to your flowerbeds as the ground freezes to prevent freeze/thaw heave and premature breaking of dormancy.

16. Have a gardener on your gift list? A gift certificate to a nursery or garden center would be appreciated. You can also “gift” him or her with a gift certificate to a gardening-related mail order source. Another good idea would be a gift subscritption to a gardening magazine.

18. Most of all, have a Blessed Holiday Season, one and all!


Talking The Talk

One day I was idly surfing the net when I came across a German gardening site. Now, I will usually click on foreign sites since they often offer English language versions of their information. This one did not. But, instead of clicking off the site right away, I lingered for a bit because something struck me about the plants named: While I could not understand a lick of German, I could understand the names listed with the plant photographs! It occurred to me that this is the reason why I needed to write this article.

The scientific names that are assigned to plants are not there to impress anybody, or to confuse the average gardener. These names are to help provide a standardized nomenclature, or naming, of the vast array of plants that we encounter in our gardening efforts. It pays to understand a few things about this naming system, more properly known as binomial nomenclature, in order to communicate on the same level with other persons who have an interest in plants.

Why else should the Average Joe/Josephine gardener bother learning the scientific names of the plants that he or she grows?

There are two good reasons why we need to understand the proper names of plants. One is to be on the same wavelength with other plantsmen and gardeners and to avoid confusion. For example, Impatiens is known as Patience Plant, Balsam, Busy Lizzies, Sultanas, and, of course Impatiens. There are other instances where plants can be called the same exact name, but be entirely different plants: Balsam can be two different annuals or a type of tree. Also, regional differences can occur when describing a plant. By learning scientific nomenclature, we can all understand each other and what we are describing immediately. If we need to go to a plant expert for help and information, by knowing the proper name for a plant, we can get the help we need and cut down on some of the confusion.

The second reason to understand the scientific name of a given plant is to decipher or glean a bit more information about the plant itself. Not only does the individual learn what genus a plant belongs to according to its classification, other information such as color, origins, and other characteristics can be gleaned.

Here is a brief list of some of those prefixes and suffixes we see attached to many of the descriptive names of plants:

Color

Alba, Albo = White
Aurea, Aureus = Yellow-Green or Yellow
Caerulea = Blue
Chrysantha = Yellow
Glaucus = Slivery-Blue
Lutea = Dark or Deep Yellow
Nigra = Dark, often nearly black
Purpurea = Purple
Roseum = Pink
Rubra = Red
Sanguinea = Dark Red
Virdis, Vireus = Green

Origins

Alpinus = From Alpine regions; from the Alps
Canadensis = From Canada, or from the northern US, generally east of the Mississippi
Campestris = From fields or meadows
Chinensis = From China
Helvetica = From Sweden
Hibernicus = From Ireland
Japonica = From Japan
Koreanus = From Korea
Maritimus = From regions near the seas or oceans
Montana = From the mountains
Occidentalis = From the New World
Orientalis = From the orient or eastern Asia
Planus = From the plains
Sylvestris = From the forests or woods

Other Descriptives, Including Growth Habits

Aborescens = Like a tree
Angustifolia = Having narrow leaves
Contorta = Being contorted or twisted
Decidua, = Deciduous, or drops leaves in the fall
Edulis = Something that is edible
Fruticosus= Something that is shrubby
Glossis = Being tongue-like
Grandiflora = Having large flowers
Grandifola = Having large leaves
Macrophylla = Having big leaves
Maculata = Being spotted, usually leaves
Nana = Being dwarf
Odorata = Having scented flowers
Officinalis = Being an herb
Paniculata = Flowers having panicles
Pendula = Hanging or drooping
Procumbens = Spreading or prostrate
Pubescens = Having hairlike covering, such as on leaves
Racemosa = Flowers having racemes
Repens = On the ground, creeping
Reptans = On the ground, creeping or hugging the ground
Rugosa = Having wrinkled-appearing leaves
Scandens = A climber, climbing
Sempervirens = Being evergreen
Tomentosa = Having a down-like covering, such as on leaves
Variegata = Having variegated leaves, or leaves with more than one color

This is just a sampler of some of the more common descriptives. You can see that by picking apart the names of many plants, you can obtain much information.

Once you start to use the “official jargon”, you will begin to understand what a plant is all about! It’s not at all hard once you get the hang of it, and by using the proper names of plants, you will become a much more informed person. Besides, you will be able to understand what those high-falutin’ gardening show hosts are talking about! So, be in the know and start “talking the talk”!