Monday, February 03, 2014

These long, cold days of winter...when will it end???

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Everyone you meet these days is talking and complaining about our crazy, cold, snowy winter.  Have you booked your winter vacation yet???  
Many gardeners I know are taking this time when they’re forced to be indoors, to reflect; gather information and plan for the spring that’s around the corner.  This is a great time to be going through all the seed catalogues that are arriving; choosing some new plants, some old favourites, colours and themes for the garden; and for perhaps thinking of planting a few more vegetables or herbs.  Many herbs and vegetables enjoy being planted amidst flowers and add interest to the garden, as well as beauty.  With all the snow accumulating, many gardeners can’t help thinking about the wet spring that may lie ahead.  This may affect the type of flowers or vegetables that you want to plant.  Now is the time to plan!
Many of us are enjoying our indoor gardens and houseplants.  Many indoor plants provide us with some much needed colour during these drab days of winter, while other larger ones soften and blend with groups of furniture, and other smaller plants enhance and adorn our tables and windowsills. Plants do a great job of cleaning our air.
Have you been checking your houseplants regularly for insects and disease?  With our busy lives, we often tend to neglect our plants, taking for granted that they will continue to perform on their own.  Then, one day when watering you notice that one of your plants is really suffering.  It looks wilted, is losing colour and it looks like it’s covered with tiny cotton balls.  Oh no, Mealy bug!  Isolate the plant immediately and spray with an insecticidal soap or use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.  You may have to repeat this process a number of times.  Mealy bug is one of the hardest insects to control.  Whitefly, scale, aphids and red spider mite are also insects most common to houseplants.  If the leaves of your plant are looking a little yellow, dry and dropping, you may have an infestation of whitefly.  They flutter around the plant when disturbed.  The scale insect looks like little tiny bumps that collect along stems and at the base of leaves.  They cause a reddening of the tissue wherever they feed.  The stems usually lose vigor and die.  Aphids are usually light or dark green, are very tiny and also cluster on stems and underneath leaves.  They will literally suck the life out of your plant.  Red spider mite is seen as little red dots on the underside of the leaf and they usually attack when the humidity is low.  Herbs are susceptible to spider mite.  To increase the humidity, place your plants on a tray filled with pebbles and water.  Avoid misting your plants to increase the humidity as this will encourage insects and disease.  To discourage disease, remove dark, dead and sickly growth and dip your shears or pruners in a bleach solution to prevent the spread of disease.  Use an insecticidal spray to control whitefly, scale, aphids and spider mite.
To help your plants through the winter, let them rest.  Avoid fertilizing.  The optimum time to fertilize is from late January to the beginning of October.  Cut back on the watering.  Keep them away from heat registers, hot or cool drafts and warm appliances.  High room temperatures make the plant spindly, may cause blooming plants to drop buds or finish blooming prematurely and make them less resistant to insects and disease.  Keep your plants clean.  Dust the leaves using a soft cloth & lukewarm water wit a bit of mild dishwashing or insecticidal soap.  Avoid over-crowding or over-watering your plants.  Fungus is usually a result of poor air circulation. Also, avoid letting your plants dry out.  When they are stressed, that is when insects and disease attack!
Some dependable and easy to care for houseplants include the cactus, jade plant, sansevieria or mother-in-laws tongue, spider plant, wandering jew, ponytail palm and pothos or devil’s ivy.
If you have pets, please keep in mind some of the houseplants that have been reported by the A.S.P.C. (Animal Poison Control Centre) to affect some animals with mouth irritation, excessive drooling, vomiting and difficulty swallowing. They are elephant ear, arrowhead vine, begonia, caladium, calla lily and dumb cane.  The following house plants are more toxic and may cause diarrhea, colic, weakness, stupor, asphyxiation, colic, depression, leg paralysis, kidney failure and possibly death:  azalea, cyclamen and oleander.  If you suspect your pet has ingested any of these plants, please take your pet to your local veterinarian immediately or call the A.S.P.C. at 1-888-426-4435 for information.
On a lighter note, enjoy one of my favourite poems.  Some of you out there may relate. I’ve been there! Taken from the 2003 Prairie Garden Booklet.
My Wife the Gardener
She dug the plot on Monday
The soil was rich and fine
She forgot to thaw out dinner
So we went out to dine
She planted roses Tuesday
She says they are a must
They really are quite lovely
But she forgot to dust
On Wednesday it was daisies
They opened with the sun
All whites and pinks and yellows
But the laundry wasn’t done
The poppies came on Thursday
A bright and cheery red
I guess she really was engrossed
But never made the bed
It was Dahlias on Friday
In colours she adores
It never bothered her at all
All the crumbs upon the floors
I hired a maid on Saturday
My week was now complete
My wife can garden all she wants
The house will still be neat
It’s nearly lunchtime Sunday
And, I can’t find the maid
Oh no!  I don’t believe it
She’s out there with a spade!!!
And for the kids:
What did the fast tomato say to the slow tomato???
Don’t worry, spring’s around the corner.  Enjoy this time to relax and plan for the craziness of spring!
Arlene Ortiz (Wheeler)
Posted by Tammy Jensen at 9:37 AM 0 Comments