Tag Archives: Garden maintenance

Water in the Winter and Antidesiccants

11-18-14 browned shrubsIf you’ve ever participated in winter sports, you know how easy it is to forget to drink water with snow around, yet once you do, you realize how thirsty you are! It is easy to get dehydrated if you’ve been outside for a while in the winter sun. Plants are no different.

When it is super cold outside, the humidity in the air drops significantly. That is what makes the air feel clean and crisp. And why you need a humidifier indoors. This dry air can cause serious damage to plants especially when combined with wind and sun. Even though it is cold outside, it can be warm inside the plant’s leaf – and water evaporates. When a plant loses more water than it can replenish through its roots, the natural process of transpiration (water loss through plant respiration) causes plant desiccation. Desiccation is when the plant cells collapse and die after drying out, causing discolored/ brown/dry areas of tissue. We call this winter burn.

Most important: we can’t prevent the soil around the roots from freezing – but we can give our plants a leg up prior to the ground freezing. Watering your trees and shrubs well into the fall, right up until the ground freezes, can help plants fully hydrate. We recommend watering through Thanksgiving. This is especially important if rain has been scarce during the growing season like this summer.

For some evergreens and bro11-18-14 dessicated rhodo leavesadleaf evergreens like Rhododendrons and Hollies, antidesiccant sprays can help. The anti-transpirant spray coats the leaves and diminishes the loss of moisture through the leaf’s pores, much like an oil based lotion on your legs. These sprays should be used in late December (temps @ 40°), only after the evergreen is fully dormant. Otherwise water can get trapped in the leaf and freeze, causing cellular damage. Our sources indicate that antidesiccants are not reliably effective and can actually harm some plants like Chamaecyparis and Blue Spruce. Read the label and follow directions carefully if you want to try it.

You may recall seeing shrubs all bundled up in burlap in the winter. This can be effective, particularly when the plant is subject to sun and wind or salt. But the cold still gets inside the burlap. We only recommend burlapping shrubs if they are in a very vulnerable location. Often these “winter tasks” are more for our comfort as the gardener looking at our plants rather than for the plant’s benefit. This is true too for salt marsh hay. We don’t use salt marsh hay for a variety of reasons – we leave a layer of leaves on perennial beds. The best “blanket” is actually snow itself, which keeps the temperature around the leaves consistent and blocks the sun.

With winters, we face the vagaries of nature and have to admit that we can only do so much to help our friends the plants.


The Good and the Ugly: Beneficial Bugs

The growing season is coming to an end and we are busy closing our gardens and making preparations for next year. So much to do! Cutting back perennials, cleaning up a seemingly endless supply of leaves, planting bulbs for that early spring splash of color. Even with so many things to think of as we near the end of another growing season, many families are focused on one thing: it’s Halloween time!!

Over the years the costumes have improved, the decoration displays get bigger and scarier, and undoubtedly, our misunderstood garden helpers get put on display to gross out and frighten. Insects and spiders have become a standard in Halloween gags, pranks, displays and décor that seem to awaken all of our irrational fears about our 6 or 8 legged friends.

To try and balance out all of the negative attention, here are three of the beneficial ‘bugs’ we can find right in our own backyards:

10-30-14 Ground beetleGround Beetles – While some types of beetles can be serious home garden pests, others are the best pest-fighters around. These medium to large, blue-black beetles typically hide under stones or boards during the day. By night they prey on cabbage root maggots, cutworms, snail and slug eggs, and other pests; some climb trees to capture armyworms or tent caterpillars.

10-30-14 Jumping spiderJumping Spiders – The Jumping Spider lives in woods, fields or gardens. It is often seen on tree trunks, fallen limbs, leaves, or other ground litter. The Jumping Spider gets its name because of its amazing leaping ability. Male Jumping Spiders are between 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch long while females are slightly larger. These spiders do not build webs to catch prey but hunt their prey on foot. They use silk to make a small shelter under a leaf or bark. These spiders eat all sorts of insects as well as other spiders. Their inquisitive behavior and rapid stop and go movements can provide quite a show!

10-30-14 Ladybug larvaeLady Beetle – The adult Lady Beetle, or Lady Bug, is easy for us to picture in our heads with its shiny red exoskeleton speckled with black or white dots. This family of small to medium beetles includes more than 3,000 species that feed on small, soft pests such as aphids, mealybugs and spider mites. Both adults and larvae (pictured) eat pests. Most larvae have tapering bodies with several short, branching spines on each segment.

Look for these friendly insects in your garden as you finish up your end-of-the season tasks. And if your fall maintenance is ‘bugging’ you, call us to help!



Falling into Spring!

fall into spring pix 2Autumn leaves are falling and covering your garden like a patchwork quilt. Yellows, oranges, reds and all kinds of browns create the soothing color palette of fall. Ornamental grasses have hit their stride and perennial Asters, Chrysanthemums, Sedums and Goldenrod all give a final burst of visual delight. It is very easy to get lulled into a state of sedated calm. Your mind tells you that you have worked so very hard this spring and summer taking care of the garden. Now is the time to relax and enjoy nature’s waning gifts.   OK, naptime is over! Finish your warm cider because there is necessary work to be done to put the garden “to bed” for the winter.

Get started by removing the debris of any remaining summer annuals. For perennials you should consider whether you will really want to get out in early spring to cut them back or is your springtime better spent with other tasks…remember how busy and pressured you felt back in March?   Clean up as much of the perennials as possible now while still leaving some for winter display (i.e. Sedums and ornamental grasses are beautiful in snow) and food for birds (i.e. Coneflower seeds). This is also a great time to do a final weeding. Many weeds make a last effort to go to seed in the fall and completing this task will save you hours of work next season.

Lastly take a critical look at your garden. Are there large gaps? Plants that are failing? Plants that need dividing? Fall is the perfect time to plant trees, shrubs, and perennials. The weather is cooler, rain is usually more plentiful and the soil still warm. New additions to the garden or transplants will have a chance to put out great root growth and get established for next season.

Need help putting your garden to bed? Let us know, we’re ready and able!

Fall into Spring pix 1