There may still be some snow on the ground as we approach spring, but snowdrops will appear in the snow even so. If you’re not familiar with snowdrops, the snowdrop is a delicate flower that appears among the first flowers of spring and is considered the harbinger of spring. Jan Beblinger, Master Gardener, writes that snowdrops are white fragile-looking, bell shaped flowers. They may be fragile-looking, but if showdrops will appear in the snow, they can’t be all that fragile!
For many gardeners, snowdrops are an essential part of the early spring garden, giving cheer to the final wintery days. Snowdrops are perfect companions for hellebores and witch hazel, both early bloomers. Snowdrops can be planted in drifts under deciduous trees or naturalized in lawns. Since they are small, you will need to plant a large number to make a dramatic effect, or wait for them to multiply on their own.
Jan writes about the many varieties of snowdrop. There are those no taller than three or four inches and others up to about ten inches tall. She says that there are twenty species of snowdrop and about five hundred cultivars, many of which are not very common. She says that there are about four species of snowdrop that are most common, and she writes about them in her article. Here is some general information about the snowdrop.
Snowdrops are hardy in zones 3 to 7. Bulbs should be planted in the fall, two to three inches deep and about three inches apart in full sun to part shade. Soil should be moist, but well-drained and it should not dry out in summer. Just like other hardy bulbs, allow the foliage to fully die down on its own after the plant has finished flowering. If planted in grass they should be left to die back before the grass is cut. If you notice that the clumps are becoming crowded (bulbs start to push up out of the ground), you can divide them immediately after flowering.
You can read Jan’s article by clicking here or on the link below. I don’t have any snowdrops in my yard, and Jan says in her article that they are more popular in England than they are in the US. After reading about how snowdrops will appear in the snow even before the official start of spring, I think I may look to plant them in my garden so they will appear next spring.
Are you aware that gardening is a lifelong hobby? You may think as you age and the back and knees don’t want to cooperate in bending and stooping as they had in the past that your gardening days are over. Not so, says Janice Peterson. She found that her mother could continue to garden as she aged with some accommodations for her physical limitations. There are many benefits to making sure that gardening is a lifelong hobby and not just for those of us who can bend and stoop with ease.
My mom takes great care of herself and stays active, but she’s no spring chicken—she’s somewhere between 29 and 130 years old. (I’m sworn to secrecy!) Bending and kneeling were definitely becoming harder yet she didn’t want to give up gardening. These are the types of issues addressed by horticultural therapy, a practice that uses nature to improve people’s health and well-being by incorporating adaptive tools and techniques.
Horticultural therapy isn’t a word that is used just with those gardeners of us who are aging. Horticultural therapy refers to the health benefits that accrue to gardeners in general beyond the eating of healthy garden produce. Janice speaks to those benefits in her article, and though she writes about her mother’s gardening efforts, they apply to all of us gardeners as well.
Gardening is beneficial to both physical and mental health. Studies have shown that engaging in gardening activities—or even just looking at a garden!—can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, improve mood and even reduce hospital stays. Gardening is great exercise, and it’s a wonderful excuse to spend time in the fresh air and sunshine.
In her article, which you can read by clicking here or on the link below, Janice writes that since it is more difficult for us to get down to the dirt, we can bring the dirt up to us. Nothing says that we can’t essentially put soil in a box on stilts. Build a box of whatever size you want with sides about a foot high. Put that box up on stilts so it is raised to about waist high, and fill the box with soil. Voila, a raised garden that requires no bending or stooping. While there are other accommodations that assure that gardening is a lifelong hobby, raising the garden up to waist height is probably the most important.
If you would rather work smarter in your garden than harder, you need to know that pollinators make gardening easier. Nicole Rolfe writes that she doesn’t think much about gardening when snow is on the ground other than to be anxious for spring to come. But she has learned how to make her gardening easier. She sounds a lot like a lot of gardeners who don’t necessarily have a passion for gardening, but they just want some fresh vegetables during the summer without a lot of effort and without having to spend all their time in the garden. I can understand that. Nicole tells that kind of gardener to be aware that pollinators make gardening easier, and that it is important to encourage pollinators of many kinds to hang around the garden.
I’m not exactly the most successful gardener, and have given up the idea of having perfect gardens and flower beds. Frankly, I lose interest as summer approaches and adopt a minimal effort approach to my yard. This is why pollinator gardening works for me. When we think of pollinators, most of us think bees. Bees are certainly the most commonly recognized of the pollinating animals, but many other creatures serve in this capacity.
If you think only of bees as pollinators, you’re missing opportunities to make your gardening easier by ignoring other pollinators. Nicole tells the reader of her article about many other pollinators, and the more pollinators, the more the vegetables, all things being equal. Among the pollinators Nicole mentions are wasps, flies, butterflies, moths, beetles and even bats and hummingbirds. The trick is to attract those pollinators to your garden.
Beneficial insects need abundant nectar and pollen sources throughout the growing season. By planting species in your landscaping that serve this need, you can not only make your yard a healthier place, but help species in need.For gardeners like me, who leap into things long before frost date, then lose interest when there are more exciting things to do, planting for pollinators is ideal; the trick is knowing what to plant.
Nicole gives the reader probably the most important piece of advice when she says that you should plant native species. She says that native species are more likely to survive a late frost and they are also more resistant to diseases and usually don’t require much fertilization. You can read Nicole’s article by clicking here or on the link below. She gives the reader a resource for selecting plants for your local growing area, which makes reading her article worthwhile just for that. If you’re a lazy gardener particularly, and even if you’re not, and you want to know how pollinators make gardening easier, this is an article you don’t want to miss.
A creative way to add interest to your winter garden is to have ice candle holders light your garden. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make ice candle holders. You just have to provide the candles, and the ice holders can be made easily, as Connie Oswald Stofko says in her article. Many people will add some interest and texture to their gardens in the summertime with lighting effects. It is likely to be even more dramatic to have ice candle holders light your garden in winter, since such lighting is not typically seen in gardens. Connie tells you how to make those ice candle holder spheres.
Start out as though you are going to make a frozen sphere. Take a balloon and squirt in some food coloring, if you would like. Fill your balloon with water and tie it securely. Set the water balloon outside, on a flat surface. The sphere will not freeze evenly. The top rounded part will freeze first and the flat part on the bottom will take longer. When you have a good, solid shell on top, but the bottom is still liquid, cut open the balloon and pour out the excess liquid. What you will have left is a cup that you can use as a candle holder. It looks spectacular outside, when the candles or tea lights are lit.
Connie cautions the reader that the candles will not stay lit in the rain, which I think would surprise nobody. She also says that the candles may not stay lit in windy weather. Again, no scoop to most people. She gives the reader an idea on how you might make sure that the candles continue to burn. She also suggests ways that you may want to decorate them so as to add even more interest. She also gives some more specific directions about the process, especially if the local weather person predicts is a lot of snow.
If heavy snow or drifting snow is forecasted, you may want to do this project inside an unheated garage or a screened-in porch. If you must have your balloons out in the open, choose a spot where you will remember where they are and will be able to find them, if they get covered with snow.
Again, I don’t think it takes a genius to remember or find where you put the water balloons out to have them freeze. I mean no disrespect, Hamburgers, Hamburgians, or whatever you’re called in Western New York, and I know you get lots of snow in your locale, but if Connie needs to tell you how not to lose your water balloons/future ice candle holders in a snowfall, maybe she thinks you’ll get brain freeze. You can read her article by clicking here or on the link below, and there are some details in the article that will help you make those ice candle holders. Here’s a thought about those candles you’ll need in those ice candle holders to light your garden. I have seen small, battery powered tea lights that last about 120 hours, and at least they won’t blow out in the wind. I don’t know if they will survive precipitation, however. That’s for your experimentation. Wouldn’t Connie’s idea of ice candle holders be a good alternative to luminaria bags?
Thievery will pay off if you steal leaves for your garden. Now, we wouldn’t recommend you do anything immoral or even illegal, but if you can get a whole lot of leaves for your garden without getting into trouble, you’ll be way ahead of the game in your garden this summer. You’re on the late side to be doing so if you live in the North, and this is an article about Bill Finch of Mobile Botanical Gardens. But if you can still round up some leaves in the neighborhood, you’ll want to do that when you read what Bill Finch does. At any rate, he encourages you to steal leaves for your garden. Here is what the writer says about Bill.
Bill says this time of year is among his favorites, because people bag up leaves and put them on the curb for him…it’s like a birthday present for your garden. This is how gardens are made, specifically how soil has been made for the last few billion years.
Bill says to collect all the leaves you can. He suggests the kind of leaves that break down better than others, but he does not seem to discriminate. Why does he collect leaves? Bill has a wonderful idea about how to grow tomatoes. He says that if you pile up leaves as he suggests, you can actually grow tomatoes after about 5 or 6 months in what is left of the decayed leaves turned into soil. You have to read how he does it and how easy it is to grow tomatoes in that new soil. The author again writes:
It’s not fall now, but along the Gulf Coast we have two leaf-falls, one in autumn and another–mostly live oaks–in spring. Bill amassed a dozen bags within a block of his house, and his neighbors did all the hard work of raking! Addendum: yes, leaf-stealing is legal, as long as the leaves are in bags and on the curb for pickup.
This sounds like a great idea, and you would do well to read the article by clicking here or on the link below. If you’re living in the northern part of the US, the time to do this would be in the fall or our year. You’ll have to remember next fall that it’s okay to steal leaves for your garden, even if your neighbors don’t quite get what you’re up to.
You may not have given thought to the fact that nematodes benefit gardens. In fact, if you thought of nematodes at all, you might have had a negative thought run through your mind. You may have associated nematodes with the words hookworms, pinworms and whipworms, all of which are parasitic on humans. The species Trichinella spiralis, commonly known as the ‘trichina worm’, occurs in rats, pigs, and humans, and is responsible for the disease trichinosis. When Laurie Garretson writes that nematodes benefit gardens, these are not the nematodes about which she writes.
There are as many a half a million different varieties of nematodes on the planet today. Not all these varieties are bad; in fact, most are very good. Here are a few reasons why we want beneficial nematodes in our soils. Beneficial nematodes are harmless to animals, plants, birds, earthworms and humans. They can easily be applied to vegetable gardens, lawns, flower beds, orchards and containers. Wherever there is soil, they will help to control large groups of soil-inhabiting pest insects as well as above-ground pests that spend some stage of their life in the ground.
There are two types of nematodes that might be found in the garden, one type predatory and the other pestiferous. Predatory nematodes are those that kill garden pests, and pestiferous nematodes kill plants or spread plant diseases. To help your garden be freer from harmful garden pests, predatory nematodes can be artificially inserted into your garden. You can buy nematodes at your garden center and apply them with hose end sprayers or watering cans. They do need a water environment in which to move around. Here is how they rid your garden of pests.
Hungry nematodes detect prey with their built-in honing mechanisms that tell them when there is a difference in the soil temperature and a change in the carbon dioxide levels in the soil just by following the trail of pests excrement. Once juvenile nematodes find their victim, they enter the pest through various body openings. Once inside the host, the nematodes releases a toxic bacteria that kills the host, usually between 24 and 48 hours, and the bacteria provides nutrients for the nematodes.
Read Laurie’s article by clicking here or on the link below. She makes a good point of getting nematodes into your garden soil as soon as you can, because it’s easier to have them eradicate pests early before they get into their adult form. Nematodes will destroy them as they are residing in the ground. I think I’ll be looking to add some nematodes to my garden this year, because it seems clear that nematodes benefit gardens, and my garden can use whatever advantage I can give it.
If your garden has a drab appearance during the winter months, here is a helpful article on how to create a beautiful winter garden. It’s hard enough trying to wait out old man winter until we can get back in our gardens again in the spring. But trying to wait him out while all around us is bleak and barren is even harder. With nothing to delight the eye or to put a smile on our faces in the dead of winter, it’s easy to feel as drab as the landscape around us. Susan Reimer writes about how we can create a beautiful winter garden, and now is the time to think about doing so. When you look outside and see a drab, colorless garden, take note of where you need to make improvements.
. . .Christine Killian of Annapolis and Alice Ryan of Easton. . .have made it a point to create winter interest in their gardens, if for no other reason than they want something lovely to look at from the warmth of the house. . .Nancy and Pierre Moitrier of Designs for Greener Gardens in Annapolis began working with Killian about four years ago. . .”I wanted to look out every window and see something,” said Killian. . .
Susan writes about Christine and Alice who had professionals help them with their extensive gardens. Since I don’t have the large gardens they do, my winter garden enhancements will be a lot simpler, but I can achieve the same effect, a pleasant view when I look out of the windows of my home. Susan gives the reader several suggestions on how to create interest in a garden, and she refers to evergreens as the backbone of a beautiful winter garden. Here are a few of her other suggestions.
Berries, flowers or cones: Hollies, beauty berry, coral berry and winterberry provide color and attract birds, whose presence also livens the winter garden. Pansies and violas will bounce back quickly as winter fades. Coral bells with leaves in deep purples and bright green hold their color during the winter. Hellebores, or Lenten Roses, will begin to bloom in February. Liriope and mondo grass are an evergreen carpet and taller ornamental grasses provide movement in the wind. Snowdrops, crocuses and early daffodils will bloom at the first sign of spring.
If you haven’t much in the way of evergreens in your gardens, Susan suggests in her article, which you can read by clicking here or on the link below, that you may want to have a professional give you recommendations on evergreens, since they are likely to be the greatest part of the investment you make in your winter garden. It’s not difficult to create a beautiful winter garden if you remember that color, shapes, objects, textures, fragrances and structures are all things that can contribute to creating interest in your winter garden.
If you live in the Sandusky County area, you can get involved in master gardener training in Ohio. This is not a gardening article as such, no tips, to recommended plantings, etc. But it is more a news release that I thought I would include today. Often there is reference made to Master Gardeners in articles that I curate, and I thought it would be good to include a specific piece of news about a specific program, though one that is available in various parts of Ohio at various times of the year. This announcement about master gardener training in Ohio is for the Sandusky County area.
If you have a strong interest in gardening and enjoy helping others, you are invited to apply for Ohio State University Extension Master Gardener Volunteer training. . .To become an OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer, you must attend all training sessions, pass examinations and volunteer 50 hours during a one-year internship.
The article contains information about what kind of service is eligible to accumulate 50 yours of volunteering. The Master Gardener Volunteer Program Overview website from The Ohio State University Extension contains the following information about where and when training courses take place in the State of Ohio.
Most Master Gardener Volunteer training takes place in late winter to early spring, late January through March. However, some counties train in the summer or fall. Most training is conducted in the day-time, since most volunteer opportunities take place during the day. However, some counties do night-time training.
There is a fee to take the Master Gardener Volunteer training, and it varies from county to county in the State of Ohio. If you want to take master gardener training in Ohio, click here to get to The Ohio State University Extension website. Then click on the County Programs link at the top of the page and then click on your county name. If your county has a volunteer program, you’ll find the name of your county Master Gardener Volunteer program coordinator and contact information. You are told on the website that the coordinator will be happy to answer any other questions you may have. To check out information on the upcoming Sandusky County training, click here or on the link below. If you have an interest in gardening, even though you do not garden yourself, and you have a desire to share gardening knowledge with others, check out the Master Gardener Volunteer Program.
This is an article all gardeners should read. Did you know that you can store bees in your refrigerator? Our gardens need pollinators. With the dwindling colonies of honey bees, gardeners need to make sure that there are pollinators of some sort to be present in their gardens. I didn’t know about Mason bees, about which Katie Marks writes in her article. These are interesting bees that you can keep them from year to year, because you can store the bees in your refrigerator over the winter.
Mason bees don’t produce honey, but they are superb pollinators, and they’ll keep a garden in great shape. Furthermore, they don’t sting, making them a great choice for companions in an area where keeping honeybees isn’t feasible or there’s a great deal of concern about stings (like, for example, if a member of the family has an extreme bee allergy). If you live in a concrete jungle, there’s no room for a honeybee hive, but a mason bee block will fit right in. They’re also pretty low-maintenance, a trait that makes them popular among some gardeners who want to keep bees around, but don’t have the time or energy to maintain a hive.
I’ve not heard of Mason bees before, but they sound like my kind of bee–the non-stinging kind. I don’t have the time or the desire to keep a bee hive, so the fact that Mason bees don’t produce honey is no issue for me. I get my honey in a bottle from the store. That sounds very commercial and industrial, I know, but it’s the truth. Somebody has to make a living keeping bee hives, smoking the bees, risking stings, etc. to get at the honeycombs the bees provide. I’m glad someone is willing to do so, but not me. Katie writes about how easy it is to keep Mason bees.
How easy is it to keep mason bees? Get a block of wood, drill some holes in it, and hang it up. Face it toward the sun, and provide the bees with a source of mud to help them build their homes. That’s it. Seriously. The bees will happily take up residence and start nesting in the block, and you can have several such blocks around the garden. You can order packets of mason bees from a variety of sources: We recommend finding a seller in or near your state in order to get an appropriate species of mason bee.
You’ll have to read Katie’s article by clicking here or on the link below to learn how she puts the bees in the refrigerator. But the basic reason to store bees in your refrigerator is to keep them in a state of dormancy. Why do that? Go to the link and read her article, and you’ll learn why. I will have to say that it is ingenious!
If you’re going to plant potatoes in your garden this year, now is about the time you want to start looking for seed potatoes to arrive at your garden center. Nigel Colburn has written an article about how to plant those seed potatoes, and he has also give the reader a heads up on what kind of potatoes you might want to plant. If you plant potatoes in your garden and are hoping for an early crop of baby new potatoes, Nigel has given you some recommendations of how to make sure you get a good crop of potatoes from your garden.
. . . if you feel like growing a crop this year, now is the time to buy seed tubers. Garden centers and mail-order suppliers offer a bewildering range, so it pays to do your research. If space is limited, stick to the so called ‘earlies’ and harvest young. Home-grown main-crop potatoes, dug in the autumn, don’t taste much better than bought ones.
Nigel suggests planting early and harvesting early. One of the reasons he suggests planting and harvesting early is that later crops are more subject to blight. Nigel gives the reader a lot of information about what kind of seed potatoes to choose, how to plant those seed potatoes, how to care for the plants after they have been planted and how to harvest the potato crop. Here is some information from Nigel’s article about how to plant those seed potatoes.
Begin by sprouting or ‘chitting’ your seed tubers. Place them on a tray — fibre egg trays are best — in a warm, well-lit room or greenhouse. When the shoots are 3cm long, they’re ready to plant. Plant first earlies outdoors in March, 15cm deep, 30cm apart with 45-60cm between rows. Add a little Growmore fertiliser or dried poultry manure pellets to your trench, before covering the tubers. Protect emerging foliage from frost with horticultural fleece. When the leaves are about 15cm high, they’ll need earthing up.
You’ll need to read Nigel’s article, which you can find by clicking here or on the link below, about how to earth up your potato plants and why it is important to do so. It sounds like a lot of work to plant potatoes in your garden, but it isn’t as difficult as it may sound. Once planted and earthed up, there isn’t much that you need to do. And, it’s worth it, because you really can’t beat the taste of new potatoes!