Bob Beyfuss: Spring into action by checking landscape plants – The Daily Freeman


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I am looking at all the books and magazines I had planned to read when I came down here to Florida last November. They are piled up on my coffee table in the living room. But, just like previous years, they remain unread and my time here is waning.I don’t know why I expect things to change each winter, but it always seems like a good idea to bring these things with me. Now that I am fully vaccinated, my life is even busier than it was last year. Unlike New York, Florida is pretty much open for business, with few restrictions on dining or drinking, no mask mandate and the tourism business is booming. Disney is booked solid this week and for the rest of the month.March is our most unpredictable month for weather and, by now, you all have had enough winter weather to suit you. Spring bulbs are popping up in the valley and much of the winter snow is melting. Now is a good time to examine the base of trees and shrubs on your landscape plants to see if they have been girdled by rodents beneath the snow.If you notice damage, about the only thing you can do now is to apply a “bandage” over the girdled areas using a piece of black plastic, such as you would use for mulching your garden beds. The black plastic will warm the damaged tissue and, hopefully, speed up the process of cell growth to seal off the girdled areas.If only the bark has been chewed off, there is a good chance the plant will recover, but if the vascular cambium, just beneath the bark, has been eaten, the plant will often “leaf out” as it normally would, because the water-conducting tissue beneath the cambium (xylem) remains functional, but with no cambium to grow new tissue, the tree or shrub may perish. Protective tree guards are not always needed every winter, but when a foot or more of snow remains on the ground for more than a few weeks, voles will have enough protection to multiply and damage susceptible plants. All fruit trees are the highest-risk, although no woody plant is completely immune.It is still a little early to start most warm-weather vegetable transplants such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash or melons, but you could start seeds of cool-weather crops such as cabbage, broccoli, lettuce and other salad greens. These can be transplanted in about a month to your raised beds. They can tolerate soil temperatures in the 50s, but the warm-weather crops should not be put in the ground until the soil is at least 60 to 70 degrees.Here in Florida, the big box stores are overflowing with spring landscape plants and all sorts of vegetable transplants. I did buy some potted cilantro, basil and catnip that I put in larger pots to supply me with some fresh greens. The feral cat I take care of, Cleopatra, found the potted catnip already! I also bought some potted hyacinths a few weeks ago that I am allowing to go dormant now. I will bring the bulbs back to New York with me and plant them at home in the fall. Of all the spring-flowering bulbs, I like hyacinths the best because of their fragrance.Every time I smell hyacinths, I recall a lovely saying that dates back to ancient times: “If all thy worldly goods thou art bereft, and only two loaves, have thee left, sell one and with the dole, buy hyacinths to feed thy soul. I do think that flowers feed our soul, just as vegetables nourish our bodies.If you notice that your spring bulbs, especially daffodils are not producing as many flowers as previous years, mark the clumps now with survey flags so you will remember where they are. You should dig them up, divide the clumps and replant them this fall. You can also apply some organic fertilizer to other bulbs that are coming up right now as well. Dried blood is a good choice, because it also repels rabbits and woodchucks. If you planted tulips last fall, you do need to protect them from deer. Tulips are a rather expensive deer candy. I know a reader who lost $1,000 worth of bulbs in a single week once. Spray them with a commercial deer repellent as soon as they begin to emerge.It is not a bad idea to spray many of your landscape shrubs with deer repellent right now. You can make your own by mixing one or two beaten, rotten eggs, (let them sit outside for a week or so) a cup of milk, a few teaspoons of dishwashing detergent and a gallon of water. Strain the mix and spray. Repeat after a heavy rain.Bob Beyfuss lives and gardens in Schoharie County. Send him an e-mail to [email protected]

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