NEIGHBORHOOD GARDEN FOR DECEMBER 19, 2015

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GARDENING IN LATE DECEMBER PART #2

BY GEORGE EDGAR

 

          Winter is late arriving to Eastern Nebraska. When it comes, what will be the effect on our lawns and gardens? Avoid walking or driving on your lawn when it is frosted or frozen. You can damage the crown very easy. When the kids are out playing in the snow, they also need to be careful and not make a path. Constant walking along one path will kill the grass along that area which will require aerating and re-seeding in the spring.

          And be careful in removing snow from trees and shrubs.  Improper removal of ice or snow from a tree or shrub can increase damage, and be a safety hazard. Never break ice off trees or shrubs by beating the ice covered branches. The cold, frozen branches can be very brittle and break very easy. Snow loads can be gently brushed off of trees and shrubs with a broom. Then allow the remaining snow and ice to melt naturally. If not broken, most evergreens branches will return to their natural form.

          After the ground is frozen really hard, you should put your mulch on. It is also time to protect trees and shrubs from squirrels and rabbits. If I donít put wire cages around the Roses, Raspberries, small shrubs, and Corkscrew Willow Tree, the rabbits and squirrels live through the winter on the bark and completely remove some of the small branches. A couple years ago the rabbits pruned about half of my Red Raspberry bushes and many of my Fall Gold Raspberry bushes by chewing off the canes. This is not the first time this has happened.

          I am downsizing in my garden so have some large Tomato cages left over. I made them from reinforcing fence that is used to reinforce driveways and roads. I took about 5 feet of fencing and made them into a circle. I will cut the excess ones in half (the cages are 5 feet tall) and then cover with chicken wire or hardware cloth. I will put these where needed and then fill with leaves the lawn service picked up with their mower, or straw, or wood mulch. Leaves just raked up tend to mat when wet and so chopped leaves work best as they do not mat.

          Most new gardeners put mulch on too early and take it off to early. The purpose of mulch is not to keep the ground warm, but to keep the soil cold, and to conserve moisture during the summer. More plants are killed by plants not being dormant or not being hardened off before being mulched going into winter.

          Also in February and March we usually have some warm days and if not mulched, the soil may warm up and then the plants may break dormancy too early. When cold returns the juices freeze and the plant dies. In the spring do not remove the mulch too early as we usually have a late freeze in March and April and plants uncovered too early will have a hard time surviving.

Copyright 2015