When I wrote in December that I was wrapping the small trees against rabbits and said I would remove it early in the spring, someone wondered why I did not leave it on all year. I responded:

1.     If the wrapping is tight and the tree tries to grow, the wrap could restrict the tubes (cambium and phloem) that are just inside the bark and through which food and water move up and down;

2.     The wrap if loose, creates a good place for insects to spend the winter;

3.     It also keeps moisture against the trunk that encourages mold and fungous;

4.     Young trees quite often have chlorophyll in their trunk which can produce food, but must have sun in order to do so.

          The ideal wrap would probably be a wire cage of small gauge around the tree but several inches away and higher than a tall rabbit on its hind feet could reach.  This would also prevent a lawn mower or weed whip from damaging the trunk.

          The days are getting longer and many of our houseplants will start to grow again at the end of the month.  A weak fertilizer can be given to those who do. Insects such as white flies, mealy bugs, and scale have to be watched very closely as a warm house keeps them active and ready to reproduce.

          Late January and all of February is a bad time for sun damage to evergreens, especially on their South sides. Thawing during the day and then a hard freeze at night can split the bark on young or newly transplanted trees. This produces “freeze cracks”. 

          If you didn’t get to your tools in the fall, now is a good “tool time”. I always have a broken handle or two to replace and the other ones need tightening, sanding, oiling, and sharpening.

          Some of your seeds can be started now if you have somewhere to put the plants as they sprout. You need to move them into sunny areas or you will end up with leggy plants. George’s wife De gave me a baker’s rack that will hold a large number of 4 inch pots.  It can be rolled outside when the days get above 60 degrees F. in late March and April and then back into the garage for cold nights.  These new plants can use the sunshine and the breeze which is good for making their stems strong. The ones that take a long time to germinate such as Datura and Angel Trumpet need an early start. (These two used to be classified together but are now separated. Angel Trumpets are Brugsmania and will get 6 feet tall and need lots of space. Their seeds are now easily obtainable and fun to grow.)

          Another big one is Crambe condifolia, sometimes called Sea Kale.  It has huge leaves as large as 14 inches across and the stems are five foot tall. The amazing thing is their bloom. The stem may reach 6 or 7 feet tall and is covered with dainty white flowers in clusters.  To me it looks like a baby-breath plant up in the air on the end of a stem.  During the wet season last spring my plant developed root rot so I hope to start again this spring and dig a deeper hole with more drainage in full sun.

          This is also cutting time.  I saved cuttings from several Coleus, Perilla, and Geraniums last fall. By February they have many branches that can be cut off.  By May I will have a good collection of wildly colored plants to go into pots in the high shade.  I will try to turn those pots at least once a week all summer.  In the bottom of the very big pots, I will put a plastic bag full of the Styrofoam “peanuts” that are used for shipping packages. Last fall where I dumped all the soil from my pots, the bags were still in good shape so I can use them again. The light weight of the “peanuts” in the bottom makes it much easier to move those big pots around and rotate them.

          As the days lengthen many plants are very eager to grow. If your plants are too tall, now is the time to bring the height down by air layering. If you do this now, most of them should have roots and be ready for their own pot for planting out in May.  If you want several plants just save your “stumps” and they too will put out new branches.  I have a variegated rubber plant whose leaves have pink edges that I used for a “demo” last summer at a presentation.  It now has many branches and is about 15 inches high. It looks much better than before I cut it in pieces.

          Check your yard for puddles as things start to thaw.  Find some way to make that soil drain or your roots will drown.  Also, now is pruning time, especially grapes.  It is not so cold you will freeze and yet it has not been warm enough for most of the plants to start growing.  Be careful!!! If you are like me you will want everything to “get going”, but Nebraska still freezes up into May.

Copyright 2006



           Epsom salts (which is Magnesium Sulfate [MgSO4-7H2O]) can be a good source of magnesium for plants. 2-3 tablespoons around each tomato plant is sufficient. Clematis sometimes gets yellow leaves which looks like iron chlorosis. It may be magnesium chlorosis, or a deficiency of magnesium. 2-3 tablespoons of Epsom salts per plant could help. Gladys adds 2-3 tablespoons of Epsom salts to each rose bush every Spring.

          Some fertilizers contain many micronutrients including magnesium. There are 16 elements that are needed for good plant growth. Only nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), sulfur (S), iron (Fe), and zinc (Zn) may need to be added to Nebraska soils. The rest are present in sufficient quantities. 

          One of those other micronutrients is calcium. Many of us have a problem with blossom end rot on our tomatoes. Low calcium transport in a plant appears to be associated with blossom end rot of tomatoes. However, the addition of calcium to the soil or sprayed on the plant does not seem to help as it is the transport of that calcium from the soil into the tomato that is the problem. Most of the time our Nebraska soils have enough calcium available. Usually only the first tomatoes are affected as the plant itself uses the calcium that is available in order to grow. Then the second flush of tomatoes and all the later ones seem to be ok. Research has also shown that one of the reasons for the poor transport of the calcium to the fruit may be irregular watering. That is we plant the small tomato plants and then go on vacation or forget when we watered and then over-water. Don’t waste water by over watering and don’t waste your money by over fertilizing.

Copyright 2006