Tag Archive | soil temperatures

Recycle Your Christmas Tree

Christmas trees are too often tossed unceremoniously onto the curb right after the holidays. But there’s no reason holiday evergreens can’t be allowed to serve long after the merry-making is over.

For a splash of instant green, cut the branches of pine, fir, spruce, or other needled evergreens and add them to barren window boxes or containers.

You can also use branches to protect dormant plants. A think cover of evergreen limbs helps keep the surface layer of soil moist, and also helps to stabilize soil temperature, reducing the rapid cycles of frost and thaw that can heave perennials and shrubs from the ground and rip their roots.

Christmas greenery also can be used as tracery on trellises and arbors. Held in place with plastic ties or string, cut boughs give plants like climbing roses, and vines like grapes or clematis, a good-looking shield from drying winter winds and sun.

In addition, leftover evergreens are useful for augmenting the natural foliage around a bird feeder or bath. Wild birds like protection and aren’t choosy whether their evergreen screen is living or dead.

There is an art to denuding a Christmas tree, though, and pruning shears or loppers are a must. Heavy gloves make it easier to handle the rough bark and the needles. If you must cut up the tree inside, cover the floor with a plastic sheet to prevent a mess of needles and sap.

Remove the evergreen boughs from gardens and planters when the tips of early spring bloomers, like crocus or snowdrops, have pushed about an inch out of the ground. Where no bulbs are planted, leave the branches until mid-April or whenever spring seems securely in place.

Welcome Spring!

by Master Gardener Rich Fischer

We have had a cold and wet Spring, but finally the signs of Spring are upon us.  I say this because our magnolia tree is finally blooming, and quite nicely too.  The other little signs, beside the robins and redwing blackbirds and killdeer are the hyacinth and daffodils.   Just thought I’d share these Springtime blooming photos with my fellow GardenSnip bloggers.  The power of our collective Springtime thoughts might warm up our weather a little bit!

Why do my mums die?

fall-mumsEveryone has pots of mums in Fall as part of the decorating landscape. However, when you plant them and expect those beautiful plants to pop up in your garden the next year, you’re oft times disappointed. Why? What went wrong?

Most botanical gardens and professionals treat garden mums as annuals. Here are some suggestions for overwintering:

  • Improve hardiness by planting garden mums in spring. Many garden centers now sell mums for spring planting, thereby giving the plant time to get established before harsh weather.
  • Those that are growing in your garden should be left standing for winter. The dried stems help catch snow and hold winter mulch in place. Cover plants with evergreen branches after the soil freezes.
  • Increase winter protection by mounding 6 to 8 inches of soil over the dormant plants. Remove in spring as the temperatures hover near freezing.
  • For best results, try planting hardy varieties like ‘Maxi Mum’ bred by the University of Minnesota and hardy to zone 3, or its hardy relative Chrysanthemum x rebellum. ‘Clara Curtis’, ‘Duchess of Edinburgh’, and ‘Mary Stoker’ are popular cultivars for cold weather areas.

Remember to thoroughly water your mums, and all perennials, just before the ground freezes.

Written by Vicki

Cut down on that raking!

Such a beautiful time of year with the colorful leaves huddled together in the trees. Unfortunately, they don’t stay on the trees, leaving us with the chore of how to dispose of the leaves. Some people choose to leave them on the ground until spring, which is a wonderful idea for your gardens but can kill the grass on your lawn. Here are some ideas for using the leaves:

  1. When they’re completely dry, rake them into a big pile and have your kids or grandkids P1050466-500x375run and jump into the pile. Remember how much you enjoyed that when you were a kid?! I grew up in the country and we could also burn leaves; I still miss that smell of burning leaves and branches.
  2. Using your lawn mower, mulch the leaves onto your lawn thereby providing a wonderful source of nutrients as the leaves decompose over the winter and spring. Better than buying expensive fertilizer each year!
  3. Gather and mulch the leaves to use in your compost bin or compost pile. You can use whole leaves, but shredded leaves will break down more quickly to provide that ‘black gold’ compost to use in the spring. Note: continue to add your vegetable scraps and egg shells to your compost heap through the winter. You may not be able to turn the pile as often in the winter, but the nutrients will be there as the snow melts into the pile. Never add meat by-products, fats, animal waste, or leaves or stalks from diseased plants.
  4. Remove the leaves from the lawn and put them around your shrubs and perennials in the garden. They’ll help conserve moisture around the plants, and also stabilize the soil temperature to reduce the fluctuations of freeze and thaw that tear plant roots and heave them from the ground. A 2- or 3-inch mulch of autumn leaves will at least partially decay over the winter, releasing vital nutrients and improving soil structure, but be sure to rake away any leftovers in the very early spring before the perennials and bulbs start peeking up. Large piles of whole leaves will provide great insulation, but they can also turn into soggy mats that smother emerging plants.
  5. Finally, if you must, rake the leaves into the street for the municipal removal teams. Note: the city knows what to do with all of that garden and lawn waste they pick up around the city:  they turn it into compost and mulch!


Written and posted by Vicki

How much longer must we wait to start planting outside?

While northern Outagamie County is in zone 4b of the USDA Hardiness Zone map, the southern region of the County has been designated zone 5a. The last spring killing frost in southern Outagamie County typically occurs from May 3-9, while those in the northern region of the county typically see the last frost from May 10-16. With a growing season of barely 5 months, there isn’t much time to waste. The first fall frost in northern Outagamie County typically occurs from September 27-October 3, while the southern region of the county will typically not see its first frost until October 4-10. Many (those of us who neglected to get our own seeds started) will be looking for seedlings to get a head start, rather than planting seeds. We’d recommend planning to visit the annual Outagamie County Master Gardeners plant sale early on Saturday, May 16th.


posted by Sue

Soil Temperature Experiment

The Learning Garden Soil Temperature Experiment

On March 21st  a number of Outagamie County Master Gardeners installed a hoop house on one of the raised beds in a space we call The Learning Garden. Hoop houses and cold frames are intended to create a warmer micro environment. To track the benefit there is a thermometer inside the hoop house that records the high and low temperatures over a 24 hour period. The 3 days following the installation the air temperature ranged from 23 to 77 degrees. Soil temperature had increased from 37 to 57 degrees. The soil in the other raised bed, which is not covered, increased from 36 to 41 degrees. These sunny days were followed by a cold cloud weather pattern. Soil temperature in the uncovered bed dropped to 30 degrees while inside the hoop house the temperature had dropped to 39 degrees. Air temperatures were 34 and 46 degrees. After one week, it does look like the hoop house is increasing soil temperature faster than without. Not surprisingly, sunny days show the biggest benefit.

On the 24th and second experiment was started on the large bed. 4’ X 4’ sheets of black and clear plastic were laid directly on the soil. Soil temperature under each of these sheets is being measured and compared to an uncovered section. The weather on the days after the sheets were laid down was cold and cloudy. The soil temperature actually dropped to the low 30’s. A couple days of sun increased the soil under the clear plastic to increase to 54 degrees while the uncovered and black sections remained a 32 degrees. Black plastic does not allow light to penetrate. The plastic is warmed, but that heat is not being transferred to the soil. Clear plastic allows the light to penetrate and warm the soil. The plastic then traps the heat. We will be continuing this experiment trough the growing season. For more information see this very good article from Penn State. There are related articles in the bibliography, including one on tomatoes and red mulch, that are interesting. http://extension.psu.edu/plants/plasticulture/technologies/plastic-mulches

Written by Tom W. Posted by Rachel

Soil Temperature Experiment in the Learning Garden

Soil Temperature Experiment in the Learning Garden