Last month I wrote about some of my plants and how they did this year. With the cool weather I could not go outside as much as I would like so have been spending more time indoors with my houseplants and writing. This is the second article in a series about my plants, how they did, and how I prepared them for winter. As the winter wears on and I canít get outside you will hear more about my plants.

          BJ (my garden helper) dug my dahlias before the cold keeping the entire root intact.  He washed all the soil off, dried the clumps in the wheelbarrow, and put each clump in a plastic bag. These are now in a box in the garage where it doesnít freeze. Next spring I will put them in pans of damp sphagnum moss to start the sprouts swelling.  This will make it easier to see and divide the new plants. Then I will plant them down six inches with a stake and a cage. At first they will only be barely covered with soil.  As they grow I will fill it in.  Those blooms get very heavy and need all the root and stem support they can get. With all the rain last summer I have many more bulbs on each plant then I have ever had before.

          My GINKO TREE (Ginko biloba) is growing well but its bark is still soft and the rabbits like to eat it so the cover will go on again from down in the ground up to the first branches. I will take it off next spring.  Rabbits will eat most any young trunk as they get hungry in winter. Some people I know wrap aluminum foil around their young trees and tie with string.  I have the pre-made ones of coiled cardboard like material.  So far they have lasted several years. I let them dry in the shed all summer.  I read that GINKO is the oldest surviving tree on earth.  Chinese used it for many years to treat asthma.  It has been credited for many, many ďcuresĒ but I do not recommend that you pull the leaves off your tree to eat them. The leaves seem to speak to each other as they all drop nearly at the same time in the fall.

          Do you save your coffee grounds in a bucket and put them in your garden. Hope Robb and George bring me a bag from a coffee shop once in a while.  I put the first under my FRINGE TREE (Chionanthus sp.) as it needs slightly acid soil to thrive and if I have a bulb bed just dug or planted I like the coffee on top. It is loose, contains caffeine and nitrogen so mixes with the loose soil. I read that slugs cannot survive the caffeine so it goes well under HOSTAS. Another interesting thing I read is that used kitty litter gets rid of moles. Kitty litter is not recommended for your vegetable garden.  Another author, plagued with moles puts her plants in large buckets with the bottoms cut out so as they dig they are stopped and go away.  Has anyone tried this?

          Several people have told me they plant overripe bananas or banana peelings in the hole for their ROSE BUSHES. Others use the peels for mulch.

          Have you ever tried raised beds? There are a number of good things about them.  One is the soil.  Since you are ďmakingĒ it you can have control over runoff, the moisture keeping quality, and the pore space, as well as the depth.  If you have a wet spot which causes root rot, higher beds will raise them up above the problem. Drainage will not be the problem you had before as your new soil will contain a goodly amount of compost and sand. Be careful with the use of sand as you need to have at least one-third of your soil be sand to avoid making concrete. What you really want is a relative of potting soil to remain loose for aeration, drainage, and ease of working.

          Since you donít want compaction from walking on your soil, your beds should not be too wide, but narrow enough so you can reach across. If your beds are two sided, that is you can walk on both sides, donít make them so long you canít get around easily.  One sided beds, such as against a fence, needs to be narrower.

          Another advantage is that many people do not plant in rows but in groups of plants from one side to the other.  This shades out weeds and has more plants per inch of space. As one crop matures it can be pulled up to make room for a fall crop.

          In our clay soil, depth is quite important, especially for root crops such as carrots that will grow crooked. But in the loose composted beds they can grow straighter and down. ONIONS like moisture but not standing water and your bed will let the water down to the roots but will drain well so they donít rot. Clay starts to run off very early in a heavy rain, taking fertilizer with it to the curb.  The loose soil lets the rain go down as its particles are not so tightly packed.  If water cannot run off or down, then it is likely to puddle and too much causes root rot.

          Raised beds will warm earlier in the spring and stay warm longer in the fall, giving us a slightly longer season.  Also snow will melt sooner and the moisture will drain faster.  Be careful with your watering as raised beds tend to dry out faster.

          In wheelchair gardens the beds are high enough for the gardener to work from their chair. So depending on the need, the height can be changed. Some gardens have block sides so gardeners who cannot or find it hard to get up and down, can sit on the side and work.

Copyright 2008