Week 1 (3/31/06)
April is here, you are here, we are here - Let Gardening 2006 begin.
[You know you’re living in 2006 when you get up in the morning and go online before getting your coffee.]
Spring officially began last week, but the persistent cool temperatures remind us that now is the time to prepare for the gardening season ahead. Take this time to make sure your gardening tools and equipment are cleaned, oiled, repaired and ready to go for the season. Take inventory and treat yourself to new tools to replace those that have truly seen better days. Today’s tools are definitely improved over what our grandparents used. America’s Best Flowers has a good selection of ergonomically correct hand tools, as well as a line of garden tools designed with women in mind. Spray paint handles orange so you can see them better in the garden. And don’t forget to have your mower serviced. As the weather warms, it will soon be time for the first mowing. Make sure the blades are sharpened and ready to make clean cuts! The first mowing of the spring is very important as it helps pull up dead grass and low-lying debris, pulls the grass blades up, and helps to get sun down into the soil and get things warming up. It’s simply amazing how your lawn responds to that first mowing.
Pace yourself as we enter the early spring season. Now’s a great time for edging beds, raking and fluffing up existing mulch, getting your container gardens ready, spraying with dormant horticultural oils, and doing light pruning to clean up from the winter. And most important of all, it’s time to get your plans in place for planting this season. Our first load of trees and shrubs is arriving as I type this. Now’s the time for you to get serious about your landscape. Come in and check out our fresh stock. Our resident expert, Mark Ditchey, is ready to answer your questions regarding nursery stock and help you select the right trees and shrubs for your property.
[You know you’re living in 2006 when you have 15 phone numbers for your family of 3.]
*What’s bugging you? – This is an easy one? It’s the numerous emails and rumors going around about the dreaded Formosan termite making its way to our landscapes via bagged mulch made from hurricane debris out of Louisiana. Whoever started this has certainly created much a do about what should be nothing! Trust me, entomologists have been all over this thing to check the validity of it. Bottom line is this: 1) A quarantine was put into place in Louisiana last year before Katrina even hit stopping shipments of wood and debris out of the state. 2) If any product escapes that quarantine, the chipping and shredding process would destroy the termite colonies. They would need a viable colony with reproductives included, not just a couple of termites, to re-establish themselves. 3) Formosan termites have stayed in the southern states for a reason. They don’t like cold weather. This is not to say that over enough generations they could not adapt. But the chance of them establishing a colony here is Wisconsin in the near future is extremely low. 4) To be sure you won’t have a problem, buy your mulch from a reputable independent garden center like America’s Best Flowers. We know our mulch sources and trust them to provide us only with clean mulch.
[You know you are living in 2006 when you email the person who works at the desk next to you.]
“Did I understand correctly about feeding my spring bulbs? Do I feed them when they’re about half up out of the ground?” - Yes, that’s good. Feed them before they flower. Use a slow-release fertilizer like Osmocote to nourish the bulbs throughout their entire growing season. After they have finished flowering, make sure they stay green for at least six weeks before cutting off the foliage. The longer they stay green, the better off the bulbs are next year. Forget the braiding and rubber banding stuff we’ve read about for years. Let them grow naturally.
“Do I still have time to start seeds indoors for spring planting?” – Yes. Check the back of your seed packs and see how long it takes for the seeds to germinate and then be ready for transplanting them into the garden. Count back from May 20 (our frost free date). That’s when you should start the seeds indoors. It’s about 6-8 weeks for tomatoes, so count backwards from May 20 and you get “RIGHT NOW!”
“What’s the Golden Rule I’ve heard about pruning flowering trees and shrubs?” – The Golden Rule, for the most part, is “If it flowers in the spring, prune it after it flowers. If it flowers in the summer (after June 1), prune it early in the spring. There are exceptions, but this is a good rule to follow to make sure you see flowers from your plants. If the flowers aren’t a concern, feel free to prune in the spring!
“When should I prune back my roses?” – Although I have seen some gardeners already cutting back roses, my experiences, along with the advice from the rose doctor himself, Dr Pottschmidt, have been to wait until early to mid April. They may have already started to leaf out, but just wait. Pruning encourages new growth, and pruning a bit later gets you closer to warmer weather with less chance of frost damage to new foliage.
“Some of my over-wintering container plants are starting to bud. What should I do?” – Move them outside at this stage to let them come back to life just as the ones outside are doing. Garages will be getting too warm for plants to stay dormant. Be ready if the weather makes a sudden change to really cold to move them back in.
“In our community, they put 3-4 inches of mulch around the base of a variety of trees. Haven’t I heard you caution against doing this? Also, what does referencing a tree as 3 ½ inch cal. mean?” - Great questions! “Cal.” stands for the caliper (diameter) of the tree trunk 18” above the ground. As for the mulching, we know, through experience and much research, that mulching depths are best kept between 1 and 3 inches. Research also shows that piling mulch against the trunk of a tree will begin to cause decay of the tree trunk, which could lead to death of the tree. Our recommendation is to mulch 1 – 3 inches and never place the mulch against the trunk of the tree. The mulch should actually look like a donut, with the tree planted in the hole of the donut. Hope this helps. To help you compute how much mulch you will need to cover your area go to http://www.americasbestflowers.com/products.htm and click on Calculator Needs under Soil, Mulch, Manures and Compost.
[You know you are living in 2006 when you enter your password on the microwave.]
From the Garden to the Kitchen - Recipes from our own Bonnie Marshall – (Who we’ve discovered is actually quite the gourmet cook.)
With the chill still in the air, there’s nothing quite like a bowl of thick stew to satisfy your hunger. Bonnie made this stew to share with her co-workers at America’s Best who were suffering from hopefully the last round of upper respiratory infections. It’s so delicious, we demanded she ‘cough up’ the recipe to share with you this week.
Spring Chicken Stew (serves 4)
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1” pieces
4 C. chicken broth, low sodium recommended
3-4 carrots, sliced ½” thick
2 medium potatoes, cut in 1” pieces
2 cloves minced garlic
3 T. chopped fresh thyme (or 1 t. dried, crushed)
3 T. chopped fresh basil (or 1 t. dried, crushed)
1 med. zucchini, sliced
½ lb. asparagus, sliced diagonally into 1” pieces
2 T. flour
¼ C. milk
3 T. chopped fresh parsley
ground black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste
In a large saucepan, combine the chicken, broth, carrots, potatoes, garlic, thyme and basil. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 15 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink and vegetables are tender. Skim foam from the surface as necessary. Add zucchini and asparagus. Cook 2 minutes or until just tender. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, milk, parsley and pepper. Gradually add to chicken mixture and cook until thickened. Yum!!!
Per serving: 238 calories, 24 g. carbohydrates, 2 g. fat
[You know you are living in 2006 when you pull in your own driveway and use your cell phone to see if someone can come outside and help carry in the groceries.]
This week’s Success Tip for your garden – If you want to get an earlier start on the in-ground garden, here’s a little tip. Simply cover the area you’d like to plant early with a dark tarp or black plastic and anchor it down. We do sell anchors especially designed for this. The cover keeps the rain off as well as heats up the soil so it dries out more quickly. Once it’s ready to work, you may do soil preparation, then replace the plastic and plant through it, depending on what you’re growing. This works especially well for tomatoes, peppers and vine crops, which like warm roots. The plastic or tarp keeps weeds from growing between the plants resulting in a higher yield of clean crops. Just remember that it is necessary for rain to reach the plants, so cut a hole in the plastic around each plant large enough to allow the moisture to get to get to the plants.
[You know you’re living in 2006 if you’re reading these and nodding your head!]
Yardboy’s plant to ponder – *Perennial of the Year – Dianthus ‘Firewitch’.
A German hybrid noted for its blue green foliage, heat tolerance, and the fact that it’s the longest flowering of all dianthus. Firewitch produces brilliant, bright-magenta pink, clove-scented blooms that reach 6-7 inches above the evergreen foliage. Firewitch is a heavy mid-spring bloomer, followed by sporadic summer and fall bloom if deadheaded. This low maintenance evergreen groundcover grows best in full to partly sunny areas, with well drained slightly alkaline soils. Butterflies enjoy this dianthus’ nectar. *Chosen by the Perennial Plant Association.