Wow! Can you believe the early snow and cold that we had? I’ve seen several trees and shrubs that weren’t quite ready for it and they still had green leaves when it hit. I think it surprised some gardeners too. If it came a little earlier than you would have preferred, and if you didn’t get everything done in your landscape before it hit, it may not be too late for some of those tasks.
If you still have some spring flowering bulbs that you didn’t get around to planting it’s still worth a try. Granted, it would have been better for the root development of the bulbs to plant them a month or two ago, but it beats throwing them out. Just be sure to apply about three inches of mulch over them after planting and watering them. This holds true for garlic too.
If you want to “force” a few bulbs so you’ll have tulips, daffodils or hibiscus blooming indoors during the winter months it’s a great time to do so. Most spring bulbs need about 12 weeks of temperatures of about 40 degrees to bloom. A refrigerator or unheated garage makes ideal cooling conditions. Just don’t place them near apples or they won’t bloom.
Paperwhites and narcissus are the exception and don’t need cooling to produce flowers. Paper whites should be planted in a shallow container with a couple inches of pebbles, the bulb, and a few more pebbles to cover the bulb about half way up. Then mix a couple ounces of hard liquor such as tequila or vodka with a quart of water, and add water to cover the pebbles. Continue to water them with this mixture as needed. I’m serious about that. The alcohol will help keep the paper whites shorter and more attractive. Just place them in a bright location and watch them get happy. (Keep out of reach of children and pets.)
If you have young trees, especially those with dark-colored bark or thin bark such as Locust, Mountain ash, or Maples, it’s not too late to wrap the trunks to protect the bark from the intense winter sun. Sun scald, also known as southwest disease, can kill a tree! Trees that are three years old or younger should be wrapped with commercial crepe tree wrap, which is available at some garden centers.
This is the time of year when roving herds of deer move closer to town and show up in larger numbers in area yards. Deer fencing is the best method of keeping them from munching on and rubbing their antlers on your trees and shrubs. Deer are especially fond of rubbing their antlers, or “rutting”on young pliable trees and shrubs, so be warned. Products such as Deer Stop will help keep browsing deer from nibbling on your plants but it needs to be reapplied.
You can still plant cold hardy spring vegetables such as lettuce and spinach. The seeds will lay dormant in the soil. When spring temperatures allow, they should germinate and grow. It’s kind of like planting an early salad surprise. Just avoid working the soil when it’s wet!
You may not think about it, but houseplants should be kept out of cold drafts such as doorways. They should also be moved away from heat sources like heat ducts and fireplaces.
Did you know that it’s not good to walk on frozen grass? It will cause the grass blades to break making the grass turn white. So when we have freezing temperatures it’s a good thing to keep in mind.
If you want to have amaryllis blooming during the holidays count back about seven weeks from the time that you want them to bloom. Then simply plant them in a pot about two inches larger than the bulb. Add a layer of soil to the bottom of the pot and position the bulb so the top sticks up above the rim of the pot. Firm the soil around the edge, leaving the top third of the bulb exposed. Water sparingly at first, allowing the soil to dry out between watering. Rotating the pot a quarter turn each time you water will help keep the spike growing straight. Once your amaryllis is blooming, you can move it to a cooler location out of direct sunlight to make the blossoms last longer.
Native trees and shrubs probably faired better after the recent cold than non-natives. Most should be OK but trees such as Austrian pines may develop dead tops next summer if they didn’t shut down before winter. Deciduous trees, especially fruit trees may have been weakened. They could experience branch dieback, frost cracks in the trunk, or even canker disease. I guess we should pray for the best and hope most trees were ready for winter.
Remember when I told you about the 11th Annual How-Big-Is-Your-Cat Face Spider Contest? I thought you’d like to know that the winner was “Princess Raya” entered by Raya Davis Thompson, a 9-year-old fourth- grader from Lamar. The spider weighed a whopping 3.75 grams. This beat the 2013 record holder, “Arach Obama” which weighed 2.96 grams. That’s a big spider! Way to go Raya.
Linda Corwine McIntosh is an ISA Certified Arborist, Commercial Pesticide Applicator, and Advanced Master Gardener.