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Repotting Hibiscus

Raise your hands: who put their hibiscus plant outdoors for the summer and now it’s looking pretty sick with dropping leaves all over your floor?

Leaves of hibiscus plant turning yellow

It is probably a case of too little water, but increasing your watering schedule is not going to help. A hibiscus grows quickly during the summer, and the increased root mass displaces the soil in the container. The water — as well as the fertilizer you probably applied religiously every two weeks — is traveling straight through rather than soaking in. You pour water in, see it come out through the drain holes, and naturally assume that the hibiscus has been watered and fed. Unfortunately, the soil around the roots remains dry, and the plant remains thirsty.

Knock the hibiscus out of its pot and take a look. Overcrowded roots signal that moving to a larger container is necessary. When repotting, score the root ball with a knife or pull through the roots with a hand cultivator and tease some away so that they will grow into the fresh medium. If you don’t, the roots will remain would tightly, occupying the center of the container, and you’ll have the same starved, thirsty plant — just in a larger pot.

Of course, no matter what you do, a hibiscus will probably sulk in the winter. It is a full-sun tropical plant, and the low light, short days, and low humidity that come with spending a Northern winter indoors are even more depressing for it than for us.

One further note that may fall under the horticultural truth-in-packaging principle: small potted hibiscus, frequently sold in the spring, appear to be dwarf plants covered with large flowers. Most, however, are treated with a growth retardant to keep them small. When the retardant wears off after a month or two, the 2-foot plant is on its way to becoming a 6-footer. This can be disconcerting to anyone who has not seen the same phenomenon occur in a teenage boy.

Winter Care

by Diana Alfuth, horticulture educator for Pierce and St. Croix counties UW-Extension

Each winter brings challenges for our outdoor landscapes, and when spring comes, we find winter injury on lawns and other plants. Some of these problems can be avoided with proper winter maintenance.

Be careful when shoveling, plowing, or blowing snow so it doesn’t land on tree or shrub branches and crack them. Frozen branches can be easily damaged, and that damage can ruin the plant’s structure forever.

Also, don’t remove snow from the lawn grass. Snow helps insulate the soil so it doesn’t freeze as hard. It also protects the crowns of the grass plants from the drying winter weather. The snow keeps them dormant until the time is right to start growing.

If possible, avoid mountains of shoveled snow, because deep piles that melt into chunks of solid ice can smother the grass, resulting in dead spots.

Salt is very harmful not only to lawns, but to trees, shrubs, and perennials when it gets in the soil. If you use products to melt ice on walkways and drives, look for one that does not contain sodium chloride and is environmentally friendly and safe for plants. When you shovel treated areas, try not to pile salt-laden snow all in one place, or near plants that may be damaged.

Once snow starts melting or if we get a winter thaw and lawns and gardens are exposed, don’t walk on them. That can damage the grass and compact the soil.

Visit our previous blog post on alternatives to salt here.

Voles

by Vijai Pandian, UW-Extension

The meadow vole can nest in a variety of habitats.

vole JCFreezing nights and shortening daylight in the fall tranquilizes the landscape — not counting the insatiable meadow vole that remains active throughout the year. The vole, also called a meadow mouse, is a ground dwelling rodent with a chunky grayish brown appearance, tiny ears and short tail.

Commencing in late fall and continuing through winter into early spring, voles cause a variety of damage to landscapes. Runways and seemingly endless tunnels in lawns, shaved tree bark and roots, and the mysterious disappearance of flowering bulbs and tubers in spring are classic blueprints of vole damage. Under snow cover, voles can venture safely to any part of the landscape, and quite often homeowners do not notice the damage until the spring melt.

Vole DamageMowing and cleaning up the yard can limit destruction and being vigilant and taking proactive steps in the fall is the key to controlling voles.

Ponds, stream banks, orchards, old fields, fence rows, pastures, hay fields, grassy weeds and ground covers are ideal habitats for voles. Backyard logs, undisturbed compost piles, tall ornamental grasses, bushy evergreen shrubs and debris in the urban landscape can also provide a nesting place for voles.

Trapping or any other control strategies when the snow is on the ground has proven ineffective. Here are a series of tips for managing this pest.

The landscape should be scouted in fall for voles. Sightings of fresh grass clippings, tunnels, droppings around large grasses, nests, and chewed fruits are telltale signs of their abundance in the landscape.

Putting Your Garden to Bed

by OCMGA Master Gardener Holly Boettcher

garden-waste-1047259_960_720After a long summer of enjoying your garden, it is time to put it to bed for the winter. This task may not be as joyous as the excitement that you experienced in the spring, but believe me, if you properly tuck them in, your springtime gardening will be a much easier transition if you follow these easy tips.

Vegetable Garden

Carrots, potatoes, & beets can be left in the ground and then harvested in early winter. You may want to mark them with a stake so you can find them. Pull all plants such as tomatoes, peas, beans, and squash, and add them to the compost bin. Do the same with weeds. Take extra steps to eliminate disease by either burning or bagging anything suspicious and disposing of properly. By lightly turning over the soil, you will help to eliminate a lot of pests that would overwinter in your soil.

A Good Time for Soil Test

Why not take a soil sample to your nearby county extension office or coop? This is a great time to learn if your soil needs to be amended. As a last step, either add compost such as leaves or well-rotted manure, or consider a cover crop of winter rye which will add nutrients to your garden.

Rosesimage_1_large

This is the time of year to discontinue fertilizing your rose bushes. They no longer need to be fed in order to encourage blooming. It is time for them to go to sleep for the winter. Do prune back any damaged or dead canes. Mulch generously just above swollen area (sometimes referred to as the onion.) Protect your rose bushes from rabbits and voles by using a type of lightweight wire fencing which you can find at a garden center.

Perennials

After the first frost, your hosta plants will shrivel and be easy to clean up. Wear some waterproof garden gloves because they will feel a bit smarmy. And the stalks of day lilies should be removed although you can keep up with this during the summer too. Once the lily plants go dormant, they can be cut back to about 4 inches.

Trees

Don’t forget to wrap the trunks of young trees to protect them from rabbits and other nibblers.

Give Them a Drink

Be sure to water generously. My gramma always said it is good for the plants to go to bed with their feet wet!

55d70e9ac4dd4d4eb3843097d66bcaa0--winter-plants-winter-gardenNot Everyone is Ready for a Winter Nap           

My preference is to leave coneflowers, aster, goldenrod, and ornamental grasses over the winter so the goldfinches and other birds can feast on the seeds.   An added bonus is by not cutting back your grasses as well as shrubs such as hydrangea, you will smile as they peak through the glistening snow adding a splash of winter interest!

Lucy’s Corner (volume 2)

by OCMGA Master Gardener Lucy Valitchka

In June 2016, we posted a blog from our veggie expert Lucy Valitchka with helpful tips for growing a successful garden. The tips were arranged by month and covered the summer period of June into early August. Now, we’re pleased to be able to present a fall edition to help you put your garden to bed.

darzoves-67558444Autumn in the garden has its own special needs and is as important a time as the busy springtime. For those who planted their garden later, like this writer, there will still be vegetables or fruits to harvest. Here are some guidelines that might be helpful to all. These ideas came from experience, garden columns, Wisconsin Garden Journal Calendar and other sources.

September

  • If not done already, be sure to remove any flowers from melons, squash, pumpkins as they will not reach maturity before frost.
  • Remove flowers from tomatoes after September 1st.
  • Week 4 of September pinch out the growing points at the top of Brussels sprouts stems so bottom sprouts will reach maturity.
  • When onion tops fall over and brown, they are ready to harvest. Dig them and let dry in the sun for a day. Then store on newspaper for a couple weeks in a dry place. After that, remove dried tops and store in mesh bags in a cool, dark, dry place. I hang our onion bags on hooks in our fruit cellar.
  • Herbs should be ready to harvest. I spray the herbs with water to remove any dust, then let dry on layers of newspaper on our basement table. I put a marker by each pile of herbs, so I know the variety. When herbs are completely dry I remove stems and place herbs in small labeled jars.
  • Gather any vegetables or fruits early or late in the day, provided plants aren’t wet.
  • Refrigerate or process as soon as possible. Quality of vegetable or fruits is highest at picking time.
  • Harvest pears when still light green. Separate fruit from branch with slight twisting motion.

October

  • Gather squash, pumpkins and gourds when ripe and before damaged by frost. Leave a 2-inch stem on vegetable for better storage.
  • Harvest late vegetables or fruits. This is a time for apple harvest for us and cider processing at a mill near Elkhart Lake.
  • Rake up apple leaves and fallen fruit to control disease and insect problems next year.
  • Remove all weeds from garden before they go to seed.
  • Grapes should be ready for jelly or maybe a delicious grape pie!
  • Late tomatoes make great salsa.
  • Frosts can come at the end of September or early October. Watch the weather and be sure to harvest all tender crops like beans, tomatoes, peppers etc. before you lose them to frost.
  • Crops such as kale, spinach and Brussels sprouts will actually taste better because of a light frost.
  • Plant garlic in rich, well-drained soil 5 inches apart and 1 to 2 inches deep. Select larger cloves for large bulbs. Break bulbs apart into individual cloves. The end of the clove that was broken from the bulb should be planted down. Cover with 4 to 6 inches of straw mulch.
  • Remove all used plants from garden.
  • Compost plants free of disease potential. Do not compost vine crops and old raspberry canes. That would allow disease and insect pest “carryover” next spring.
  • Burn or dispose of diseased plants.
  • Cut asparagus plants to ground after hard frost and dispose of plants.
  • Sanitize tomato cages. I spray them with hose and then Clorox Clean-Up.
  • We gather fall leaves on lawn with a mulcher mower and deposit on our garden after all plants are out of the garden. Then the leaves are plowed under in the fall to help improve the soil texture. Some people prefer the no till method so mulched leaves could just be left on top of the soil to decompose during the winter.
  • If you have raised beds, apply above techniques accordingly

November

  • Mulch asparagus bed with chopped leaves or straw to protect crowns from frost.
  • Mulch parsnips with a foot of straw or marsh hay for winter protection. Mark rows with stakes.
  • Make sure tools are cleaned and oiled for winter storage.
  • Protect the trunks of young fruit trees against animal damage with wire or plastic rodent guards.
  • Plastic guards may also protect young plants from sun scald.
  • Sit back and take a well deserved rest from garden chores!

 

“If it is true that one of the greatest pleasures of gardening lies in looking forward, then the planning of next year’s beds and borders must be one of the most agreeable occupations in the gardener’s calendar. This should make October and November particularly pleasant months, for then we may begin to clear our borders, to cut down those sodden and untidy stalks, to dig up and increase our plants, and to move them to other positions where they will show up to greater effect. People who are not gardeners always say that the bare beds of winter are uninteresting; gardeners know better, and take even a certain pleasure in the neatness of the newly dug, bare, brown earth.”

—Vita Sackville-West