When you enter Montgomery Botanical Gardens you may notice that something is missing. Where’s the bench? The two beautiful Oak Leaf Benches that greeted visitors as they entered the gardens are not missing. Thankfully, they have been removed temporarily to be cleaned, restored, and refinished to help preserve and protect them from the elements. They will soon be returned to grace the entrance and provide a place to rest. A bit of historical reminder, these benches were carved by “Beneath the Bark” in Wetumpka from a gigantic old oak tree that fell in the garden during a storm in 2017. Patrons purchased and donated the benches to provide funds for the development of the gardens. We will all be happy when the two benches are refreshed and returned to the garden.
Eight tasks for the winter season to ensure your landscape is ready for spring growth.
Remove finished and dead plants
Overwintering plant litter can harbor pests and diseases. Tilling under pest and disease free litter is another option. Replenish your compost pile. Remove diseased litter to promote good sanitation and to prevent future problems with pests.
Address weed problems
Remove and trash or burn those pesky weeds. Keep in mind, weed species can overwinter in compost piles, so be cautious. Breaking the overwintering cycle is a key method to controlling weeds.
Maintain soil for spring
This is the best time to add soil amendments such as composted materials. Another way of replenishing nutrients like nitrogen in the soil is through planting cover crops. An inexpensive way of controlling and removing weeds, weed seeds, and disease agents is by soil solarization.
Winter is the best time to prune within your landscape and flowering beds. Shrubs and trees require periodic pruning to remove diseased or dead material, to help control and direct growth, and to prevent potential hazards. Ornamental grasses are best pruned during the spring. Divide and plant if one has perennial bulbs. Late fall and winter is the best time to divide and plant. If it blooms on “new” wood, prune it in winter and spring. If it blooms on “old” wood, prune it in summer and fall. It’s essential that you prune after flowering.
Nature is always working even during winter. Finished compost can be used as a soil amendment. Litter from the finished garden can be used replenish the compost pile. Remember to reduce, reuse and recycle.
Adding mulch helps to manage soil moisture. Mulch can also help to manage soil temperature and to add organic material to the soil profile as well. Adding a good layer of mulch around dormant perennials can prevent potential winter damage during very cold months.
Evaluate your garden and flower beds
Determine the season’s best and worst performers. Are there new cultivars available for next season? Potential problems can be avoided if you choose the “right plant for the right place.” Discover if there were any environmental pressures that caused problems. What about watering; an irrigation system might help. Were there any pests? If so, adopt trap crops and resistant varieties to help with pest control.
Maintain equipment and tools
Increase the life of equipment by cleaning engines, sharpening and oiling tools, storing garden hoses, nozzles, and breakers, and covering or insulating outside hose bibs.
During the Holidays
These care tips can help keep poinsettias healthy during the holidays.
- Place the plant in an area with plenty of natural light, away from vents and drafts that can dry out the pot.
- Water the plant only when dry. If the pot is covered in a holiday foil or decorative wrap, allow excess water to drain. Poinsettias are susceptible to stem and root diseases, so draining the excess water is important.
- Utilize an all-purpose fertilizer (20-20-20) at one-a-month intervals.
After the Holidays
The cost to keep a poinsettia growing for next year is marginal compared to purchasing a new plant every year.
- Remove decorative wraps from the planter after the holiday season and place a saucer underneath it. This allows for better air circulation for the roots during the rest of the growing season.
- Keep water and fertilizer at regular intervals.
- Move the plant to a larger container, with new potting mix, as the plant grows.
- Cut back to 5 to 6 inches if the plant becomes long and leggy. Periodically, cut the tips of the branches to encourage more side branching and to maintain a fuller appearance.
Care Throughout the Year
In the summer, growers should move the plant outside in an area with indirect sunlight. Summer is also the time to increase fertilizer to at least twice the frequency.
In mid-summer, trim the plant as needed to keep a manageable size and fullness and move to a location with full sunlight.
After Labor Day, bring the plant inside to a location that gets a minimum of six hours of sunlight, preferably more. This will start preparing the plant for their flowers and their colorful foliage. Growers should also start reducing the frequency of fertilizer.
Long periods of darkness are vital to the iconic colors of the poinsettia. Toward the end of September, they must have at least 13 hours of uninterrupted darkness and 11 hours of bright light each day. Placing the plant in a closet, basement, or under a box can give it the required hours of darkness. During the periods of bright light, make sure to rotate the pot to ensure the plant receives even light from all sides.
Just before Thanksgiving, stop the dark period treatments, reduce the amount of water and fertilizer and place the plant in a sunny area that receives at least six hours of direct light.
Merry Christmas from the Montgomery Botanical Gardens. We appreciate each and every one of you!