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Edition 12.39 Paul Parent Garden Club News September 27, 2012
featured quote

Featured Quote:

"A flower is an educated weed."
~ Luther Burbank

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Fall is for planting and planning

Just because the season has changed, it does not mean "pack it up and go inside." Fall is a wonderful time to get back into the garden and finish your planting. During the heat of this summer, especially this year, the temperatures made planting almost impossible—and, besides, summer is the time to enjoy your spring planting and the family. Now the kids are back to school, vacation time is over for most of us and it's time to do what you enjoy again; for many of us that is working in the garden. Right now, the soil is still warm and when you plant new shrubs and trees they will get established faster than when planted in the early spring when the ground is wet and cold.

Fall planting does have many advantages--including the price of the plant material, as many of the nurseries and garden centers are having sales on their plants. Here is what I want you to look for when planting in the fall of the year. First, look over the plant material and check the quality of the plants on sale. If the plants look good, the root ball is nice and firm; the root ball has a good covering of burlap on it or is in a container that is not damaged, you're on the right track to continue looking around. Look at the foliage of the plant--is it green and healthy looking? Look at the condition of the branches--do they look good or are there many broken or dead branches on the plant?

Many times fall sales are caused by bad weather during the prime season, leaving plant material that did not sell when it was at its best, due to the weather. For example, most flowering plants sell when they are in bloom; if the weather was bad when they were in bloom, many people don't shop for plants at that time. The plant finishes flowering and people lose interest until next year when they see them flowering again and the weather is good for planting. The plant is still perfectly good but because you do not see the flowers, you lose interest in the plant and it sits in the nursery. The smart nursery keeps the plants looking good and cares for them properly---and in the fall, the smart gardener takes advantage of the bad weather during the spring and purchases that plant on sale. Look at the nursery itself and how it has been kept up during the summer months; if the place is clean and well-kept it is a signal that the plant material was well kept also. Now is the time for you to act and save money on plant material you would like in your yard, and when spring arrives next year your flowering plants are already planted and ready to flower no matter what the weather is.

If you're looking at trees for your home for shade or color--even fruit trees--fall is a great time also. Follow the same rules I just gave you but add one more thing to look at, and that is the trunk of the tree. Make sure there are no major scrapes on the trunk or missing bark. Small nicks and scrapes are not a problem and in just a year or two they will disappear. Grab the trunk of the tree and move it around to make sure it is firmly attached to the root ball--if it moves like a straw in a glass of water, leave it there, as the plant could have root damage that cannot be repaired.

Look at the foliage on the tree, how does it look? Make sure the branches look good with little to no breakage. Now, with your thumbnail, scrape a small scratch near the tip of some of those branches to make sure that there is still green under the bark; if you see green the branch is healthy, if brown there is a problem, So walk away. Large trees should have a wire basket around them unless they are potted. When you plant that tree ,leave the wire basket on the root ball; it will rust away in just a few years and the spacing of the wire will not affect the roots that will develop in the future. AGAIN--keep the wire basket on the root ball! The one thing that must be removed is any rope that is wrapped around the trunk of the tree, especially if it is plastic. Plastic rope will not rot in the ground and can create a girdling effect on the trunk and prevent growth from developing properly. What will happen is that as the trunk begins to grow the rope stays in position, while the wood fibers grow around it but are restricted. The top will grow and get bigger until a good wind or snow storm comes and then the girdled area that is the weak point on the plant will break--and you lose your tree. One more thing--any tree over six feet tall MUST be staked to the ground in the fall to hold the plant firmly in the ground for a year so the roots can form properly!

If you're planting evergreens in the fall, especially broadleaf evergreens like holly, boxwood, rhododendrons, azaleas, etc. , I would treat the foliage with an anti-desiccant spray such as Wilt-Pruf or Wilt-Stop around Thanksgiving to protect the foliage from wind damage and dehydration. Spray the underside of the foliage first and do a good job and get every underside of every leaf covered, as that is where the moisture escapes from the plant. Then do the top of the leaf; it's a small investment with a real positive effect on the plant, especially if we have a winter with little snow cover, lots of sunshine, wind, and little rainfall. An investment of less than $2.00 per plant can save a $50.00 plant from a tough winter. I would recommend that all broadleaf evergreens be treated--even those planted in the spring--for the first year in your garden. Be safe, not sorry in the spring.

I don't recommend planting roses in the fall of the year. I do recommend that you mulch all roses after Thanksgiving with bark mulch or straw--not any earlier, or mice will move into the mound of protection and eat your plant during the winter. If you live in New England, mulch and use Wilt-Pruf or Wilt-Stop especially if rose plants are less than a year old. Not every winter will be like last year with mild temperatures. If you have potted roses, put them in your garage or tool shed for the winter out of the weather when they lose all their foliage--or around Thanksgiving. No heated buildings, and water well before putting the plant away for the winter.

All deciduous plants--plants that lose their foliage during the winter months--can be planted in the fall with great success and need no special protection during the winter except for a good layer of bark mulch or compost around the base of the plant. This mulch helps to keep the heat in the ground longer, giving the plant extra time to develop a god root system and prevents the ground from freezing and thawing during the winter hurting the new roots.

If you're planting hydrangeas this fall, I would recommend that you remove all the flowers from the plant by Thanksgiving to prevent heavy wet snow from damaging the plant with the weight of the snow on the flowers and breaking the branches of the plant.

This fall, get back into your garden and get a jump on next spring's planting. Fall is for planting and planning the garden to enjoy for next year.

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Fall is for cleaning and preparing the gardens for the winter months

September is almost over, fall is here, the days are getting shorter, and the weather has turned cooler, so let's get busy and begin to put the gardens to bed. We have 37 days before Daylight Savings Time ends and we lose our evening time in the garden.

Begin by cleaning your perennial flower beds and cut back your plants to the ground. By now most of them have begun to turn yellow or brown, so let's clean the garden of the foliage as it could contain insect eggs and disease spores for next year. Any fall-flowering plants can be cut back later, so enjoy them now. As you clean the flower beds, be sure to pull out all weeds that snuck in during the summer, as they could contain seeds that could cause more serious problems for next year--and some could be perennial type weeds that will double or triple in size for next year. Place all the dead foliage in your compost tumbler or compost pile to recycle that foliage into beautiful rich black organic matter for next year's garden.

Now rake clean the flower beds of all debris. If you have time now, how about adding a bit of bark mulch over the flower bed to help insulate the plants, just in case the winter is cold and we have little snow cover. You can also add a half-strength application of an organic fertilizer like Plant Tone or Dr. Earth Flower fertilizer with probiotic to help thicken the root system for winter. As you clean the flower bed, mark any open areas between plants with plant labels and plant spring flowering bulbs like tulips, daffodils and hyacinths for early spring color in that garden next year. If you have not applied limestone to that garden in the past few years, now is the best time to do it, as limestone will take up to six months for the microbes to make it effective and change the acidity of the soil.

If you have a large area to treat and your lawn has visible green moss, use the Jonathan Green product called Magic-Cal to treat the acidity of your soil. Add Magic-Cal to your lilacs, clematis, to your pink hydrangea to keep them pink and all your gardens to keep them more productive next year. One 40 lb. bag of Magic-Cal is equivalent to 10 50 lb bags of limestone, and it works in days, not months, saving you money and labor. Put a little bit in all your planters, containers, and window boxes to keep the soil in them sweet and productive.

If your annual flower or cutting garden is coming to the end of its bloom, now would be a good time to take it apart and start working on the soil for next year. Remove all annual flower plants from the garden and toss the plants in the compost pile with your falling leaves and pine needles. If you live near the ocean, get to the beach and pick up the seaweed that washes in with the tides. If you're lucky enough to find chopped up seaweed near seawalls, bring home as much as your car will carry to mix with your garden soil. If all you can find is big pieces of seaweed bring it home and spread it on top of the garden to dry. Once dry, it will become brittle; with your steel grading rake tap the seaweed flat into the ground and then blend.

Seaweed kelp is better than peat moss, as it contains all the goodness of the ocean, and the salt will not hurt your plants. Growing up in southern Massachusetts, I went to the beach with my Dad every fall and spread 3 to 6 inches of seaweed on the flower and vegetable garden. In 2 to 3 years we were able to cut our watering in half and the soil looked like black humus. Did the plants love that seaweed? You bet!

Take some of that seaweed and use it as winter mulch for your rose bushes and blue hydrangeas--and be sure to add as much as you can to your compost pile or tumbler. Use seaweed around your fruit trees instead of bark mulch, as the nutritional value is fantastic for all fruit trees. Blueberries, raspberries, grapes and other berry plants will also improve their production when mulched with seaweed.

In the vegetable garden, pull out everything now except for the late crops you planted in August and those that are still productive, like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, late beets and carrots. Clean the ground after you remove all the plants and spread seaweed as a soil conditioner. If you do not live near the ocean, this fall plant winter rye seed to condition the soil during the days of fall and early spring. Winter rye is a type of grass that will grow until the ground freezes and when spring arrives it will continue to grow again. In late April cut it down with your weed whacker and let it dry up with the help of the sun for a few days and then till your garden. Each winter rye seed will produce a green manure crop for you, and this will improve sandy soil and help break up clay-type soils. Each seed is capable of growing a root system up to a mile long that when tilled becomes the equivalent of peat moss.

It is now time to lower the cutting height on your lawn mower blade from 3 inches to 2 inches and keep the grass cut short until it stops growing. This will help eliminate winter lawn fungus problems once the snow arrives, as the short grass does not lay down on other grass, spreading problems from one grass plant to another. Also, when the leaves begin to fall on your lawn this fall do not rake up those leaves, MOW them--as the blade turns, it will chew them up into small pieces that will decay on the soil, making a rich soil covering to nourish and condition your soil for a better lawn next spring. Leaves and pine needles can also be ground up and used as a wonderful mulch for your gardens instead of bark mulch.

If your lawn is thin, rent a power seed slicer at an power equipment store and use the machine to add fresh seed to the existing lawn to make it thicker in just a few weeks. The thicker your lawn is, the fewer weeds you will have next spring. The fall is also the best time to add limestone or Jonathan Green Magic-Cal to sweeten the lawn and discourage moss growth. If you have problems with water on the lawn during wet periods or have road salt damage to the grass on the side of the road, it is now time to apply Garden Gypsum to open up the soil and flush out road salt and break up the heavy soils. Both products are available at your local garden center or feed and grain store.

Bring out your snow blower and get it started or have it tuned up for the year. REMEMBER last October's snow storm, 16 inches plus from Washington DC to Maine--are you ready? Before you put your mower away for the year, change the oil, drain the gas tank, and sharpen the blade for next year, I like to spray the blade with WD-40 to keep it rust-free once sharpened. Also, get the chain saw ready to cut if you should need it to remove fallen branches this winter.

Feed the lawn one more time between October and November, as the fall feeding is the best time to feed for your lawn. Spring feeding gives you 25 % storage in the plant and 75% usage by the plant to grow, but in the fall it is just the opposite 75% storage for strong plants and 25% is used for growth and root development. If you have any leftover fertilizer, place the bags in a plastic bag for winter storage and tie the top closed nice and tight to keep out moisture so fertilizer does not stick together creating a solid block of fertilizer for next spring--plus losing some of its effectiveness. So pick up a bottle of fresh-squeezed apple cider and enjoy your fall garden.

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Fall houseplant care--a time for changes

Many of us still have houseplants on our deck, patio and even in the garden at this time of the year, and it's time now to begin the process of bringing them inside for the winter or putting them in the basement where it's frost-free and they can enjoy a nice cool winter of dormancy. Follow these simple rules and your plants will acclimate themselves better to the move indoors.

The first thing to remember is that your plants will acclimate to the changes better if they can get into the house before the heat is turned on and the storm windows are put into place. Right now your plants are getting morning dew that they love as it covers the plant and encourages new growth and flower bud production for our winter-flowering plants. Plants love lots of daylight and even direct sun to enjoy, and they want good air movement to keep down possible fungus problems. But the weather is beginning to cool off and that could cause a chilling effect that could damage plants with delicate foliage or those forming buds on the plant.

Here is what you need to do to prepare the plant for the move indoors. Begin by washing the container with a mild bleach, soap and water bath. This will destroy potential insect eggs or fungus spores placed on the container because of the temperature change. If the pot is coming inside and it has a matching saucer, be sure to wash that as well. Now check the foliage and the branches of the plant for possible insects. If you find visible insects, webbing or small hard bumps on the stems or leaves of the plant and if the foliage feels sticky, you have potential problems that must be cared for before the plant comes back into the house. Wash the foliage where you see the problem with a soft cloth that is soaked in a warm water and Dawn dish soap. Dawn is the best foliage cleaner on the market today and with a bit of pressure you can easily remove the hard spots or bumps living on the plant called "scale."

This cleaning will remove the webbing that most likely contains red spider mites--a potential BIG problem if brought inside your home, because they will easily jump onto other plants already in your house. Allow the soapy water mix to set on the foliage for 15 to 30 minutes after you have removed any noticeable problems--and be sure to get the mixture in all the crevices on the stems of the plant and on every leaf and branch. Then spray the soapy mixture off the plant and you're almost ready for the move indoors. One last thing to do--if you found problems or not--let's take no chances this fall of bringing in any stowaways. If you're moving many plants indoors I would do the following.

First treat the soil with a granular insecticide called "Systemic Granules Insect Control" that, when added to the soil, will move inside the plant to protect it from future problems for up to eight weeks (do not use on edible plants). The product is available at most garden centers and produced by Bonide Lawn and Garden. This product will kill aphids, whiteflies, leaf miners, mealy bugs, scale, and mites. Now, if you had a real problem with the plant, I would also spray the plant with an All Season Oil after washing the plant. This is a superior type of paraffinic oil that is safe for all types of plants indoors or outside and smothers insect and eggs on the plant before they have a chance to create a problem.

Now bring the plant indoors and fertilize it with a good houseplant fertilizer like Miracle-Gro or Blooming and Rooting plant fertilizer once it is placed near a window for the winter. During the fall and winter months you should cut back your fertilizing to half the normal amount, as the plants are growing muchmore slowly, due to the short day length and decrease in the intensity of the sunshine. Watering demand will also decrease during the winter, so what I do is dig into the soil with my finger and feel for moisture. Water houseplants according to their needs--and not because Saturday is your watering day. Large tropical foliage plants will definitely need less water during the winter months, especially if your home is kept cool (60 to 65 degrees) or the weather becomes cloudy and less sunshine is available to the plant. What plants do love during the fall and winter months indoors is misting of the foliage to add humidity around the foliage of the plant, like a greenhouse atmosphere, and that moisture will also help you keep breathing better with higher humidity in your plant room.

Keep plants away from drafty windows and doors that open and close often to prevent chilling the foliage and flowers on the plant. Place plants that require the most amount of sunshine in windows facing south or southwest, while plants that require less light can go to east or north facing windows.

Now, another thing to consider is heat source and types of heat for your plants. Because most plants like moisture in the air (humidity) try to keep plants away from heat sources like wood or pellet stoves, forced hot air vents and don't place them in front of heating registers. Just as an example, ficus and fern plants will drop many leaves if the room is to dry for them, while yucca and palm plants will do real well. Flowering plants like poinsettia, Christmas cactus, gardenias and flowering bulb plants do not like homes with dry heat, and most of the time they will have short flowering periods or drop many or all of their flower buds before the buds have a chance to open. If your home has one these types of heat, keep plants away from heating vents and out of the room where your stove is present. Plants will do better on a window sill, where temperatures are cooler, as long as the window is not drafty. Christmas cactus and gardenias love to be misted with a good squirt of water on the plant and especially on the flower buds as they form to keep them actively productive.

Plants that spend the winter in your cool basement or in your crawl space under the house should go inside with a good watering but no fertilizer. Plants like angel trumpet, dipladenia, mandevilla, and fig trees can do down to the basement in early October--even if they have foliage on them. The foliage will yellow and fall from the plant--and that is OK; the plant is going dormant and will be resting for the winter. Keep the plants on the cold floor and away from heat source like your furnace, the cooler the better but above freezing. If the soil does get real dry during the winter it is OK to add a bit of water to the pot but do not soak the root ball or the plant will wake up and begin to grow with yellow foliage, due to no sunlight in the basement.

Plants like gardenias, Christmas cactus, and florist azaleas need to be kept on the cool side or they will flower early, so keep them in a north facing window with good light but no heat from the day's sunlight coming through your windows. Room temperatures of 50 to 60 degrees are best to keep the flowers on time and extend the flowering time on the plant. Poinsettias like it warm and prefer a sunny window to grow and flower properly. Now is also the time to begin providing the plant with short day conditions to encourage flowering for the holidays. Place a piece of paper on the refrigerator door near the handle and write poinsettia on it. At supper time place the plant in a "DARK" spot in your home like a closet, basement, or unoccupied room where the light cannot get to the plant until morning. When you get out the cream for your morning coffee, move the plant back to the sunny window until supper and treat like your other houseplants as far as watering and feeding. It will take 4 weeks to change the hormones of the plant from vegetative to flowering growth; as soon as you begin to notice red coloration on the upper leaves and stems of the plant, you can stop the process, as the hormones have changed over and your plant will flower all by itself now. Just keep it in a warm, sunny window and watch the daily changes develop on the plant.

Potted herbs should also come in now as well as geraniums and begonias, and be placed in a warm and sunny room. Bulb plants must stay out until the foliage is killed by the frost so they can go dormant. cannas, tuberous begonias, calla lilies, caladium, elephant ears and other non-winter hardy bulbs in your garden NEED the frost before coming in. I will tell you about those plants next week and how to care for them. With the three topics I chose for you this week you will have plenty to do this week and weekend--so get out and enjoy the fall weather!

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Alaska trip
Paul Parent will be hosting a tour that includes:
  • Vancouver, BC
  • Butchart Gardens--55 acres of floral display!
  • Cruising the Inside Passage:
  • Ketchikan
  • Icy Strait Point
  • Juneau
  • Skagway
  • Hubbard Glacier Cruising
  • Seward
  • Scenic Drive to Anchorage
  • Denali National Park
  • Fairbanks City Tour, a tour of the Gold Dredge # 8 and a cruise down the Chena river on the Riverboat Discovery Sternwheeler.

Click here for more information.



trivia

This Week's Question
Plants in genus Lonicera are more commonly known as:

  1. Carnations
  2. Chrysanthemums
  3. Daylilies
  4. Honeysuckles
  5. Orchids

This Week's Prize:
Wilt-Pruf®
...The Safe Way To Reduce Moisture Loss When Plants Are Under Water Stress due to:

  • winter kill
  • windburn
  • drought
  • transplant shock

Click here for more information about Wilt-Pruf.


Last Week's Question:

If there is a cloche in your garden, what do you have?

  1. A cover to protect plants
  2. A digging tool
  3. A type of trellis
  4. A type of statue
  5. A watering gadget

Last Week's Winner:
Diane B. Gifford

Last Week's Answer:
A. A cover to protect plants

Last Week's Prize:
Liquid Plant THRIVE

One winner per question - we choose winners from the list of those who answer correctly. Winners must be newsletter subscribers. We'll ship you your prize, so be sure to put your address in the form in case you win!


Garden Journal

Are you looking for a great gift for a gardener (or yourself)? This garden journal helps make planning and organizing easy. This journal, autographed personally by Paul, makes a perfect gift for gardeners. The cover holds a 5x7 or 4x6 photo and a heavy-duty D-ring binder.

Also included:

  • 8 tabbed sections
  • 5 garden details sections with pockets for seeds, tags...
  • Weather records page
  • 6 three year journal pages
  • Insect & diseases page - 3 project pages
  • 3 annual checklist pages
  • Plant wish list page
  • 2 large pocket pages
  • Sheet of garden labels
  • 5 garden detail sheets
  • 5 graph paper pages for layouts
  • 5 photo pages, each holding four 4x6 photos in landscape or portrait format

Click here to order online.


Spicy Sweet Potatoes
  • 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Step by Step:

  • In a large re-sealable plastic bag, toss sweet potatoes and oil.
  • Add remaining ingredients; toss to coat.
  • Transfer to a greased 11" x 7" x 2" baking dish.
  • Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees F for 40-45 minutes or until potatoes are tender, stirring every 15 minutes.

Yield: 8 servings

Nutritional Analysis: One serving (3/4 cup) equals 149 calories, 4 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 164 mg sodium, 28 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 2 g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 1-1/2 starch, 1/2 fat.

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