HARD FREEZE EXPECTED SATURDAY NIGHT

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Dear Friends in the D.C. area,

I know this is getting old! Here we go again: Freeze Warning for Saturday night, April 9th. This Saturday night’s freeze could be the coldest of the recent late freezes. If it gets into the 20s, we could have widespread damage.

In my own garden, there was some damage from the 31F or 32F we got the other night. I had damage on the new growth of Daphniphyllum, Hydrangea, Bush Ivy, Ligustrum, and the blooms on my Loropetalums.

In my own garden, I am particularly concerned about Japanese Maples (new leaves), Hydrangeas (new leaves), Boxwoods (new growth), Azaleas (coming into bloom), Loropetalums (flowers), Ligustrum (new growth), and Clematis (new growth and flower buds). Some perennials could be burned, as well. To the degree that I can cover these plants (some of my plants are just too big to cover), I am going to do so. Saturday night, my yard will be draped with sheets, blankets, tarps…whatever I can find to cover my vulnerable plants.

You may want to protect your Roses, as well.

To reiterate:

  • Tender annuals, vegetables, etc. The average last frost date for the D.C. metro area is April 25th (earlier to the south and east of the city, later to the north and west), yet some impatient gardeners have undoubtedly gotten too early a start. If you are one of them, be sure to cover your frost-tender annuals, vegetables, etc., to protect them from the frost. If you have pots planted with tender plants or haven’t planted your tender plants yet, and you can bring them inside, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to do so Saturday night.
  • If you’ve put your houseplants outside on the porch or patio already, bring them in and leave them inside until all danger of frost has passed.
  • Tender buds, flowers and foliage. Tender foliage on hydrangeas, Japanese maples, and the more tender perennials may be especially vulnerable, as might azalea and camellia flowers coming into blossom or buds showing color, and very tender new growth on evergreen and deciduous shrubs. Many early-flowering shrubs, bulbs and perennials can take a little cold, however. If you are worried and want to protect any plants, you can cover these items with frost cloths, tarps, sheets or light blankets to help protect the flowers from frost. Be sure to remove them during the day, so the plants beneath them don’t overheat.

Let us all think good thoughts and hope the temperatures moderate Saturday night!!

Here’s hoping this will be the last time I need to send a frost/freeze message this Spring, yet I will keep you posted if more cold weather comes our way.

Posted under Spring Flowers, Weather vagaries

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on April 8, 2016

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Possible Frost/Freeze Early Next Week

 

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Just as we were getting used to all this balmy, Spring weather, March rears its ugly side to hit us with possible damaging frosts and freezes on Sunday and Monday night (Monday night is predicted to be the coldest). Here are a couple of things to keep in mind over the next few days:

  • Tender annuals, vegetables, etc. The average last frost date for the D.C. metro area is April 25th (earlier to the south and east of the city, later to the north and west), yet some impatient gardeners have undoubtedly gotten too early a start. If you are one of them, be sure to cover your frost-tender annuals, vegetables, etc., to protect them from the frost. If you have pots planted with tender plants or haven’t planted your tender plants yet, and you can bring them inside, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to do so both Sunday and Monday nights.
  • If you’ve put your houseplants outside on the porch or patio already, bring them in and leave them inside until all danger of frost has passed.
  • Blooming camellias, etc. Blossoms on early-blooming shrubs and trees can take some cold weather, for the most part. But if you are worried and want to protect them, you can cover these items with frost cloths, sheets or light blankets to help protect the flowers from frost.

Let us all think good thoughts and hope the temperatures moderate Sunday and Monday nights!

If you are thinking of getting my help this Spring for some landscape work, please let me know soonest, as my Spring calendar is filling up early this year.

 

Posted under The Spring Garden, Weather vagaries

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on March 19, 2016

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Camellia sasanqua 'Setsugekka' at Woodland Cottage

Camellia sasanqua ‘Setsugekka’ at Woodland Cottage

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Holidays! Here is a link to my Holiday 2015 Newsletter, full of garden tips and information on our travels this year. Enjoy!

Posted under Garden maintenance, Garden Tours, Garden Travel, Holidays, Newletters, Random garden thoughts, Southern Gardens, The Fall Garden, The Winter Garden, Travel

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on November 28, 2015

FREEZE WARNING Tonight for the D.C. Area

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Take photos of your favorite plant combinations, before the frost, so you can repeat them next year. Here, we have variegated spider plants, purple heart, and sprengeri asparagus fern, all tender to frosts and freezes.

Right on time, the first freeze of the season is due in the D.C. area tonight. Not all areas will see a freeze (or even a frost), but it’s time to prepare, just the same.

With the turning of the seasons comes a list of things to do to put your garden to bed for the Winter season, so it can rest:

Without delay, bring inside your tender houseplants and tropical plants. Check for insects and spray accordingly, if you believe in spraying. Once inside, I give them as much light as possible and only water enough to keep them alive. I could care less if they grow over the Winter…the only reason I have them inside is to decorate the rooms and keep them alive until I can put them out again the following April. By then, they are beyond ready to go back outside.
• ***Continue watering, as needed, until you put the hoses away for the Winter. Fall can be sunny with very low humidity, and very dry. This year, I’ve found that many of the large trees we installed suffered because of the lack of deep watering during this Summer’s drought. Please be sure to lay the hose down at the base of the trunk—water on a slow trickle—and allow the water to seep in slowly. These large trees have big, deep rootballs and the water must get into the ground deeply so the trees don’t die. DO NOT depend solely on irrigation systems during the first couple of years—monitor your plants for water. Remember that newly-planted items do not have the means to absorb surrounding water until they root. The bigger the new plant/transplant, the more water it’s going to need. I cannot stress this enough.
Once the regular hard freezes arrive, be sure to turn off your outdoor spigots from the inside and store your hoses for the Winter, out of the harsh weather.
When the time changes, change the batteries in your smoke alarms (the twice yearly time changes are good seasonal reminders). And check your dryer vents, too. You’d be surprised how many people forget to check their dryer vents—they can get clogged and become a great fire hazard. There are companies out there to clean the vents for you, if you are not into doing it yourself.

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Time to bring in your houseplants for the Winter!

Other Fall gardening notes:
It’s a great time to plant new plants and to transplant shrubs that might be in the wrong place. They will spend the Winter rooting while the tops of the plants go dormant, and they will be ready to grow in the Spring. I think that Fall planting is the best-kept secret in the gardening world. There are exceptions: certain plants don’t establish themselves in the Fall, for whatever strange reason; and things that are marginally hardy—at the northern limit of their hardiness range where you live–should not be planted in the Fall because they might not have time to root well before the cold weather sets in. They have a better chance of surviving the first couple of Winters if they are well-rooted.
I don’t like to fertilize shrubs in the Fall—especially broadleaf evergreens–because it promotes new growth on the remaining warm days of Fall—only to be frozen off when the hard freezes come in. It’s best to let your plants go dormant naturally so they can withstand the Winter cold more easily, especially if the Winter turns out to be severe. It’s a great time to fertilize deciduous (leaf-losing) trees, however, as they go dormant.
No major pruning should occur now; new growth should not be promoted due to the coming hard freezes. Plants should be allowed to go dormant. Minor trimming and shaping are fine; just no major pruning unless you absolutely have to do it. A great time to prune evergreens is during the holidays, when you might want to bring in some greens to decorate.
Get the weeds out now! They are all setting seeds and those seeds mean many more weeds next year. Save some time, in advance, by weeding now when the weather is nice.
Seasonal color—pansies, mums, ornamental cabbage and kale—these and other seasonal plantings can go in now. Pansies should make it until Spring and should revive after any Winter dormancy; ornamental cabbage and kale often get fried in the first bad freeze; and you decide on the mums…they are perennial and could possibly come back and bloom next year, depending on the variety. Most people replant them every year, though.

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Pansies survive most Winters in our area and provide much-welcome color.

Bulbs—this is the time to plant. Daffodils, narcissus and most other bulbs can go in now until the ground freezes hard. Wait on tulips and hyacinths until at least November. The soil is too hot until then to plant these two. And remember to buy the best quality tulips and hyacinths you can afford…they decline after a few years in our hot, Summer soil. Think of tulips as a present to yourself and buy them fresh every year to get the best show. If you love tulips, it’s worth the money. And remember: deer love tulips, but won’t touch daffodils.

Good luck with your preparations for the cold weather to come!

Posted under Container Gardens, Garden maintenance, Houseplants, Pruning, The Fall Garden, Weather vagaries

Don’t Forget to Water

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Daylily ‘Africa’ at Woodland Cottage

As Summer slowly begins to slip into Fall here in the Magical Mid-Atlantic, we enter the hot, dry weather of August and early September. The first signs of Fall are just becoming evident: shorter days; a new, golden quality to the late afternoon and evening light; and the fading of many flowers and vegetables in our gardens. Besides watering and weeding, there is not much else to do in our gardens. Still, these are two very important items—don’t let them slide.

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Longwood Gardens, July 2015

Watering. After all the rain we’ve had this Spring and Summer, it seems impossible that we’d even need to talk about watering—yet here we are. Right on schedule, we are drying out again, and it will likely remain this way until late September or early October, unless we have a hurricane (let’s hope not).
If you have new shrubs and trees that were installed within the last year or two, and you have a sprinkler system, don’t depend on the sprinkler system to do a proper job of watering your newer plants. Irrigation systems are great for established gardens, lawns, and shallow-rooted plants, but you’ve got to deep-soak your new things, especially when the temperatures are above 90F and we haven’t had rain for awhile. Here are some further notes:

When plants are rooted and growing leaves, they are taking up water from the ground. It’s like suction (and much like our sweating): the leaves “sweat”, and in the process, pull the water from the ground with the roots, up through the plant, and out through the leaves. This is called transpiration. The hotter, drier, and sunnier the weather, the faster the transpiration, thus the increased water need. It’s like a continuous loop of water drawn in and sweated out. When the days shorten in the Fall, plants anticipate the coming cold weather, drop their leaves, and go dormant. Evergreens just go dormant, of course, without dropping all their leaves/needles…most plants in our region just stop from the ground up. The roots will continue to grow until the ground gets below 40 degrees. This is all very simplistic, of course…so much more is going on, but you get the drift.

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St. Francis, in the back garden at Woodland Cottage. A favorite spot for the birds.

Things are different when a plant is first planted. That’s because it takes time to root…in other words, the little feeder roots that take up the water have not yet come from the rootball of the transplanted plant and established themselves into the surrounding soil. Therefore, we must baby it for a few weeks until this happens. Too little water, and it can drop its leaves as a defense mechanism because it is trying to conserve water in the stems so that when water is again available, it has the strength saved up to leaf out again. Conversely, when too much water is around the roots and the rootball cannot get any oxygen (because this is important, too), the plant’s leaves often turn a soaked-looking dark brown, and either hang onto the plant or drop, because the plant doesn’t need any water and the systems shut down. Both of these things are really easy to do after plants are just put in…there is a fine balance. Believe it or not, more plants die of over-watering than under watering. Isn’t that crazy? But it’s true.

As the days shorten, and the sun becomes less intense as we move towards Fall, your plants will require less and less water…you can probably cut the frequency a bit. Likewise, plants dry out more quickly when the humidity is low; less quickly when the humidity is high. Monitor carefully so you don’t over- or under-water. Just remember to soak deeply when you do water.

Get to know your garden and its “hot spots”—places that dry more quickly than others. This is true even if you have an irrigation system. Put your fingers under the mulch, into the soil, and check for moisture. Don’t depend on a quick thunderstorm to water for you (much of the heavy rain will run off and not soak into the ground)…deep soak your garden as needed. Let the lawn go dormant or provide one inch of water per week to keep it green. If hand–watering your plants, take the nozzle off the hose, and aim that nice, steady stream of water directly at the center of the plant where it meets the soil. Let the water soak in deeply. When using sprinklers, rain gauges are a big help…or (better) check the soil with your fingers. And remember: like winter-damaged plants, those left unwatered are not guaranteed…another incentive to get out the hose!

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The view from Paris Mountain, VA, August 2015

Weeds. Ugh. I know, I know…it’s too hot, too dry, there are too many…etc. etc. Really, though, you must get to them before they go to seed or you are really going to have your work cut out for you. At the very least, go out and cut off those seedheads before they ripen and fall!

I find that the best time to pull weeds is after a good rain or just after I’ve watered. The weeds slip right out of the ground, for the most part, except for a few stubborn ones; then, I have to get out the pointed trowel (a wonderful tool) or a dandelion weeder.

After you weed, you can put down some mulch to cover the bare ground, if you’d like…it helps to control weeds and helps keep the soil from drying out so quickly.

A field of Queen Anne's Lace at Blandy Farm, The State Arboretum of Virginia, August 2015. Photo by Catherine Giovannoni.

A field of Queen Anne’s Lace at Blandy Farm, The State Arboretum of Virginia, August 2015. Photo by Catherine Giovannoni.

Vacation time. This month, I’m excited about a trip to Southern California. An old friend’s son is getting married in Los Angeles; we’ll attend the wedding, tour some Southern California gardens, and spend some time in San Diego visiting some friends (and our new grandson!), too. What have you all been up to this Summer? I look forward to seeing many of you this Fall and hearing all about your adventures. Please let me know if you’ll need my help this Fall—I have been booking for Fall all Summer!

Posted under Garden maintenance, Garden Travel, Southern Gardens, The Summer Garden, Travel

It’s Time to Greet Spring!

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Here’s a link to my Early Spring newsletter. Enjoy, and Happy Spring!

 

Posted under Garden maintenance, Newletters, The Spring Garden

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on March 21, 2015

First Frost/Freeze of the Season Due this Weekend in the Magical Mid-Atlantic

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Right on time, the first frost/freeze of the season is due this weekend, here in the Magical Mid-Atlantic.

Most of you have brought in the houseplants; if not, it’s time to wrap it up. Bring in those tender things: any tropical plants (such as your Summering houseplants), or any tender plants you might want to save that would be susceptible to the effects of a frost/freeze. I just finished getting everything in the door a couple days ago.

Soon: turn off your outdoor spigots for the season; put hoses away when you get the chance. Change the batteries in your smoke alarms (the twice yearly time changes are good seasonal reminders). And check your dryer vents, too. You’d be surprised how many people forget to check their dryer vents—they can get clogged and become a serious fire hazard. There are companies out there to clean the vents for you, if you are not into doing it yourself.

Happy Fall and I’ll have more in my Holiday Newsletter in late November. Hope all of you are well and happy.

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Photo by the blogger. If you copy, please link back.

Posted under Houseplants, The Fall Garden, Tropical Plants

High Summer

Daylily 'Africa' at Woodland Cottage

Daylily ‘Africa’ at Woodland Cottage

Here’s a link to my ‘High Summer’ newsletter.

We are beginning to turn the corner into Autumn. Can you feel it?

Enjoy the remainder of your Summer!

Posted under Garden maintenance, Newletters, Random garden thoughts, Southern Gardens, The Summer Garden, Tree work, Water in the Garden, Weather vagaries

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on August 15, 2014

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Freeze Warning Tonight (4/15/14) and Maybe Wednesday Night, Too

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I was hoping I wouldn’t have to write this…there is a Freeze Warning posted for tonight, Tuesday, April 15, in the D.C. metro area. Be ready for Wednesday night, too, just in case. This is not uncommon at this time of year when we are teetering between warmth one day and cold the next. The recent warmth brought out new growth on most plants.  

In my own garden, I have Azaleas starting to bloom and the Japanese Maples have leafed-out; I’ll cover what I can. I am not going to worry about the Daffodils and other bulbs, Pansies, Hellebores, Pieris, Camellias, for example—these should go relatively undamaged, other than maybe a few burnt flowers.

Anytime the night temperatures are expected to hover around freezing at this time of year, I consider covering. My goal is to keep frost off the flowers and new growth of tender items. I always keep a stack of old sheets, towels, and blankets for nights just like these when I need to cover plants. Just drape them gently over the plants you are trying to protect. Beware using plastic bags and tarps—they do a good job of protecting your plants, but the air underneath them can heat up too much the next morning when the sun hits the plastic. If you do decide to use plastic covers, be sure to remove them in the morning when the temperature warms a bit. Special frost coverings and blankets are available at some nurseries and hardware stores.

If you have planted tender annuals or vegetables prematurely, cover them. Bring indoors any tropical houseplants you may have set outside when it was warm. The average last date of frost in the D.C. area is April 25th—often earlier to the South and East, often later to the West and North. May 1 is a good marker for planting your tender annuals and vegetables and putting out your tropical plants for the summer. It pays to wait until then.  Still, keep those sheets, towels and blankets on hand for an unexpected cold snap.

Posted under Southern Gardens, Spring Flowers, The Spring Garden, Weather vagaries

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on April 15, 2014

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