|December 13, 2011||Gifts for the Gardener|
|November 29, 2011||A Time to Plant|
|November 21, 2011||Hardy Citrus|
|November 16, 2011||Think Pink for Fall|
|October 28, 2011||Planting Pansies|
|October 19, 2011||Fall Fest|
|October 14, 2011||Creating a Sustainable Community|
|October 07, 2011||Perfect Days|
|September 23, 2011||Deer One|
|September 16, 2011||Protecting Our Waterways|
Newspaper articles and television announcers are full of recommendations for Christmas gifts. Thus, it seems fitting that I might come up with some of my own, with mine targeted toward the gardener. My suggestions are based on years of experience with all sorts of gardening helpers.
Trugs–wonderful plastic buckets, very sturdy and light, sold in a rainbow of bright colors (easy to spot them in the yard). Fill them with water, soil, or plants and tote to your heart's content. The two handles make them easy to carry, too.
Japanese horihori knife–great digger and weeder. One side is serrated so you can use it to cut if needed. It also has a measure for planting bulbs, seeds, etc. It is nice to have the sheath for the knife and a belt to secure it around your waist.
Plastic kneeler–always handy when you have to sit in the wet grass or dirt or just as cushioning for your knees. These come in very bright colors so you can find them anywhere you leave them in your yard.
Felco pruners–the very best, pricey, but a pair can last for many years, unless you lose them in the garden or accidentally throw them away with a pile of clipping
Tool caddy–anything from a trug to a garden apron to a special garden tool belt–helps to keep track of your tools, your cell phone or anything else you need in the garden.
Nitrile gardening gloves–the very best–lightweight, stretchy, comfortable, but allow the gardener dexterity to handle any job.
Gift Certificate to a gardening store for a plant, to a book store for the latest gardening book, to the landscape supply for a load of mulch, pinestraw or mushroom compost mixed with top soil.
An offer to load up and deliver a load of "black gold," compost, from the community landfill.
I welcome your suggestions for other garden inspired gifts. Hope some of the above make the gardener in your life smile.
We are now in one of the two best times of the year (the other being winter) for planting trees and ornamental shrubs in our landscapes. The huge spring variety of plants in the big box stores would lead the gardener to believe that spring is the best time to plant. It is not. Planting now allows plants to concentrate on developing a good strong root system instead of expending energy on maintaining leaves and flowers or fruit. Winter rains provide the moisture a new plant needs; thus, we are not having to be out watering new plantings on almost a daily basis. If the local big box stores do not have what you need visit locally owned nurseries. Our area has several very nice ones. If they don’t have what you need, perhaps they can special order for you.
There are just a few simple rules to help your new plant thrive. The most basic of these is to plant the right plant in the right place. That means the homeowner plants a plant where it can grow with the least stress on the plant and least work (i.e., maintenance, pest and disease prevention and treatment) for the homeowner. For example, not using a shrub for a foundation planting that will quickly overtake the windows and, thus, require hours of maintenance to keep it pruned into shape. As a MG one of the most common questions I have been asked is what to do about a foundation planning (the one under the front windows of your home) that has gotten too big; see photo. Another example of the right plant in the right place would be planting a shrub that requires shade in the shade instead of in a full sun location. That shade lover will not flourish; gallons of water will be necessary to help it live at all.
Another very important thing to remember when planting a new tree or a shrub is not plant it too deeply. Planting too deep is one sure way to kill a plant. First of all, do not dig the hole any deeper than the root ball (but do dig the hole at least three times as wide as the root ball). As a matter of fact, it is better to position the planting so that the top of the root ball is at least an inch or so over the soil line. If you dig the hole too deep and then add soil to the hole, the soil and the plant will eventually settle, causing it to be planted too deeply. Research also indicates that for a single hole planting, it is best not to amend the soil with other materials but to backfill your hole with the native soil. Use of the native soil that you removed when you dug your hole allows the plant to adapt to its new home more easily.
One other point to remember is that when you mulch, do not place your mulch directly against the trunk. Mulch placed up against the bark is an open invitation to insects and disease to invade your healthy plant. Think doughnut instead of volcano as you place your mulch around your plant.
There are many other considerations to think about as you plant. The Extension Service has lots of excellent publications discussing them. We will take up some other pointers for successful planting in future blogs.
Jennifer Yates from the Calhoun County Extension System and the County’s Recycling Program spoke to our MG meeting about the County’s new sustainability programs. Jennifer’s job is outreach and she will be helping us make our county more sustainable. What does that mean? Sustainability, a very big word, is the new buzz word around the country for a new way of life--one in which we become stewards of our environment. We will reuse more, recycle more, use less water, less energy to heat and cool, improve the quality of our water, and work in harmony with nature to preserve and protect our community’s resources. As gardeners there are many steps we can each take: compost to reduce the amount of yard waste that goes into the landfill; use more native plants in our landscape; learn to be water wise and develop other means for "smart"yards. If each of us makes small changes in our lives, we can reach the goal of having a sustainable community.
With a grant from Legacy, Jennifer will offer a series of public workshops geared to creating a sustainable community. There will also be a new program, Masters in Conservation, which will be similar to the Master Gardeners Program. Congratulations to our County government, the Calhoun County Extension System, and Jennifer for their important effort to improve our community for ourselves and our children. You can reach Jennifer for more information at 256-237-1621.
The last days have been absolutely perfect ones to garden. A group of Master Gardeners have been spending at least two mornings a week sprucing up the landscape at Cane Creek Community Gardens at McClellan in preparation for Fall Fest, our big fall event. Between pulling weeds and spreading mulch we catch up on the news in each other's lives. Most folks think that the Master Gardeners Class is all about gardening and it is for the most part. It is, however, also about making friends. One of the comments attendees have made to me at the end of each class is that they did not know they would form such strong bonds with each other.
The Extension Office is preparing the paperwork for the 2012 class and there will be an orientation meeting in November. If you are interested in joining, please contact the Extension Office for an information packet.
Aren’t these two little ones precious? They live in my neighborhood and come through all the yards daily to checkout what there is to munch on. The one with the spots was born this year and the larger one was born last year. Our deer are so used to us they don’t run from us and actually respond to our voices. Yes, we know our local deer by heart. I love them, until I discover the begonias are missing their flowers, hostas have no leaves left, or the hydrangeas are bloomless. I want to admire these delicate creatures from afar and hope that no harm becomes them. Deer can be a menace for humans driving their cars at dusk.
You know you have deer when you find ragged edges on your ornamentals, deer droppings, or deer tracks. Deer are like goats and graze constantly. We humans keep building more houses in areas that used to be theirs, going further and further in what were wildlife habitats. Thus, we now have more and more deer in our neighborhoods. They adapt very well to land between forests and our landscapes. We have lush lawns and beautiful ornamentals which make perfect snacks.
A question I, as a master gardener, am frequently asked is how to minimize deer damage. Scare techniques like loud noises and irrigation tend not to work as the deer get used to the noise. Fencing can work but it has to be high enough that a deer can’t jump over; fencing can get expensive and can be unattractive. Deer do have preferences for what they like to eat so we can plant things that they find less attractive. Being really careful about what you plant can reduce deer damage. That won’t help what you already have. My method of choice for controlling deer damage is repellants in the form of granules or spray. It is absolutely not harmful to the plants or the deer. The one I choose, Deer Stopper, has putrefied eggs, rosemary oil, and other ingredients. It smells pretty strong when I first spray it, but the smell evaporates. The plants I keep diligently sprayed have escaped deer damage. The cue is to have a good spray program. Where there is a will there is a way – to enjoy these creatures and minimize damage. With a little effort humans and deer can live in harmony with each other.
For more information consult aces.edu (the web site for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System) and search for Publication ANR-1370
Gail Russell of the Alabama Clean Water Partnership spoke to our September Master Gardener meeting. She came with a very simple message but one we can all take to heart. Each of us can do something to help keep our lakes, creeks, and rivers cleaner. It is not hard, either.
A few things to remember:
Anything that goes into our storm drains goes directly into our waterways; think before you dump.
Do not pour gasoline, car oil, or liquids from any type of machinery into the ground or the storm drains. Get rid of these products by taking them to a place which recycles them.
Maintain your car so it does not leak oil. If a car leaks oil on the street, that leaking oil is washed from the street into the storm drain and eventually into our lakes, streams, and rivers.
Do not overuse pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers; do not pour unused amounts into the ground or into the storm drains. Dispose of them properly according to label instructions. Excess is washed into our groundwater and from there into our bodies of water.
Clean up after your pet. Those little packages our pets leave behind also get washed into our storm drains and pollute our waterways.
Recycle your grass clippings and leaves; do not dispose of them by putting them into the storm drains. Those kind of products can also wash into our waterways causing nutrients to build up which are bad for the health of the water.
Maintain your septic tank. That will save you money and problems and prevent leakage into the groundwater and into our bodies of water.
Use a rain barrel. The rainwater collected is so good for your plants. You will save money on your water bill and help protect our bodies of water. If you need a rain barrel, some of the big box stores sell them. The Extension Office and the Master Gardeners also sponsor rain barrel workshops
Plant a rain garden; the plants help clean storm water runoff.
If all of us followed these few simple rules, we can do so much to protect our waterways. This will help ensure that our lakes, streams, creeks, and rivers will be places where our children and their children can swim into the future.
For more information see http://www.cleanwaterpartnership.org