Archive | November 2015

Storing Your Tools and Supplies for Winter

clean_toolMake sure to properly care for your tools for winter so that they’ll be in good shape in the spring. Clean hand tools, shovels, rakes, and hoes before putting them in storage; it’s easier to do the job now than wait until spring when the rust and hardened soil are harder to remove.

  1. Wash or wipe off excess soil; use a narrow putty knife to remove hardened soil. Or soak soil-encrusted tools in water and scrub with a wire brush.
  2. Remove rust with a coarse grade of steel wool or medium-grit sand paper. Add a few drops of oil to each side of the tool surface, and use a small cloth to spread it over the metal. This will help protect the surface against rust.
  3. 2003536302Sharpen the soil-cutting edges of shovels, hoes, and trowels to make digging easier.
  4. Check the handles for splinters and rough spots. Use sandpaper on rough, wooden-handled tools; coat with linseed oil.
  5. Make sure the handles are tightly fastened to the shovel, hoe, or rake. You may need to replace or reinstall missing pins, screws, and nails.

PesticideStorageAs you’re working to properly store your tools for winter, take a moment to locate, organize, and safely store fertilizers and pesticides.

  1. Always leave pesticides in their original containers. It is illegal — and unwise — to transfer them to a different container.
  2. Pesticides should be stored in a locked area, away from pets and children.
  3. Store granular formulations in cool, dry locations.
  4. Liquids should be kept out of direct sunlight and freezing temperatures. Freezing and UV can diminish the effectiveness of some products.

Finally, you should store your lawn mower properly so it, too, will be ready to go in the spring.

  1. Empty the gas tank, or fill it with a gas preservative. The gas can be emptied by running the motor until it eventually runs out of gas. If you’re adding a gas preservative, run the motor for a few minutes to mix the preservative and gas together.
  2. Disengage the spark plug wire for safety.
  3. Drain and replace the oil. This should be done at least once a year; check your owner’s manual for specific instructions.
  4. Clean off any dirt and matted grass.
  5. Sharpen the blades or make a note to do so first thing in the spring before mowing season begins.
  6. Buy replacement belts, spark plugs, and air filter as needed and store them until spring.

By caring for your tools and supplies properly each year, you’ll save a lot of money and will be ready to “hit the ground running” each spring.

Written by Vicki

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So, why don’t they die?

After posting the article about how to protect your conifers this winter, I started thinking: with the really cold weather that we get, why don’t more things just die in the winter? Had to do some research on this one:

WinterSnowTrees“Sometimes they do die, but that mostly happens when people push their luck and try to grow something that isn’t hardy in their area, or when winter becomes extraordinarily cold for an extended period or shows up too early. But under normal circumstances, plants don’t just sit there wishing they could go inside — they acclimate in stages.

As summer days grow shorter, plants begin “freezing acclimation” by producing hormones that slow growth and induce dormancy. By the first hard frost, they are ready for freezing temperatures, and for beginning the second stage of their preparation.

The year’s first below-freezing temperatures freeze the water found between plant cells. Since there is now more liquid water inside the cell than outside, osmotic pressure draws some of the water out of the cell, where falling temperatures cause it to freeze as well. Inside the cells, the concentration of cell parts increases as more water is drawn out. The more concentrated the cell parts, the lower their freezing point. So down to a particular temperature, different for each species, the cells themselves won’t freeze, and the plant will survive. Below that temperature, the plant will suffer dieback, starting in its branch tips because they are thinner and more exposed to the cold. But branches are expendable. The soil and any snow cover insulate the roots somewhat; if the roots survive so will the plant.” In other words, as the water is removed from the plant cells, their very concentration makes freezing much more difficult.

Thank you to the NY Times column “Garden Q&A” for the assistance with this question.

Written by Vicki

Protect Your Conifers this Winter

Winter burn of conifers occurs when the plants do not have enough water over the winter.Oftentimes in the late winter, or even into the spring, conifers begin to turn brown. This browning is a disorder called winter burn. Winter burn results when conifers (especially yews) do not have enough internally stored water for their needs over the winter. As daytime temperatures become warmer in the late winter and early spring, conifer needles begin to naturally lose water (a process called transpiration) as they attempt to grow. During the summer, this lost water would be replaced by water taken up by the plant’s root system. However, in the winter and early spring, soil temperatures are cold enough that the plant’s root system is not functioning efficiently. Thus the amount of water lost by needles is not replenished by the water taken up by the roots. As a consequence, the needles dehydrate and die.
Water conifers well in fall to help prevent winter burn.The easiest way to prevent winter burn of conifers is to make sure evergreens are well watered into the fall. Established trees and shrubs need about one inch of water per week. If Mother Nature does not cooperate, then you should apply water at the drip line (i.e., the edge of where the branches extend) of any conifers (or more extensively if possible) using a soaker or drip hose. Conifers can be watered up until the time when the ground freezes or there is a significant snowfall.
With just a little effort in the late fall and winter, you can have a big impact on the health of landscape ornamentals next spring and summer. So get back into the gardening mode, and use the remaining snow-free days of this year to prepare your garden for a beautiful and healthy coming year.
– Brian Hudelson, Director, Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic, University of Wisconsin – Madison/Extension
Posted by Vicki