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Winter is here already

 

Kathy
Henderson
Columnist

  Did you think you had a little more time to prepare for freezing temperatures? I did. Now that they have hit - even if only for a few hours - we need to do some protective measures for certain plants.

  I have a number of “borderline” plants in my garden. Those are the plants that are on the borderline of being almost tropical. They do not fare well at all when the temperatures drop and stay there for a long period of hours. After the first short freeze you might want to put an extra cover of mulch (ground leaves, pinestraw, wood chips, bark) around the root system and over the top if the top has been cut back. Be a little wary of heavy amounts of wood chips and bark due to the ability of these materials to hold a lot of moisture. This is especially true in low areas of the yard. Excess water can be a threatened plant’s real problem in very cold weather conditions.

  That said, most of our hardy perennials, shrubs and trees thrive in our mild winters and do well with just a light coating of mulch. I have avoided applying mulch because we have dry soil. Putting mulch around plants when they are suffering from drought will make the conditions worse for them. While a mulch of pinestraw and others mentioned will hold the moisture in the soil, the moisture needs to be there first. Otherwise, the mulch can help shed the water away from the thirsty plant roots. Another reason for waiting to apply mulch is the massive quantity of leaves that are still on the trees. They will just fall on my neat and tidy beds and have to be removed. So I wait, hoping to see them all fall by Thanksgiving week. Then I will work tirelessly to get the yard in shape for the hoards of folks that descend on my house to enjoy a feast.

  Turnip greens and collards are faring well in gardens throughout the county and will continue to do so throughout the cold weather. If yours are a little small, hit them with a light coating of fertilizer just before you water or the next rainfall. Don’t use too much, or apply it on the leaves if you are not applying water. That can damage the leaves. Thin them and cook the leaves if the seed were applied too heavily. And remember, they cook down rapidly to a small amount, so stuff plenty into that pot. I use chicken broth as my flavor - fatback or ham were better - but chicken broth is flavorful and a lot healthier!

  I have noticed with some despair that many of you are butchering the evergreen shrubs at this time of the year. WHY? Instead of looking at a shrub that could be tamed with a few nips of the pruners, you took the lazy way out and chain-sawed them. Now everyone gets to look at barren stumps all winter. Did you think they would put out new growth in December and January? Did you think? That greenery would have made lovely baskets of color to put on your porch for the holidays. Years ago, I said “Give a man a chainsaw and he cannot stop until every living plant in your yard has been transformed into a stub.” Some things never change and some truths remain forever.

  I am glad most women do not use chainsaws - it shows that we are the masters of landscape beauty and civility. With apologies to the “super” men who love gardening and respect the beauty of individual landscape shrubs.

 

 

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