By Brent Gray
The 2013 seed and plant catalogs are arriving in the mail, so use some of that free time during the holidays to browse through these and plan your garden for next spring. Early order discounts and the best selection will be your rewards! Don’t let the glossy pictures make you forget your pocketbook and your limited garden space.
Only order the seed or plants that you truly will use next spring and summer.
Don’t forget the gardener on your gift list. Some examples of gifts any gardener would appreciate are hand pruners, garden gloves, a subscription to one of the gardening magazines such as Mississippi Gardener, Horticulture, National Gardening Association, Fine Gardening or Organic Gardening. Also, watering cans, sprayers, seed, and the latest gardening book would be nice.
Nurseries and garden centers have these fragrant holiday plants for sale now. These are available as living wreaths, miniature Christmas trees or one- ball topiaries. Be careful not to over water these plants. Water only when soil is dry and keep in a well-lighted area of the home. Next to a bright window would work well. Snip a few wayward twigs to add to your holiday dishes!
It’s not too late to plant bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and Dutch iris. Your procrastination will pay off in reduced prices for the bulbs, as most nurseries and other sources will have their bulbs on sale by now. Be selective and purchase only firm, not mushy, bulbs. Get them in the ground before Christmas and hope for continued cold weather so roots will from before the foliage begins to emerge.
Mulch, Compost, Burn Or Let Lie?
Several frosty mornings have occurred and deciduous trees are dropping their leaves. With an abundance of leaf litter covering our lawns the question arises as what is best to do with them. It may be argued that these leaves will provide insulation to the turf from hard freezes later into the winter. However, there are stronger arguments that leaves left on the lawn for long periods of time can become detrimental to the turf’s health. Leaves lying on the turf canopy reduce light and air circulation necessary for healthy turf. A blanket of leaves covering the turf will trap moisture between the soil and the leaves providing an ideal environment for the proliferation of pathogens such as large patch (rhizoctonia) and other diseases most prominent with the moderate temperatures of fall. With a layer of leaves covering the lawn attack and damage from diseases and insects can easily go unnoticed until the turf is totally destroyed. While leaves can become excellent mulch or compost they should not be left intact on our Southern lawns over the fall and winter. Therefore, leaves should be periodically raked from the lawn or mulched down into the thatch with a good mulching mower.
Thoroughly composted leaves can become a very desirable amendment for flowerbeds, vegetable gardens, etc. later on so burning should be considered a less desirable option of disposal. Burning may also create a liability from a wild fire, frustration to neighbors from the smoke and can be illegal in some areas.
While a good pair of soft work gloves, a nice large lawn rake and a lightweight tarp are ideal tools to get leaves off the lawn leaf blowers and bagging mowers can make the work go a lot faster and much easier. Although, with these modern machines you may not get the full benefits of great exercise and sore muscles to reward you from this chore.
The time between Halloween and Christmas is a great for planting daffodil bulbs. If have already planted your bulbs or if you are doing it soon, it’s time to think about fertilizing. Daffodils, narcissus and paper whites all benefit from 3 fertilizations throughout the season. Once at planting in the fall, again as the leaves emerge from the ground, and finally after blooming. Fertilizing these fall-planted bulbs improves their performance in the spring and encourages them to come back next year without being replanted. Use a fertilizer with a low nitrogen content (8-8-8 or 13-13-13). Broadcast 1 lb. of 8-8-8 or ? lb. of 13-13-13 over each 100 square feet of bed. Remember 1 pint of granular fertilizer is about 1 pound!
Snow pea fanciers may want to get a packet of Avalanche to try. Snow peas are the flat pods we eat commonly in stir fry type dishes. Avalanche is a afila type that produce a lot of tendrils for the gardeners among us who may not have to support the vines. Avalanche is darker green and a little smaller than Oregon Giant.Now through February is a good time to plant snow peas.
Fans of Kentucky Wonder beans may want to try a couple of newcomers to the category. Furano is a bush variety which is slightly flatter than Ky Wonder and may look like a Romano bean. Kentucky Dreamer is a very short bush variety that has a concentrated pod set and is well adapted for once over harvesting for folks who like to can.
There is nothing certain about weather in Winter in Mississippi. Odds are there will be a freeze event or two in December and January. Odds are there will be a week of above eighty degrees in January or February. Plan your vegetable garden with these things in mind. You can grow most cool season vegetable through the winter if you arrange some frost protection with covers or sprinklers for the cold snaps. Vegetables can survive hot temperatures if they have sufficient water. One thing vegetables can’t survive is neglect. Insects and animals are looking for something green to eat and if your vegetable garden is the only thing green you see, you will have compete for something to eat.
Keep those Seed Packets
A handy way to keep those empty seed packets for future reference is to insert them into the pockets of inexpensive photo albums. Use the type of photo album that opens to expose two rows of flip-up, non-adhesive pockets. Insert one packet per pocket and you can read both sides of the packet for botanical name and cultural information. This makes a nice record of the seed you have used from year to year.
Garden Pool Upkeep
Although your garden’s water feature may look lifeless during the winter months, it may serve as the only water source for area birds and squirrels. Take advantage of the mild winter days to remove debris and clean your garden pool. You don’t want it to look like a swamp and your wildlife friends will appreciate it.