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Posts Tagged ‘Winter Garden’

Fall is here, there’s no denying it, and to tell the truth we are loving it. There’s a certain sense of relief and a feeling that we can FINALLY catch up on all the things that were running just ahead of us in the garden all summer.

It’s time to catch up and clean up (click here for our fall cleanup tips). It’s also time to make adjustments to your watering schedules.

Durango Area

Those of you who garden in this region know that fall and winter watering can be very tricky. It all depends on how dry it is. When there is less atmospheric moisture you’ll need to water enough replace what the plants transpire. Unlike SoCal where the local water utility provides good guidelines for seasonal watering, Durango seems to either not have the information available or to have it buried so deeply in their website that it is not findable.

So we went to the Colorado State University Extension site for info. Here’s a link to Watering Basics  that you may already know — water early in the day, don’t over water, etc., but watering in fall and winter in this semi-arid climate can be a challenge so here are some quick facts to help your plants make it through the next few months:

  • Water trees, shrubs, lawns, and perennials during prolonged dry fall and winter periods to prevent root damage.
  • Water only when the air and soil temperature are above 40 degrees F with no snow cover.
  • Established large trees have a root spread equal to or greater than the height of the tree. Apply water to the most critical part of the root zone within the dripline.
  • Newly planted trees and shrubs will required more water than established ones. Water deeply and slowly.
There’s a lot more great information so click here to read the very thorough Fall and Winter Watering Basics from the Extension.

Coastal Southern California

At this point in the season plants are transpiring less water and so their needs are not as great as they were a few weeks ago. This is true even if it’s hot in the daytime because the days are shorter, nighttime temps are a lot cooler, and many plants are entering a dormant phase. Plant water needs drop by almost 30% in September so cut back your watering accordingly.

The one exception to this rule is when the Santa Ana winds are blowing. When that happens the air is extremely dry and you should give your plants supplemental water. This is especially true for container plants that may need to be watered twice a day when the hot winds are blowing. (Hint: misting them mid-afternoon will cool them down and help them make it through the most brutal Santa Ana conditions.)

The Irvine Ranch Water District does a really nice job of helping home gardeners figure out how to adjust their irrigation schedule and cycles. Click here for handy chart with suggested weekly watering schedules. You may have to make adjustments for your landscape, but this is a very good starting point.

And while we’re at it here are some good general tips for conserving water in either region and for preventing runoff — which in SoCal ends up in our ocean carrying all manner of nasty pollutants with it.

  • Water only when necessary – saves 1,100 gallons per irrigation cycle.
  • Water in the early morning, before 8 a.m., to reduce evaporation and interference from the wind – saves 25 gallons per day.
  • Check sprinkler system for leaks, overspray and broken sprinkler heads – saves 500 gallons per month.
  • Turn off hoses run when not in use and use a water-saving hose nozzle instead – saves up to 7,500 gallons per year.
  • Use a broom instead of a hose to clean driveways and sidewalks – saves 150 gallons each time.
  • Install a “smart” sprinkler controller - saves 40 gallons per irrigation cycle.
  • Place organic mulch throughout garden to reduce evaporation, even soil temperatures and inhibit weed growth – save hundreds of gallons per year.
  • Replace thirsty plants with California Friendly drought-resistant varieties – saves hundreds of gallons each year per plant.
BTW: Local university extensions are always great resources for any kind of gardening and farming questions you might have. And don’t be shy, if you can’t find it on the website, call them. They are happy to help.

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The contrast between my garden in Southern California and Mary Beth’s garden just outside of Durango couldn’t be more different than it is right now. In Southern California we’ve had a week of warm weather and my garden thinks it’s spring. The daffodils are pushing up, there’s new growth on the roses, and I have small splashes of color from camellias, pansies, and  a lovely pair of hardenbergia vines that frame the fountain in my atrium.

Mary Beth on the other hand is desperate for color. Some days it seems that the only color is in that blue, blue sky. Her garden is covered in snow with a few brown stems and seed heads braving the frigid air. But she’s not letting a little thing like freezing temperatures get in her way. She’s got an old trick up her sleeve — forcing tree and shrub blooms — a great way to start spring indoors.

Ornamental Plum

There are a number of spring-flowering trees and shrubs that will bloom indoors including: apple tree, azalea, cherry tree, flowering quince, forsythia, pear and plum trees, pussy willow, rhododendron, serviceberry, and witch hazel. Forsythia and pussy willows are the first to try in mid-January. Others such as beautybush, crabapple, magnolia, redbud and spirea can’t be forced until late February to mid-March.

  1. Try to go out on a day where the temperature is above freezing. Look for branches that have many prominent flower buds (bigger and rounder than leaf buds) and cut as you would for pruning — at an angle near the base of the stem. Make the branches at least 12″ long.
  2. If the outside temp is above freezing you can bring the branches directly indoors. If it’s colder, you’ll need to transition them by putting them in an unheated garage, cool basement, or enclosed porch for a day or two before bringing them inside.
  3. Remove any buds or twigs that would be under water in your vase. Cut a little off the branch again, then split or smash the bottom 1″ of the stem and put it in cool water. You can add some floral preservative if you have any.
  4. Place in bright, indirect light and mist every so often. Change the water when it becomes cloudy.

You should have blossoms within 2 to 6 weeks. They’ll last for quite a while and make you feel like spring is just around the corner.

Peach Tree Branches

 

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Durango, Colorado

Irvine, California


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Durango, Colorado

Irvine, California



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Durango, Colorado


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Durango, Colorado

Irvine, California


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Mary Beth: I have been avoiding the gardens for the last few months and with good reason; they are a mess! I didn’t do any fall clean-up this year — makes me squirm just admitting it.

There are piles of leaves and debris everywhere that never quite got to the compost. Worse still is I almost talked myself out of digging up the beautiful dahlia tubers I’ve grown for the last 5 years. Luckily, I was so overwhelmed with guilt that I ran out and pried them out of the ground just before the freeze. As I packed them up, I grumbled “Why bother, I won’t be here.” (Regular readers will remember that my husband and I are moving back to Colorado, though we’ve postponed our move from December to April.)

I’ve been staying out of the garden since the last rose bloomed; trying to detach myself I guess. But now the whispering and the nudging starts, and I think about the witch hazel we planted in the far end of the garden in memory of my father. It’s just around this time of year that the witch hazel starts to slowly unfurl its lemon zest petals. So I pushed through the garden gate, ignoring the cold as I stepped over the discarded vegetable plants that I’d carelessly tossed in the paths last fall. I’ve only come here to see the witch hazel, to see if it’s in full bloom yet.

But something has been happening during these visits. With each new bright, crinkly lemon-colored bloom my cold indifference seems to be melting away. Slowly I gaze around thinking about what the new season will bring and about the work I know I’ll do before I leave — even if I won’t get to see the garden come back to life this year. I check my back pocket wondering, “Where are my Felcos?” My hand flexes. Spring is going to be here soon. Time to get ready.

What About Witch Hazel?

Barbara: Witch hazel, also known as winterbloom or snapping hazel, is a fascinating plant that is indigenous to the Northeast and Central United States. Its name comes from the Middle English wiche which means “bendable” or “pliable” and refers to the early settlers’ use of forked twigs from this plant as divining rods to locate water, precious metals, and lost objects underground.

Its horticultural name, Hamamelis, means ‘together with fruit’ because this plant’s fruits, flowers and next year’s leaf buds are all on the branch simultaneously. Its other names refer to its early bloom time and its habit of snapping, or spitting, its seeds far from the mother plant, a strategy that ensures a less-crowded environment for the offspring.

Witch hazel extract from the bark and leaves of Hamamelis viginiana has a long history of use as a natural remedy. Native Americans boiled the stems to create a distillate and used it for insect bites, skin rashes, poison ivy, poison oak, sore muscles, bruises and hemorrhoids. The first settlers learned about witch hazel’s healing properties from the Native Americans and in the 1870′s it began to be produced commercially by Thomas Newton Dickinson. Amazingly that brand still exists. The next time you’re in a drug store look for Dickinson’s Original Witch Hazel.

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