Monday, March 30, 2009

Garden Talks Week of March 30

Good friend Hammon Buck of Plants Unlimited in Rockport ME sent out some very timely gardening tips recently and I am going to shamelessly share them with you. Plants Unlimited is a great operation and can be found on Route 1 in Rockport as well as at The pictures that accompany Hammons' quotes are also provided by Plants Unlimited. We highly recommend a visit to Plants Unlimited if you are ever in the Camden Rockport Midcoast area!

* Pruning Flowering Shrubs

"Prune flowering shrubs and trees JUST AFTER they flower. So, do not prune azaleas, lilacs and rhodys now. Wait until just after they flower. When you do prune first, remove any dead branches or tips, then remove interior branches that cross through the plant - this "opens" the interior up for more light and air. Also remove branches that are rubbing together. Finally, you can prune to improve the symmetry of the tree by removing longer erratic branches. Use sharp pruners, loppers or saws as needed"

"Larger branches on trees often require heavier duty tools than hand pruners. Folding saws, pole pruners or in extreme pruning, chain saws, might be needed. The branches should be cut close to the trunk (but not too close) and on an angle. Larger branches often require an undercut so that the weight of the falling branch does not rip away tree bark when it falls. Also, cut larger branches in sections to avoid weight damage."

* Pruning Roses

"It's a great time to prune rose bushes too, while they are still dormant. Remove any damaged or dead canes and crowded or crossed stems. Then, shorten undamaged canes in order to shape the plant. A good general tip for pruning most plants is to select buds that will grow outward (they are on the outside of the stem) and cut the branch slightly above this bud. This forces the plant to grow outward, avoiding growth toward the inside which only leads to rubbing branches and congested plant form."

* Pruning Evergreens

"Evaluate the shape of needled evergreens and prune as needed. If there are branches jutting out at odd angles, early spring is a good time to get rid of them. The art of pruning certain older, overgrown evergreens and deciduous plants is sometimes a 3 year event! If you prune all the branches lower at the same time to the same length, you are often left with a stubby, ugly shrub (like the image on the above left). This is what happens when you continuously use hedge shears - you are shearing, not pruning! To "rejuvenate" older shrubs and certain evergreens, prune 1/3 of the branches low and deep in the plant to the desired ultimate size every year. After 3 years, you will have reduced the size and still keep the plant attractive ."

* Snowplowing

"This winter's continuous plowing on your driveway and road have left piles of sand and gravel on your lawn and plant beds. When the ground is dry, get out and rake and remove this before the grass gets growing and is smothered by this residue. Spring also brings a new pile of rocks in gardens and lawns that the frost has heaved from the ground. Remove these before you hit them with the lawnmower or rototiller. Evaluate how the snow was plowed in your yard. Is there a possibility that it may be plowed somewhere else next year to avoid lots of damage? Is there adequate room for snow removal or should you move certain plantings? Our experience shows that folks do not take snow removal into account in their yards and waste lots of money on plants that are only destroyed by the plows! "

* Transplanting

" We're ALWAYS asked when is the best time to dig and move flowering shrubs, trees and perennials. Early spring is the BEST time to do this - BEFORE the leaves emerge on the plants. This reduces trauma to the plant. Nurseries everywhere are digging dormant plants as fast as they can! It's a "Beat the Clock" deadline rush to dig before the leaves emerge. Although they (and you) can dig later, you greatly increase the risk of plant loss and damage. The only limiting factor is how soon the frost will be out of the ground so you can dig. Our guess is that there is not much frost because of the heavy snow cover, so grab a shovel and get to it! Try to dig plants at their dripline - the line drawn from the tips of the branches to the ground. As you cut any larger roots with your shovel, have pruners handy to make a cleaner cut on these roots. Try to move the plants with as much soil as possible. If you are not replanting immediately, wrap the root ball in burlap and keep the root ball moist. "

Take advantage of the opportunity to mix some great organic matter into the hole with some great loam when you do backfill around your plant. We have lots of great options here at Skillin's that you can use to supplement your soil and make for better natural microbial activity around your root ball. Also remember to water your transplant regularly throughout this gardening season!
* Planting Tips
"Whenever you plant or transplant shrubs and trees, get in the habit of forming a basin around every plant. Form this in a circle around the plant's drip line (the outer edge). Mound soil in a circle a few inches higher than the existing grade. This allows water to remain around the root zone and go straight to the roots. It is also VERY IMPORTANT when planting to make sure you set plants at the right depth. Many plants are killed because they are planted too deep and the stems smother. Generally, plant container plants level with the soil in the pot and balled and burlapped trees level with the top of the root ball."

Similar to the transplanting note above, you do want to take advantage of the "open hole" and supplement your area around the hole with some great natural organic matter. Supplementing your soil in this way will greatly enhance the chances of getting some good natural biology going on around the root ball. We have many great choices for you that are easy to use!

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