Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cut out the Cutting!

Do you have something that looks like this in your yard?

You are going to be accused of committing Crape-acide!
Lagerstroemia indica or Crape Myrtle is so named because of its flower petals that resemble crepe paper. This large shrub or small tree was introduced to Europe from China and India in 1759 and made its way to the America’s in the late 18th century. While it is commonly called a Myrtle, it is not a true member of the Myrtle family. Cultivars now range in size from dwarfs (about 10 feet) that can be grown in containers, to the full size ones that can grow to heights of 25 to 30 feet with a spread of 15 to 25 feet. Usually it is sold as a multi-stemmed trunk, but it can be trained as a single stem.
I mentioned the flowers resembling Crape (or Crepe) paper.

The flower colors differ greatly depending on variety, but the common colors are lavender, pink, purple, red, and white. They are also very long lasting, often called the "plant of the 100 day bloom". Many people also enjoy they exfoliating bark.
Crape Myrtles are low-maintenance and easy to grow if provided with sunny locations and soil with moderate moisture and fertility. They are very drought tolerant however, once they are established. This is one reason why they have gotten such a toe hold on the landscape of the South.
Choosing the right Crape Myrtle for your landscape requires evaluating where it will be planted, not just what color its flowers are. The smaller the space available, the smaller the Crape Myrtle (at maturity) should be, so be sure to choose a cultivar that will not require pruning to make it "fit" into the landscape.
Which brings me to the main topic of today's blog, pruning. Do you or someone you know do this to a Crape Myrtle?:
The practice of chopping off the tops of Crape Myrtle has become very commonplace. Many people believe that it is required to promote flowering; others prune because the plant is too large for the space provided.
One of the reasons that they are pruned in Winter is to get more flowers in Summer. Crape Myrtles produce flowers on new wood, so the idea is that the more you cut, the more new growth and flowers you'll get. This is actually semi wrong. The first thing it will do is actually reduce the amount of the blooms that will appear. Secondly, if the branches are cut back too far, it will cause the new branches to grow much too long and they will not be able to support the weight of the heavy blooms, especially during any kind of strong winds or after a nice heavy Spring rain. It will cause the branches to sag and many times they will break or snap. If this is not bad enough, research has shown that stem decay significantly increases when topping cuts are made, and that more dead branches also occur within the canopy. Just one more thing to think about, plants stressed by severe pruning are more prone to pests and diseases.
Why does this happen then? Many people see their neighbors doing it and feel the need to follow suit. If Joe down the street is doing it, then it must be the thing to do. I guess I should do it too. Another reason is topping these trees way back is easier and quicker than pruning them carefully. This is lazy and old school way of thinking.
How and why WOULD you need to prune a Crape Myrtle? The best time to prune the Crape Myrtle is actually in late Winter around February or even in early Spring, just before the Crape Myrtle goes on a growing spree. Cut branches selectively to encourage nice branching when the tree is young. If you remove a branch, make sure there is a reason. Almost all Arborists recommend removing crossing branches and branches growing toward the center of the tree. Side branches can be removed gradually up to a height of 4 or 5 feet to expose more of the trunk and give it more of a tree form. Small twigs or branches in the center can be trimmed out to create more open space for sun and air movement while the plant is dormant. You should also take out water sprouts in the canopy or suckers at the base of the tree. These are the leggy little things that seem to sprout out overnight.
Or, the easiest thing to do would be to just let Mother Nature do her thing and let them grow naturally, kind of like this:
Happy Growing!
Blog writers side note: As many of you that know me, know that Crape Myrtles are NOT one of my favorite plants. I think of them as messy and just not attractive. I do, however, hate them even more when they are turned into a hat rack and think that they should just be left alone.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Wait, probably one of the words I have used the most often the past couple of weeks. One of the hardest words to udder for a gardener, let alone for a gardener to hear. As any of you that follow me here or on my Facebook page know, I have been screaming to get outside and do something. I, of course, have been sneaking out on some of the nicer days to do a few things, repot my Blueberries, plant some Lettuce and other cool season crops, planting some Onions, and started re-arranging some of the pots for the plants to soon go in them. I bring this up because I have gotten numerous phone calls and e-mails asking about a few things that people want to do in their yard.
First off, many want to start cleaning up their yards. WAIT! If your yard looks anything like the above picture, good for you. This isn't the best picture for my point, but it will do. I encourage people not to rake up their leaves in the Fall and let the dead plants stay there. This is Mother Natures blanket. It is protecting the roots from the nasty cold weather. So many people are worried that the neighbors will talk about how untidy the yard next door looks. Who Cares!?
How many neighborhoods have a "Yard of the Month" during the Winter? I would be willing to bet, none! Plus, as a bonus, that debris is feeding your plants. Think about the woods for a minute. I am not talking about the little patch of 50 trees at the end of the sub-division, I am talking the WOODS! Mountains, streams, lakes, you know....the place that so many like to go hike in? Does anybody rake up that plant litter? How well do the plants grow there? There is also nobody throwing any Miracle Gro around up there either. The food is provided by the decaying plant material.
Okay, fine, I won't rake up the leaves and clean up the yard. Can I trim the tall dead looking plants in my containers? WAIT!

These are containers of, Mexican Petunia, Bananas and Miscanthus in my yard. Basically the same principal applies here. We are coming to the end of January, still plenty more freezing temperatures coming. In 2010 we had a pretty significant snowfall in February. If I had cut this all back the snow and freezing temperatures might have done more damage than what it did do. The dead foliage is acting kind of like a mini greenhouse. It absorbs the heat during the day and keeps it bottled up through the night, thus protecting the roots. I usually wait until I either see new growth peeking out of the soil or the night time temperatures stay constantly in the 40's.
Makes sense so far?
What about going ahead and pruning some of my trees and bushes? WAIT!
This sad looking specimen is a Citrus tree. Republic of Texas Orange to be exact.  Believe it or not, it is still alive. Makes you want to take the pruners to it and cut off all that dead growth, huh?
Nope, not a good idea. First off, I am not sure of the extent of the damage. I may not cut enough off and will have to come back a second time, OR, I may cut off too much and take away some live wood.
Second, there is the chance I will initiate a premature flush of new growth which could be killed if/when we get another hard freeze. The best thing to do here is wait until the tree tells you it is time to prune. How? Again, when the temperatures are constantly staying in the 40's and there is a new flush of growth. And here again, the hanging leaves are giving it a little bit of protection from the cold and frost.
Even just leaving a layer of leaves in a container like this is beneficial:
This is a container of Salvia that comes back every year. I know it reseeds itself, but I have taken the leaves out of the pot in previous years and the plant didn't come back as well. I am convinced the leaves either fed or protected the seeds. Either way, the leaves stay until I see new growth.
Is there ANYTHING I can do in the yard right now? WAIT, I do have something.
Dormant oil.
Dormant oil kills garden pests on woody plants like trees and shrubs just when damaging insects are waking up from their Winter's nap. These are highly refined oils (Not motor oils!) which spread uniformly on the bark of trees and shrubs to which it is applied and coat non-mobile, dormant insects on the tree smothering them to death. Gardeners usually use dormant oil on trees and shrubs in the Winter because there is no growth. The use of a dormant oil mixture will not only kill, but annihilate, annual flowers such as Pansies, Bluebonnets, Snapdragons or any other annual you may have growing under or near plants to be treated. To insure their well being, completely cover such tender vegetation BEFORE spraying nearby trees and shrubs with the dormant oil. Fruit trees and shrubs especially benefit from an annual dormant oil application because of their susceptibility to pests. Here is a good candidate for a Dormant Oil treatment:
Blueberry bushes.
Just make sure you follow any and all directions on the package, not only is it the law, it could spare your plants life.
So, let's review. If your yard is a leaf litter disaster, wait, to clean it up.
If the plant is all tall and dead looking, wait, to cut it down.
The trees look like they need a haircut, wait, to prune them.
If the neighbors are complaining that your yard looks like a disaster, tell them just WAIT, until yard will look better and healthier than yours....nanny, nanny, boo,boo!
Happy Growing!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

On Gard!

No, the title is not a typo, I meant it that way. Just before going to the Green and Growin trade show this past week, one of my followers and I were discussing Gardenias.....yup professor it was you. Then at the trade show I had two more separate discussions about Gardenias and the trouble with growing them. I though this would be a good time to help some folks with this interesting, sometimes hard, fragrant plant.
Gardenia is a group of about 200 species of flowering plants that are in the Coffee family, Rubiaceae, native to the tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, southern Asia,and Oceania.
Gardenias were named by Carl Linnaeus after Dr. Alexander Garden (1730-1791), a Scottish-born American naturalist.
The common Gardenia that the majority of us know is Gardenia jasminoides also known as Cape Jasmine, Cape Jessamine and recently as Gardenia augusta. It attains a height of 2 to 6 feet and with its shiny green leaves and fragrant white Summer flowers, it is widely used in gardens in warm temperate and subtropical climates throughout the world.
The cultural requirements are acidic soil, having a PH of 5 to 6.5, ideally moist and high in organic matter, such as compost or ground bark, but make sure it is well drained. This is probably where most people go wrong, in their watering or soil media. The soil should be kept uniformly moist, but don’t overwater. High humidity is also essential to Gardenia care. Avoid misting the foliage, though, as leaf spot fungal problems will develop. I will discuss this later.
Their light requirements are going to depend on where you live and where you want to grow them. Plants prefer full sun if they are grown indoors; if grown outdoors for the Spring, Summer and early Fall, keep plants in partial shade. Partial shade being about 6 hours. They are listed for zones 8-10, if they are given a little bit of protection, I would say they could go to a 7.
When it comes to fertilizing, do it monthly between April and September with an acidic fertilizer, fish emulsion or blood meal. Do not fertilize Gardenias after September. Doing so will stimulate tender growth, which may be killed if/when the temperature drops below freezing. Gardenias are cold-sensitive and during severe Winters can be killed to the ground, often they regenerate in Spring. A very good layer of mulch can save the root zone if this should happen. Apply in Fall.
Prune shrubs after they have finished flowering to remove straggly branches and faded flowers. Pruning should be early enough to allow new growth to be at least 4 - 6 inches long by October 1. Pruning after October 1st decreases next year's blooms.
Occasionally there will be a problem with yellowing leaves. Yellowing of leaves may be due to a number of causes, such as insufficient light, over watering or poor drainage, soil temperature that is too low, nematode damage or disease. Some yellowing on older leaves is normal and may occur during the Fall and Winter months before new growth appears.
The biggest problem with Gardenias is their attractiveness to insects and other pests such as aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, thrips and scales. These can all be controlled with Horticultural Oils and Insecticidal Soaps. Please read all directions and make sure that Gardenias or the insect that you are targeting is listed on the label. The label is the law!
Diseases that affect Gardenias can also be numerous.
Sooty Mold
Is an organism that looks like a disease, often occurring on Gardenia foliage, turning it black. This black, smut-like substance does not injure foliage, but prevents sunlight from reaching the leaf, thereby reducing photosynthesis. The organism is not parasitic,meaning it does not actually live off the plant, but lives on honeydew secreted by sucking insects, such as aphids, scales, mealybugs and whiteflies that I listed above. Sooty mold can be managed best by controlling these insects.
You can learn more about Sooty Mold by reading my blog posting HERE
Other diseases that can occur are:
Rhizoctonia Leaf Spot
Leaves infected with this fungal leaf spot disease have tan to brown spots up to 1/4 inch in diameter. Spots are circular. The disease begins on the older leaves and spreads upward when the plants are watered excessively or when air circulates poorly because of overcrowding. Avoid wetting foliage when watering or misting, even if you are trying to raise the humidity level.
Powdery Mildew
This disease is characterized by white, powdery spots on leaves. Use a preventive fungicide to control.
One of the most common Gardenia diseases, canker is identifiable by a main stem swollen near or below the soil line. The bark becomes corky and contains numerous cracks in the cankered area. The stem above the canker is bright yellow in contrast to normal greenish white. If the humidity is high, a yellowish substance may be seen on the surface. Affected plants are stunted and die slowly. Destroy all diseased plants to prevent spread of this disease.
Propagation is rather easy. The most used method is by cuttings in moist soil, especially in warm Summer months.
Here in my Zone 8 Charleston, Gardenias bloom in mid-Spring to mid-Summer. The flowers are white, turning to creamy yellow as they age, and have a waxy feel.
This was from my plant this past Spring. The smell was amazing, such a shame my wife hates it!
I should mention, another one of the most irritating problems encountered with Gardenias is "Bud Drop". This is when the flower buds abort just before blooming. Common causes include low humidity, over-watering, under-watering, insufficient light, high temperatures, rapid temperature fluctuations, cold drafts or change in plant locations. So basically, Gardenias can be temperamental!
There are many cultivars available. But, lets say you are rather limited on space, one of my favorites is Gardenia jasminoides 'Radicans'.
The flower looks like this:
It is a very slow growing plant that only attains a height of 1 to 2 feet. It blooms a little later than most of the other cultivars and the flower size is smaller. The smell is still fantastic.
I hope this has given you some inspiration to go out and get yourself a Gardenia. I personally love my mine. I may be originally from the North, but along with the Magnolia, the Gardenia is a traditional symbol of the American Deep South.
Happy Growing!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Date HAS been set!

I have been bombarded with the question, "When are you having the 2011 Spring Plant Swap?" Well, I finally found a few minutes and researched when everything else is going on here in Charleston....It wasn't easy...April is a VERY busy time here in the Lowcountry. Well, The Date HAS been set! It is April 9th, here in Charleston.
Plant Swaps are really a lot of fun. They are cheap, inexpensive ways to increase your garden. With the economy the way it is, finding ways to save some money is very high on every body's list. Gardeners are no exception. There has been a lot of talk about plant swaps and seed swaps lately, I have been doing mine for 8 years now! Apparently, it's the new IN thing.
WHAT!?!? You have never been to or have heard of a plant swap? If there is not one in your area, Organizing a plant swap is actually very easy.
How do you get started?
First off, locate a good place to have one. A city park, somebody that has a really large yard or even a vacant parking lot. The key elements here are, easy parking, lots of room for plants, bathrooms, tables for food (more on that later) and if possible something for the kids to do.
Okay, you have the perfect spot, let's say a city park. Call the city and see if you need any kind of paperwork, most of the time you won't but better to check anyway. Find out if you need to have someone open the bathrooms or if they are always accessible. You might want to check on the parking situation. Somewhere in here you also need to pick a date and time. That way when you call the city you can ask if there is going to be any conflict. When considering the time, figure on set up, the actual swap and clean up. I have people start coming at 10am, (some actually start showing up earlier just to chit chat). They can bring their plants, mill around a little and look at the other plants and ask questions. The swap then starts at 11am. The way I do it, the whole swap is over in about 30 minutes (if that long). You can usually tell the city you will be long gone by 1pm.
Okay, you have the place, date and time. The next step is the big one. PUBLICITY!
I spend a total of about $2 on publicity. LOTS of time, but very little cash.
HOW you say?
First, start with websites. Gardenweb has places for swaps. and are also two very good places to post. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter any of the social networks are good. There might be others that I haven't heard about.
You can go to your local extension office. Every state has a Master Gardener program, touch base with them. Ask them to post it on their website or news bulletins. The local newspaper might have a Gardening Calendar that will post for free. Check to see if you have any small neighborhood newspapers, they might even do a story on it for you. Check with your friends and see if they belong to any Garden Clubs or Horticultural Societies, that is a great way to get the word passed around. Fliers, this is where I spend my $2. I create a flier, go to Staples and print out 25 or so. Post these at Libraries or any place that you see Yard Sale Signs. Make sure you have all the pertinent information on it, Date, Time, Place, What it is, how it works and a contact e-mail or phone number. You can also put directions on it if it is hard to find.

This is what mine looks like:

Come swap all those extra plants you have
April 9th 2011, 10am setup
Park Circle, by the Gazebo

More Information:

The Specifics
10am set-up and browse....11am swap...immediately afterwards...LUNCH!
Bring ALL your extra plants, if it grows, it will go!
Including Houseplants!
Also any garden related items, Hoses, Garden Art, Containers, Etc.
We are having it at Park Circle in North Charleston, by the Gazebo. There are picnic tables, bathrooms and LOTS of room for kids to play and even more room for plants, parking and food.
Pretty much everybody in Charleston is familiar with Park Circle....there are numerous ways to get to it, depending on which way you are coming. If you want or need directions, e-mail me, I will get it and respond ASAP.
The way we swap will be the basic Free For All. I will say go, everybody will grab ONE (1) plant and take it to their hiding area. After everybody has a plant, we repeat the process. Nice and Simple!
We will have plates and napkins and such, Please bring your own drinks and a covered dish for as many as you can. We like to do a Pot Luck style picnic and encourage everybody to stick around and participate. The socializing afterwards is as much fun as the swap itself, please try to give yourself enough time to stay and enjoy yourself!

Very straight forward. I couldn't get the clip art to show here, but, I have a picture of a woman handing over a plant.
Okay, the place, date, time and publicity is done. How exactly does the swap work?
I am sure there are numerous ways to do these things. I do mine quick and easy. The general free for all. This will sound chaotic, but I promise it works, remember I have been doing this for 8 years.
As the plants start arriving, put them all spread order, no groupings. Kind of like this:

This was just the beginning. Make sure you leave room in between plants for walking around room. Just keep spreading them around until everybody is there, right up to designated start time. Let folks wander around and look at all the goodies. Just before start time, ask if there are any questions about a specific plant. The person that brought it can probably tell you anything that is needed to know. You might be able to label some of the more exotic or lesser known plants. Having Master Gardeners around can be very useful here. I bring a magic marker and some extra labels to mark the plants that I grab so I know what to Google when I get home.
Then, if there are no more questions, have everybody step back a pace or two. Give them ready, set, GO! Have everybody take ONE plant. That is what the milling around is for, to find the first plant they want. Have them take it to a safe place, by their vehicle or just someplace away from all the action.
After everybody has grabbed a plant, and is back in position, do it again. After three or four rounds, have them grab two plants. Keep on going until all the plants are gone.
Sound like Chaos? It is to some degree, but it is also a lot of fun.

You will probably get some of the following questions:
How many plants should I bring?
A) As many as you want. I always bring lots of extras and usually take home very few. I have strange tastes and there usually isn't much that I want or need.
What should I bring?
A) If it grows it goes! You will see everything from showroom plants to stuff people just pulled out of the ditch. Houseplants, Bulbs, Perennials, Shrubs, Etc. I have seen some of the most dreadful looking plants be the first to go. It all depends on what they are, ugly rare will go before gorgeous usual.
I don't have very many plants, what else can I bring?
A) Garden Art, extra hoses, pots and containers, Garden Tools, anything Garden related. I have seen Chicken wire show up and be one of the first things snatched. They were going to make a compost bin out of it.

I also have anybody that wants to stick around afterwards and eat to bring food. Think Sunday social or picnic. Covered dishes. Tell them to bring enough food for themselves and a couple of other people. We have never run out of food. Have somebody bring plates and silverware. That's usually my mothers job. Also have them bring their own drinks, though we usually bring extra bottled water. The socializing after is as much fun as the swap itself.
Another tip is to get everybody's e-mail address.....use this for next year in the publicity department.
This what you are striving for:

I know this sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but the benefits and the appreciation from all the attendees will be worth it. Mine has been steadily growing every year, remember, word of mouth is a FANTASTIC,(free) publicity weapon. If you build it and they have fun, the word will get spread around.
What might be some of the benefits? It will be amazing what your neighbor down the street is growing that you had no idea would even grow where you live. Then there are the friendships that can develop because of a plant swap. Plus, you might just pick up that plant that you didn't even know you couldn't live without!
If you have any question, go ahead and ask....I am more than willing to help.....besides, if you are close enough to me, I might just show up to your swap!!
Happy Growing!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Show Must Go On

On January 22nd, 2011 there is going to be a show in Charleston, South Carolina that all you Camellia lovers should not miss! The Coastal Carolina Camellia Society will be having their 61st Annual Camellia Show at Citadel Mall. The times will be from noon to 8pm for the public to view the prize winning entries.
You say YOU want to enter some blooms but don't belong to the society? No Problem!
Entries will be accepted from 7:00am until 9:30am at the Food Court at Citadel Mall.
ANY interested grower may exhibit.
Judging will begin approximately at 10:00am.

The Coastal Carolina Camellia show is the premier showcase when it comes to amount of awards that can be won. There are over 50 awards available including Novice and Local Awards.
Blooms will be grouped according to variety name and will be judged against other blooms of the same variety. Where a variety that produces different formations and variegation is shown, each formation will be judged against similar formations and variegations of the variety. A white spot, however small, shall indicate a variegated flower.
If only one bloom of a variety is entered, it will be judged against the standard of perfection of that variety and it may be awarded a blue, red, or yellow award at the discretion of the judges. The judges may withold any award, if in their opinion, a flower is not of sufficient excellence to warrant an award. Scale of points of the American Camellia Society will be used in judging. The decision of the judges shall be final in every instance.
The Coastal Carolina Camellia Society will furnish containers to all exhibitors.

There is a slew of trophies to be won. They will be awarded for each of the following:
Best in Open (Not protected)
Large-Vary Large
Large-Very Large

Best Protected (Grown under cover, greenhouse, etc.)
Large-Very Large
Large-Very Large

Best Seedling

Best Hybrid -Open

Best Reticulata -Open

Best Hybrid -Protected

Best Reticulata -Protected

Miss Charleston Variety
Best Open
Best Protected

Best Novice Bloom

Best White Variety
Best Open
Best Protected

Best Open
Best Protected

Best Formal Double

Local Blooms
Best Large
Best Medium
Best Small

Best Species


If these classes don't make much sense to you, don't panic! There will be friendly folks there to help you with categories. It will be of great assistance, because there is so much going on, that you have at least an idea of what class you may be in. Already knowing the name of your bloom will also be a tremendous help. If time allows, the folks there can help you identify your bloom, but PLEASE, it is very busy and kaotic, if you can know the name before you come to the mall, things will go much smoother.

Of course, there are the obligatory rules:
I already mentioned that entries will be accepted from 7:00am until 9:30am. The Mall actually requires all blooms be placed by 9:30am.
Wiring of blooms to wood of parent plant is permissible and adviseable.
Only one bloom per stem is allowed.
Each bloom shall have one but not more than two leaves.
The Citadel Mall and the Coastal Carolina Camellia Society, its officers and members, are not under any circumstances responsible for the loss or damage to flowers or other property or for the injury to persons. Care will be exercised for the protection of all property used, but this shall not be interpreted as an assumption of liability.
Show Chairman or representative reserves the right to reject or discard flowers that are obviously inferior in quality.
All Camellias entered should be labeled with variety name.
All blooms exhibited must be from plants owned and in the possession of the exhibitor for at least 30 days.
Camellias grown under protection shall not compete with those grown in the open.
To prevent the spreading of disease, blooms become the property of the Coastal Carolina Camellia Society and will be disposed of immediately following the show.
Standard entry cards will be used.
To enter blooms in the Novice class a person must have never won a Blue Ribbon in any Camellia show.
Blooms must be classified as miniature, not miniature to small to compete in the Miniature Class.
And Finally, No bloom can compete in more than one class.

If you have ANY questions that have not been answered here, please feel free to contact me at or my good friend Tony Smith at
Okay, You may not have any pretty blooms that are open that day. There is always next year. I would still encourage you to come and pay a visit to the show and see what did win. Ask questions. Learn as much as you can about what won and why something didn't. If NOTHING else, come on out because there will also be Camellia Plants for SALE!!
Happy Growing!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Please, I need to work in the garden!!!

It is only the first week of January and I am about to go stark raving mad! I want/NEED to work out in my garden. The weather the past couple of days has actually been in the 70's (it won't last) and I am getting bombarded with seed and plant catalogs. How much more can I take?!
I did order some really nice tomato seeds, that helped a little bit. I even did get outside a couple of times and started to clean up a little. I didn't do anything major, just a few pots that needed to be emptied, some limbs that had fallen, stuff like that. I still want to really get down and dirty!
Then....I got our monthly Master Gardener newsletter. There is some sign of relief.
What I am about to tell you is mainly for South Carolina or probably at least Zone 8 and higher, but it could relate to some others of you.
January is a time to start planting! Things like Beets, Carrots, Spinach, and the like.
According to Clemson Extension, I can and should have been planting Lettuce since December 20th. In my neck of the woods, this can go on all the way to February 5th. The optimum soil temperature for seed germination is 60 to 80 degrees. I am assuming they mean in a raised bed. I think my soil temperature right now is right around 58, but I am not sure how accurate my soil thermometer is.
Plant leaf lettuce in rows 1 to 2 feet apart with seed about one quarter inch deep and 6 to 10 inches apart in the row. It is impossible to space seed this small exactly at this spacing, you will have to thin the seedlings. Lettuce should be thinned when the plants are about 1 to 2 inches tall. Lettuce can also be planted in 12-inch-wide beds with the seed broadcast over the bed. On extremely cold nights it may be necessary to cover the plantings with a supported sheet or plastic covering, though it can handle light frosts. Lettuce should be ready to harvest about 75 days after planting.
Spinach can be planted all the way until February 25th. Plant spinach seed in rows 1 to 3 feet apart, spacing seed 2 inches apart in the row. Plant seed 1/2 inch deep and firm the soil over the seed to help ensure germination. Seed can also be broadcast on the 12 inch wide bed system. Make sure you are using fresh seed, older spinach seed does not germinate well. Again, you may need to cover on very cold nights. Spinach should be ready to harvest in about 37 to 45 days after planting.
Carrots are another one that I should have been planting last month. The dates for it are December 15th through January 30th for a Spring crop. Plant carrots in rows 12 to 18 inches apart with a quarter inch between the seeds. Being that carrot seeds are very tiny, try mixing the seed with dry sand to get even distribution. Ideally you will want to just pat the seeds down to make sure they have contact with the soil. You can cover, but you don't want it to be more than 1/8 of an inch down or the seeds will not be able to push themselves through to the sunlight. Thin the carrots to 2 inches between plants when they are 1 to 2 inches tall. Harvest carrots about 65 to 75 days after planting.
What would a garden be without beets? December 15th through June 30th is the recommended planting dates here. Plant beets in rows 10 to 30 inches apart and place the seed 1/2 inch deep with about 2 inches between the seeds. When the seedlings are 1 to 2 inches tall, thin them to 2 to 3 inches between plants. Harvest beets about 50 to 70 days after planting.
Radishes, Turnips, Rutabagas, Mustard, and Collards are some more things that can be planted now.
They all need as much sun as you can give them now. Remember, what is full sun in the Summer may not be full sun in the Winter.....plan accordingly.
Keep your seeds moist, but not soaking wet. They need some warmth and moisture to germinate. If you let them dry out, they are goners.
There are few things that are nice about having this kind of garden growing now.
1) There are not near as many insect problems, it's too cold for them. Yes, you may and will probably have some, but it won't be near as bad as say in July.
2) Weeds, there are fewer weeds growing this time of year. Again, you will get some, but they are much less a nuisance.
3) Disease pathogens are minimal. They will begin to multiply as the weather warms however.
4) Just having fresh veggies and digging in the dirt is a bonus for me.
This is also a good time of year to be planting and transplanting Roses, Trees and other Shrubs. The plants are basically dormant so there is no transplant shock or at least it is a lesser problem. They will have a chance to grow more roots because the ground is still "warm" compared to the air. All of the energy can go into the roots before it has to expel it for leaf growth. Besides, if you are looking for a great deal on trees, shrubs, and such, now is the time to be looking before the Spring rush hits.
Speaking of shrubs and trees you can and should also be spraying with a dormant oil right now if you have had insect problems in the past. What is dormant oil you ask? Most commercial dormant oil sprays are refined from petroleum oil. A few are made from cottonseed oil. These are highly refined oils (not motor oils!) which spread uniformly on the bark of trees and shrubs to which it is applied and coat non-mobile, dormant insects on the tree smothering them to death. It is best to spray before buds begin to swell. If buds of trees and shrubs have begun to swell slightly, go ahead and spray. Although some of the buds may be damaged, the benefits of spraying dormant oil far outweigh the possible infestation you may get. Spraying of dormant oil should occur on a clear day when the temperatures are expected to remain over 50 degrees for at least twenty-four hours. The ideal temperatures for application is between 40 and 70 degrees. Try to avoid using the dormant oil if a sever freeze is expected in 3-4 days. A word of caution however, if you have flowers growing under or around the tree or shrub you are spraying, cover them prior to application, it can and will kill them. Make sure you follow all label directions, this is the law!
One last thing you should think about. If you have never had your soil tested or it has been sometime since you last tested it, contact your local extension office and find out how, you will be glad you did.
Well, I hope this has given you something to smile about. The days are getting longer and Spring will eventually come. If you are as eager to get out and do SOMETHING in the yard, here are some possibilities. Now please forgive me, I have some lettuce to go plant!
Happy Growing!