CREATING A BEAUTIFUL GARDEN is a rewarding task, filled with exciting possibilities. Karen Collins has prepared this guide to aid you in your quest for your perfect garden. In her Calendar she shares with you proven tips and techniques, along with when to accomplish them. Below you will find a preview of her Calendar. The printed copy of Karen’s Garden Calendar will be available March 1. Happy gardening.
“January is the quietest month in the garden…But just because it looks quiet doesn’t mean that nothing is happening.
The soil, open to the sky, absorbs the pure rainfall while microorganisms convert tilled-under fodder into usable nutrients for the next crop of plants. The feasting earthworms tunnel along, aerating the soil and preparing it to welcome the seeds and bare roots to come.”
~~~Rosalie Muller Wright, Editor Sunset Magazine, 1/99
Let’s Take a Walk Down Our Garden Path
As the weather is cold, the skies are dreary, and everyone needs some time to “vegg” after the busy Holiday Season, we would like to take this opportunity to pass along some ideas and suggestions we have gleaned from various sources for you to store away for future use and contemplation.
Consider shade areas and plan for color in both foliage as well as flowers along with ground covers to brighten and create a pleasing effect…and low maintenance.
Field soils are appropriate for growing plants in the garden, but these soils are unsuited for growing plants in containers. The texture of field soils does not provide adequate aeration in containers and pots or planters of any size and are generally too shallow to permit proper drainage. Soilless media have larger particles, which form bigger spaces or pores to hold air, while retaining enough water for our plants to survive.
Do you have large containers that you have used rocks, shards of broken containers or foam peanuts as fillers? Then you decided the rocks and shards made the container too heavy and the peanuts were a gooey mess at the end of the season? Try using empty soda cans or plastic milk jugs, with their caps on, or the emptied pots that contained your newly purchased perennials and annuals for the bottom of your containers before adding the soil. At the end of the season, dump the soil and recycle the cans, containers or milk jugs!
Planting tips for container gardening include: put broken terra-cotta shards over the drainage hole; add those caps-on plastic milk jugs, empty plastic plant pots or soda cans as a fill; about halfway up the pot add soilless potting mix as it is lightweight and gives roots plenty of air and drains quickly, then add a thin layer of soil crystals to hold moisture in the soil just where the roots need it most, or use Moisture Control Potting Mix; add your plants and then cover the top of the soil with a layer of mulch to conserve water.
Soaker Hose Recycling: Cut a soaker hose to about 6 feet in length and attach the end cap. You can then attach it to the end of your regular hose and position it wherever you need to give a new planting a good soaking.
An Excellent Garden Tool and a favorite of Sugar Creek Gardens’ employees is the Sugar Creek Soil Knife: Instead of a trowel, weeder, short-handled hoe, saw or knife, Sugar Creek Gardens has available for purchase a well-balanced Soil Knife tool manufactured by A.M. Leonard that is sturdy enough to use as a trowel or to pry out small stones or weeds. The narrow tip can scrape out weeds from cracks in the sidewalk and the serrated edge is good for sawing through tough roots when you’re transplanting. Finally, the bright-orange handle means you won’t lose this knife in the garden. Sugar Creek customers who have purchased the Soil Knife claim it is the best garden tool ever invented. You deserve this tool too!
One way to eliminate unwanted suckers growing from the ground is to cut them off and immediately treat the stubs with a liquid weedkiller.
Dental Floss is a handy string for tying climbing vines to lattices and trellises. Floss is light and supple, good for tying up the smallest and most delicate vines, such as clematis, but also extremely strong for more robust vines. Best of all, green, mint-flavored floss is practically invisible next to a vine’s stem
Dwarf conifers can serve as a focal point or add depth to a bed. There are many shapes to choose from, globelike, mounding, pyramidal and spreading – a thought provoking idea!
A strange phenomenon has shown up in many areas in recent years wherein people have placed mulch-created-Mount-St.-Helens-Volcanoes at the base of trees. Cones of mulch are not good for the health of trees and shrubs. Mulch pushed up against the trunk of a plant creates high moisture right around the surface of the trunk that can become a breeding ground for fungal canker diseases. Once rot sets in, it slowly girdles a plant by damaging the cambium layer of cells that transports food and water up and down the plant. Rotting wood is also an opening for invasion by other organisms, like wood-boring insects. Rodents find mulch volcanoes a safe place to live and can cause excessive winter damage at the plant’s base. Although mulch volcanoes often keep the area near the trunk too moist, sometimes the opposite happens, and thickly applied mulch keeps the soil underneath too dry. If the mulch layer is too thick, light irrigation or rainfall won’t penetrate through to the soil. Keep mulch at least 4 inches away from the trunk and its flares and valleys. Bark mulch, seasoned wood chips, pine needles, and shredded leaves are all good ways to keep a plant’s root system cool and moist in the summer, but more of a good thing is not better. Keep the trunk and trunk flare exposed to the air, as nature intended.
Do you need information on plants to attract butterflies and hummingbirds, which plants bunny rabbits and deer deplore, and what plants are considered native to Missouri? Sugar Creek Gardens has guides to answer many of your questions. Just ask for them at the nursery. Also, you will find some of these guides at the back of this book.
Gardening Suggestions for the month of January
Heavy snows may damage tree and shrub branches so be sure to carefully brush off snow. Prune any limbs that have been damaged by ice and snow. Allow ice to melt from plants naturally as attempting to remove it may damage plants. Instead of using salt or ice melters, use birdseed, sand, or vermiculite on icy paths. Salt and ice melters may injure your plants.
Do You Need a New Year’s Resolution that will be easy to keep? Each month we have included in our book an area for Garden Notes of plants in your gardens by location and past performance. From your list, make comments and plans for future changes. Toward the back of our book you will find an area to make note of Perennials, Trees and Shrubs Planted during the year. This is a wonderful tool for those of us who think they will remember, but don’t!
The next 6 weeks are ideal to plan your gardens for the coming season. As you know, catalogs and garden magazines are available to study with a wealth of information. Flowers and vegetables should be selected with disease resistance, heat and drought tolerance and cold hardiness.
Do your gardens have winter interest? Maybe some evergreens as well as shrubs with interesting bark and berries might be featured. Hollies, azaleas, boxwood, grasses and viburnum are just a few selections that provide beautiful winter interest.
To prevent injury to your turf grass, try not to walk on frozen lawns.
Do you want to attract insect-hunting woodpeckers into your garden? Hang suet cakes in your trees.
Do you have bulbs you didn’t plant before the ground froze? You can plant the bulbs in peat pots or plastic containers and bury the pots under a think blanket of leaves. You may then transplant them into your garden beds when the weather permits OR gamble a little and plant them now.
Get together with gardening friends and share plant information and gardening books.
You’ll find a printed copy of Karen’s Garden Calendar at Sugar Creek.