by Michaela

Winter is cold, with gusts of tumbling snow
When rain falls down and nothing ever grows
For children it’s the snow that they desire
And cups of cocoa in front of the fire

When winter’s gone, the grass grows green again
Roses and tulips sprout with bright green stems
The bees are buzzing, the birds are singing
Sheep are grazing and cow bells are ringing

And then the sun starts to shine too brightly
It’s so hot that fans are put on nightly
And so then it’s off to the beach or pools
Where people swim about just to keep cool

All the leaves on the trees turn golden-brown
And when on the ground make a crackly sound
In autumn a lot of money you make
For clearing backyards of leaves with a rake

Each season has its own good and its bad
But since they are all different I am glad.

Garlic Soaking

Soaking your garlic cloves in a solution of water, organic fish fertilizer, and baking soda is like giving your seed a vaccination of sorts- against the various fungal diseases that can affect garlic. Additionally, it gives them a nice boost of energy to jump start the growing process. This soak is followed up by a bath of rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, which will sterilize the cloves and kill any mites that may be hiding- dirty little creatures that can lay their eggs, survive the winter, and wreak havoc on your precious plants next spring. Introducing any such detriments to your soil could affect that soil for years- even decades- to come.

It’s pretty simple. Separate the cloves of your garlic, but don’t peel them. In a large stock pot or bucket, combine:

  • 1 gallon of lukewarm water
  • 1 Tablespoon of organic fish fertilizer
  • 1 Tablespoon of baking soda.

Add your garlic cloves and soak for at least 15 minutes, up to several hours- but no more than 16 hours. Drain.

Then place your garlic into a container and cover with either Isopropyl Alcohol 70%, Hydrogen Peroxide, or even Vodka. Soak for 20 minutes and drain. Plant within 1 hour of the second soak.

When planting prepare beds with plenty of manure and compost, which I mix in with the soil by hand, loosening it down to about 6 inches. I then take a metal rake and drag it along the length of my bed to create a row that’s a few inches deep. Plant the cloves with the pointed side up, 6″ apart, and cover with a couple inches of soil. Then cover with a thick layer of mulch such as straw, hay, or leaves- to about 4″ in depth.


White Poppy

The White Poppy was first introduced by the Women’s Co-operative Guild in 1933 and was intended as a lasting symbol for peace and an end to all wars. Worn on Armistice Day, now Remembrance Sunday, the White Poppy was produced by the Co-operative Wholesale Society because the Royal British Legion had refused to be associated with its manufacture.

While the White Poppy was never intended to offend the memory of those who died in the Great War, many veterans felt that its significance undermined their contribution and the lasting meaning of the red poppy. Such was the seriousness of this issue that some women lost their jobs in the 1930’s for wearing white poppies. The White Poppy Appeal is now run by the Peace Pledge Union.

2 Late 2 Plant Maybe

Fall season planting (mid-August through mid-October) offers many advantages that may outweigh spring planting. Transpiration is low and root generation potential is high. The temperatures are typically moderate to cool, and are easier on the plants so there is less chance for the trees to be stressed by extreme heat. The fall moisture (rains) helps the trees and shrubs establish their root systems. When the air temperatures are cooler than the soil, new root growth is encouraged without new top growth. The result is a stronger, better developed root system for the next spring when the plant begins to grow. Mulching with wood chips helps retain the soil’s required moisture.

If you wait into the fall season (November – December) to plant, you run the risk of poor root growth and increased failure rate. Conifers, in fact, need a slightly earlier start than hardwoods, preferring the warmer soil temperatures of the summer to early fall.

Some slow to establish species are best planted in spring. These include bald cypress, American hornbeam, ginkgo, larch, magnolia, hemlock, sweetgum, tuliptree, and willow. Also broadleaved evergreens such as rhododendrons and narrow-leafed evergreens such as yews prefer spring planting. In general, plants with shallow, fibrous root systems can be planted easier in the fall than those with fewer, larger roots.

Trees that can be successfully planted in the fall include alder, ash, buckeye, catalpa, crabapple, hackberry, hawthorn, honey locust, elm, Kentucky coffee tree, linden, maple, sycamore, pines, and spruces. Most deciduous shrubs can easily be planted in fall.

Pine Straw Perks

  1. Needles are lightweight. Not only are they easy on gardeners’ backs, they don’t compact soils.
  2. Pine needles rarely bring weed seed with them. Also, they block sunlight from reaching the seeds that are already in the soil, preventing them from germinating.
  3. Pine needles decompose very slowly, so that they don’t need replacing as often as other mulches. However, eventually needles will breakdown and enrich garden soil.
  4. They moderate soil temperature in summer and prevent winter soils from freezing and heaving roots from the ground.
  5. Once pine needles settle, very few float away in heavy rain. They form a loose mat and stay put.
  6. Pine straw is often recommended for slopes and hillsides. They allow irrigation and light rains to get through to the soil, rather than washing to the bottom of the slope and carrying away precious topsoil.
  7. Pine needles are a renewable resource. No trees are felled to collect needles; pine straw just happens.

Winter Protection 4 Your Roses

In order to understand what winter protection techniques are likely to be successful you need to first understand the mechanism of winter damage. During the growing season the plant cells of a rose contain water. If a sudden drop in temperature occurs, this water can freeze. The subsequent expansion ruptures the cells, damaging or even killing them.  On the other hand, if the rose is allowed to go slowly into dormancy, the cell walls thicken and the water is converted to a form that resists freezing. The degree to which the rose can make this conversion defines its cold-hardiness.

After the rose is dormant it can withstand very low temperatures without harm, so the trick to successful plant protection is to keep the plant dormant. If you apply winter protection too early (before the ground is frozen) you will delay dormancy by keeping the soil warm. Steps to take in preparing roses for winter include:

  • Don’t fertilize after the end of August. Fertilizing encourages the growth of new shoots. If you have new shoots starting to grow from the base of the plant in September, remove them to prevent early-freeze injury to the bush.
  • Gradually reduce watering, starting around the beginning of September. This will allow the plants to begin their hardening-off process in preparation for dormancy.
  • Clean up dead leaves and debris from around the base of the roses. This will eliminate a hospitable environment for over-wintering insects or diseases.
  • Apply a dormant oil spray to the canes and the soil surface if your roses had serious insect problems during the summer. You must be sure the roses are dormant before taking this step.
  • Avoid dehydration. In Denver, another cause of winter damage is the low humidity, combined with intense winter sunshine and wind. One way to combat this dehydration, is to spray the plant with an antidessicant such as Wilt-Pruf as soon as it is dormant. Roses should also be watered every three weeks or so if the winter is dry.
  • Don’t do any serious pruning in the fall. You may want to shorten any extra-long canes that could break from high winds or heavy snow, but otherwise prune your roses no earlier than the end of April.

Niger Seed

Niger is an agricultural crop imported primarily from India, Ethiopia, Nepal and Burma (Myanmar). In these countries, it is processed into both cooking and lighting oil. You may also see it called nyjer or Nyger®.

Niger is an oily seed which makes it an excellent energy source for the birds that eat it. But its oily nature also causes it to dry out and lose its attractiveness to birds. Avoid waste by only purchasing seed in a quantity you’ll use in a month or two.

Niger seed used to be called thistle, but it is not the noxious thistle weed we see growing on roadsides. It typically will not germinate under your feeders since the USDA requires that all niger seed imported to this country be heat-treated to sterilize the seed. Seed processors may add a small amount of vegetable oil to the seed before bagging to keep the dust down.

As small as it is, a niger seed does have a shell. If you think birds aren’t eating the seed because you see some on the ground, examine it more closely: you may be seeing mostly the thin niger hulls.

Niger seed is vulnerable to spoilage while in the feeder. Replace seed every 3-4 weeks if it is not being actively eaten. Shake the feeder daily to help prevent clumping and mold. Make sure the seed stays dry; a weather guard can help in this regard. If bird activity slows, only fill the feeder halfway.

If the seed gets moldy, it should be discarded and a 10% bleach/water solution should be used to clean the feeder.