» Archive for November, 2010

Jack Frost

Saturday, November 6th, 2010 by Jenny Watts
    • Bulbs, bulbs, bulbs! It’s time to plant tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus and many other flower bulbs for beautiful blooms next spring.
    • Crimson clover, fava beans and rye grass will fortify your garden soil over the winter. Seed these crops as you compost your summer vegetables.
    • Choose shade trees for fall color now and plant them while the soil is still warm.
    • Wildflower seed broadcasted with the first rains will take root over the winter and burst into flower next spring.

Frost in the Garden

It is common to have our first frost around the first week of October in Willits. However, that will vary depending on where you live. Areas near a lake, in valleys, or in the foothills can have quite different temperatures and frost conditions.

Since cold air is heavier than warm air, it sinks into the valleys, while hillsides may remain frost-free. Similarly, some parts of a particular property such as low areas may be more prone to frost than areas near warmer pavement or buildings.

The first frosts usually happen on calm, clear nights. During the day the sun warms the soil, and if the night is calm, and there are no clouds, heat rises as cold air sinks into the valleys. The temperature near the ground becomes cold and frost forms. These frosts often follow the passing of a cold front.

Since often there are a couple weeks or more of growing season after the first frost, if you can minimize the effects of this frost you can get more enjoyment from flowers and a longer harvest season.  Here are several methods to protect tender plants from frost.

The key to good frost protection is to trap the warm air from the ground in a tent over the plants. Woven fabrics are better than solid ones such as plastic. “N-Sulate” is a special white fabric you can find at nurseries just for frost protection.

A lighter weight fabric, gives about 2 degrees protection, while the thicker one gives up to 5 degrees protection. If possible, support the material so it doesn’t rest directly on the plants.  Apply covers in early evening as winds die down, and remove the next morning as the sun warms the plants.

One easy method to afford some frost protection is irrigation. Moist soil can hold up to four times more heat than dry soil, keeping the air above it about five degrees warmer. So water well before a frost.  

Spray citrus and other tender plants with Cloud Cover to give them some protection from frosts. Cloud Cover is a product that holds moisture in the leaves and reduces stress caused by temperature extremes. Frost tender plants have about 3 to 5 degrees more frost resistance than untreated plants.

If you can’t protect sensitive crops like tomatoes, harvest them early.  They will ripen in the kitchen, or you can pull up the whole plant and hang it upside-down in the garage, and they will continue to ripen slowly.

Tender crops that can’t withstand frost include tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, beans, cucumber, sweet corn, squash and melons. Cool-season crops such as cabbage, broccoli, onions, parsley, radish, spinach, turnips, and Brussels sprouts will withstand a hard frost.

Plan ahead to be ready for the first frost and prolong your gardening season. 

Shade Tree Planting

Saturday, November 6th, 2010 by Jenny Watts
    • Holland flower bulbs are now available for fall planting. These lovely gems will bloom for you next spring.
    • Lettuce can be planted from starts for a quick fall crop
    • Garlic cloves can be planted now. Keep them watered and weeded through the winter and you will harvest healthy large bulbs next June.
    • Clove-scented stock is a bedding flower that likes cool weather. Plant them now to enjoy their pink, white and lavender blooms.
    • Fall is for planting! Make the most of the nice fall weather and plant shade trees, roses and spring-flowering bulbs this weekend.

Enhance your Living Environment with Shade Trees

Planting trees around your house creates a pleasant environment that invites you to spend more time outdoors, especially during the hot weather days of summer and fall. If you plant a tree where it will shade your home as it grows, you can greatly reduce the heat both inside and around the building. For a small investment, you can greatly increase the value of your property.

Trees planted on the south side of the house should grow tall enough to shade the roof. Summer sun is at a high angle and heats the roof much more than the south wall of the house. Sycamores and maples both grow large enough to do the job. On the south side, be sure to plant deciduous trees which will let the sun shine through in the winter.

Shading on the west side of the house can be very effective. Even if trees do not grow up and over the house, shading the western wall through the long hot afternoons will greatly improve the comfort indoors. Any medium-sized tree can do this job nicely.

Fruitless mulberry is a fast-growing shade tree, to 35 feet tall and wide. It can reach 20 feet by 20 feet in five years. Its large leaves offer considerable shade.

Purple Robe locust is a very showy tree in the spring when its purplish-pink flowers hang in long clusters like wisteria. It is fast-growing to 40 feet tall and well adapted to hot, dry areas.

Chinese pistache is one of the best trees for filtered shade. It grows 30 to 40 feet tall with a round crown. The leaves turn brilliant orange and red in the fall. It takes heat, tolerates most soils, and can be grown as a lawn tree or where it gets little summer water.

Autumn Fantasy maple is a beautiful, fast-growing tree to 50 feet tall and 40 feet wide. The large leaves consistently show very good fall color, turning a bright red as the weather cools.

Other large maples include October Glory, which has beautiful reddish-purple fall color, and Sun Valley, with reliable bright red fall leaves.

Sycamores are hard to beat when it comes to shade. These giant trees grow 40 to 80 feet tall. They can take harsh conditions, drought and tough soils. The bark is attractive as it flakes off leaving light-colored patches behind.

If you have plenty of room to spread out, there are few trees more beautiful than a large, spreading Weeping Willow. It’s a tree to grow up with, to enrich your lives with great memories.

If you need a little smaller tree, look to the Chinese maples. These tough trees can be planted closer to the house to provide shade for the front porch, or a sunny window. Two fine hybrids are Norwegian Sunset and Pacific Sunset, both with glossy summer leaves and red-yellow-orange fall color.

Fall is the best time to plant trees, so begin now to create a more pleasant environment around your home with trees.

Time to plant spring-flowering bulbs

Saturday, November 6th, 2010 by Jenny Watts

Hope Springs Eternal

Spring-flowering bulbs are such a welcome sight when they begin blooming in early February. Although these bulbs produce their flowers in the spring, they must be planted in the fall. Spring flowering tulip, hyacinth, daffodil, crocus and iris bulbs can be planted now so you can enjoy that profusion of color the next spring.

Groupings of bulbs throughout the landscape will accent and highlight the garden. When used in naturalized settings of tall evergreens or among trees and broadleaf evergreens, they are particularly effective.

They can be used in borders, for bedding or for background color. Groupings or drifts of several types often create outstanding color effects. With some planning it is possible to enjoy their beauty and color from January to May.

Bulbs can be effectively used in containers, too. They can provide spot color on the patio, in the entry area, near the driveway or in the home. Most varieties do equally well in the ground or in containers.

Crocus offer some of the finest early spring color. Dutch Crocus have large flowers and begin blooming in late February. Colors range from white, lavender, purple and yellow to striped white and lavender. They grow to only 4”-6” tall and are effective in borders, and groupings and they come back year after year.

The bright yellows, whites, and pinks of Daffodils are outstanding in the garden or on the hillside. When used among evergreens, in naturalized plantings or in combinations with crocus, they are truly outstanding. They are extremely easy to grow, requiring very little care after planting, and they multiply and bloom again each spring. As a bonus, deer and rodents don’t eat daffodil bulbs.

Fragrant Paperwhite Narcissus can be grown indoors or out in the garden. They come up very early and can be forced to bloom by Christmas. The large clusters of pure white flowers will scent the whole room.

Hyacinths add beauty and fragrance to the garden. Their use is more limited than the other bulbs mentioned because they are stiff and formal and do not naturalize as well. When used in containers, in formal plantings or for borders, they are very effective. This is an excellent bulb to use near the entry area, in the home or wherever foot traffic is heavy because of the intense fragrance they give off.

Tulips are among the most popular spring flowers of all time. They they come in an incredible variety of colors, heights, and flower shapes. Plant them in borders, in rock gardens, or in containers. Most tulips bloom well for only one or two years. So you will probably want to dig up the bulbs and put in new ones after two years. However, Darwin Hybrids and Emperor Tulips will come back looking great year after year. There is a variety to match every color in the spectrum.

There are a number of low growing early spring bulbs make great companions in the flower bed or under spring-flowering shrubs. The little blue flowers of Chionodoxa, or “Glory of the Snow”, and Muscari, or “Grape Hyacinths”, make a carpet of blues as they naturalize and spread. Iris reticulata has large, fragrant flowers on dwarf plants and Puschkinia has little tiny star-shaped flowers in palest blue clumped on one stem. Anemones and ranunculus can also be planted now for spring flowers.

Look forward to the beauty of spring and new beginnings with beautiful flowering bulbs.