Easy Protection For Your Evergreens

Evergreen trees and shrubs don’t go completely dormant in the winter like deciduous plants (those that lose their leaves). Their leaves or needles continue to make food through photosynthesis, just at a slower rate. Water, absorbed by their roots, is essential to this reaction. Water is also given off, or transpired, through their needles or leaves.

In winter, when the ground is frozen, evergreens recycle that transpired water to be used again in the photosynthetic reaction. High winds, however, often blow the transpired water off the needles or leaves before it can be reabsorbed, causing that branch to die. This condition is called winter burn and you can identify it by the browning of branches or portions of branches.

The traditional method of protection was to wrap the tree or shrub in burlap. That’s more work than many senior gardeners want, or are able, to do. Well, you don’t have to, except for extremely tender young trees and shrubs. Instead, apply a material called anti-desiccant. 

Anti-desiccant is a wax like material that, when sprayed on evergreen needles and leaves, holds transpired water in place until it can be reabsorbed. The best known brand name is Wilt Pruf and you can buy it in garden stores in spray bottles that will cover two or three average size shrubs. That’s about all you’ll want to do. Trust me; your hand will be tired when you’re done applying anti-desiccant from spray bottles. 

I’ve been using anti-desiccant for more than 25 years. Each fall I would apply it to two Taxus (Yews) on either end of the headstone at my parents’ graves. I was much younger then and still had to switch hands frequently. Today, I’d need help to do it.

If you have a number of trees and shrubs, especially tall trees, it’s more economical to hire a tree or landscape professional. They’ll use either a powerful truck mounted sprayer or a backpack sprayer. And it should cost you less than buying all those small bottles and expending the energy to apply them. Besides you couldn’t reach the tree tops without using a ladder. Not a good idea for senior gardeners. I’ve had the evergreens in my yard professionally protected since I first heard of anti-desiccant. It’s part of my Plant Health Care contract.

Anti-desiccant is a white liquid but it dries clear. Because it is wax based, you should wait until the temperature’s consistently below 40ºF but before it’s freezing. If you have a mild winter, you may need to touch up some of the plants that get full sun, especially if the temperature gets above 50ºF for any length of time.

I consider anti-desiccant inexpensive insurance for the many evergreen trees and shrubs on my property and recommend it, especially for senior gardeners who want to work smarter rather than harder.

Visit https://thepancoastconcern.com/the_geriatric_gardener to order The Geriatric Gardener book.

How To Safely Remove Leaves From Your Lawn

 

Leaf removal is one fall task that challenges the creativity of adaptive gardening. But it shouldn’t just be left to Mother Nature to take care of.  So, I offer some low impact suggestions for senior gardeners.

Most lawn mowers today have mulching decks and blades. They are made for mulching grass so little pieces fall to the ground and fertilize the lawn as you mow.  They can do the same for leaves if there aren’t too many of them. If you, or your grass cutting contractor, mow every week during fall leaf drop, you should be able to stay ahead of the dropping leaves and it won’t require any more work than it would if there were no leaves. And it will probably save you at least one fertilization next season.

How do you know if your machine is a mulching mower? Check the instruction book that came with it. See if the grass chute can be closed. Look under the deck  and if it has baffles that you’ve never seen before and a blade that has some extra bends and cutting edges, it’s probably a mulcher. You can also run it over some leaves and see if it pulverizes them. Or, you can take a photo of the underside of the deck and show it to an outdoor power equipment dealer for verification.

If you hire out your lawn mowing, check with the contractor to be sure his mowers will mulch. If not, maybe you can negotiate a deal in which he blows the leaves to the curb for municipal pickup or into your compost pile for a reasonable price.

If you end up having to move large a quantity of leaves, my first suggestion is to get help. If none’s available, take your time and work only for short periods of time. If you have a heavy, gas powered blower, consider trading it in for a lightweight electric model, preferably battery powered.

Leaves left on the lawn all winter can mat and trap water underneath. Soggy grass is the perfect environment for fungal turf diseases. When the snow melts in the spring and you remove the matted leaves, you may be greeted by brown spots, circles of dead grass called fairy rings or gray leaves. Renovation takes extra work that you should be trying to avoid. If you rake the dead grass from small spots they may fill in by themselves. After raking out the dead grass from big areas, you have to rough the soil with a steel rake, fertilize, seed and water. 

Mulching leaves as you mow instead of having to rake or blow them or leaving them on the ground for the winter and then having to renovate the lawn are examples of working smarter (mulching as you mow) rather than harder (raking, blowing or renovation).

Visit https://thepancoastconcern.com/the_geriatric_gardener to order The Geriatric Gardener book.

Simple Ways To Protect Your Containerized Plant

When winter approaches, containerized plants need some care to prepare them, especially if you live in cold, windy snowy regions like New York’s Finger Lakes. The amount and type of care they require varies with the types of plants you are growing and their location on your property.

The easiest plants are indoor plants that you put outdoors for the summer. All you have to do is bring them back inside. Pots that contained annuals only have to be emptied, washed, disinfected and stored for the winter. 

Plants that are hardy in your climate should be able to survive the winter. As a precaution, though, I would move them to a location that is sheltered from the wind but gets a good amount of sun. To further protect them, wrap the containers in an insulating material like bubble wrap or Styrofoam insulation and place a layer of mulch around  the container. Only the container stands between the plants’ roots and the freezing cold, and most container material isn’t a very good insulator. 

Tender plants need special care.. Plants that can’t stand the extra cold that the winds bring should spend the winter under glass or transparent plastic sheeting. The most popular structure is a cold frame. Cold frames are available at garden centers, home centers and online in many different sizes and shapes using a variety of materials. Wood and glass cold frames may be purchased in kit form or fully built. You can also purchase temporary, folding cold frames like the one pictured. 

Super tender plants have to go inside for the winter. This doesn’t mean the garage, either. Most garages aren’t insulated or heated so they’re too cold for the plants. Few garages have enough windows to let in sufficient sunlight, and if the plants are sharing space with vehicles, they will be subjected to carbon monoxide and other pollutants. If you have a three season room, also called a Florida room, that would likely work as a winter home for these plants. You might have to place a space heater out there to bring the temperature up to their liking, though. 

One more thing you need to consider is the container material. Many do not fare well in bitter cold weather. Terra cotta is one material that will break in freezing temperatures. Some ceramic and concrete materials will also. These containers are usually manufactured in places where cold weather isn’t a problem. My recommendation is faux terra cotta made of heavy gauge plastic. Besides being weather safe, they are lighter to move around than the real stuff, especially .if you stand them on a wheeled pot caddy.

Containerized plants need some ongoing care during the winter. For example, self watering containers are great in summer but don’t work well in winter when water freezes. Outdoor plants would appreciate a drink of water whenever the temperature rises above freezing. Those stored inside should be watered on a regular schedule when they get dry, just as you do with houseplants. On a sunny day when the temperature is above freezing, it would be nice to open the cold frame and let them get some fresh air.  

Visit https://thepancoastconcern.com/the_geriatric_gardener to order The Geriatric Gardener book.

 

Plant Bulbs Standing Up

Nothing lifts our spirits from thewinter doldrums quite like the colorful appearance of crocuses pushing their way up through the snow. Soon we will know spring has arrived when bright yellow daffodils make their appearance. Finally, this cacophony of color rises to a crescendo with the colorful showing of mass tulips. 

For some seniors, this image may be just a fond memory of days gone by. More recent is the pain of kneeling to replace bulbs that have lived their life. If that’s the case, I have an alternative to the traditional trowel or bulb planter – a long handle trowel or bulb planter.

There really is such a thing as a long handle bulb planter. In fact, there are a number of different designs available online. Just Google “Long handle bulb planters.” If you are used to using the method where you dig the trowel in and pull it toward you to make the hole, long handle trowels would be an option to check out. If you have used a bulb planter that removes a plug of soil, those are made with long handles. I even watched a Youtube video for a long bulb auger that comes in various sizes and is powered by a cordless drill. 

I suggest that you visit our local garden center that has a good selection of tools, or a big box home store and try them out to see which fits your needs best. Check out the weight, the length of the handle and the general feel of it, and price. Then decide whether to buy locally or online. If you are still restricting the public places you visit, you can call to see if they have long handle bulb planters in stock. Only visit the stores if they do.

My one concern about planting bulbs from a standing position is getting the bulb in the hole right side up. The pointed end has to be up; the other end is the root. You could use your reacher to plant the bulb (see August 15 post). Having to use two long handle tools might slow down the process, so pick a day in which you have all the time in the world to plant. 

Like all adaptive gardening, there are always trade-offs. In this case, you are trading time for pain-free knees and back. Speaking of time, there isn’t much more time for you to make a decision if you want beautiful crocuses, daffodils, tulips and hyacinths next spring. The bulbs have to be planted this fall for them to flower next spring.

Visit https://thepancoastconcern.com/the_geriatric_gardener to order The Geriatric Gardener book.

Some Other Gardening Blogs You May Want To Visit

Reading every garden blog would be more than a fulltime job. You’d never have time to work in your own garden. But there are some good ones out there in addition to The Geriatric Gardener.

I don’t usually promote other sites because I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the information. However for the past few years, I’ve been part of a “Power Circle” for a small group of garden bloggers – all members of the Garden Communicators International (formally Garden Writers Association). We have monthly phone calls on various topics ranging from marketing tips to content ideas. I feel confident sharing the other members’ blogs and highlight a bit about them.

Amy Whitneyblogs at Small Garden News and she is the Southeast USA. Her blog concentrates on organic food gardening and she has two books that you will want to check out – one on Fall Garden Planning and the other is a Garden Planner and Notebook.

Gail Pabst co-writes her No Farm Needed blog with her daughter. Check out their online store which features their pressed flower crafts from flowers that they both grow.

Gerald Simcoe‘s web site is GeraldSimcoe.com. He studied horticulture at Longwood Gardens, but now spends his time painting. Check out his floral still lifes – from flowers grown in his own garden.

Keri Byrum’s blog is Miss Smarty Plants. She was in Florida for awhile, but is back in Iowa on a farm. She specializes in growing hops for local breweries and has great information on raising backyard chickens.

Kathy Jentz’ blog is the Washington Gardener. She writes for and oversees both the blog and the printed version of the magazine. Kathy knows and covers all things gardening in the Washington DC area. She has been our leader of the Power Circle for the past three years so we are indebted to her organization and prompting for our regular chats.

Marianne Willburn writes at Small Town Gardener. You may know her book Big Dreams, Small Garden. She lives in Lovettsville, VA.

Randy Schultz‘s web site is https://HomeGardenandHomestead.com. Randy is a Master Gardener who has been working in the Home and Garden industry for 30 years. His website is a great source for stories on all kinds of topics related to gardening, natural living and do-it-yourself projects.

None of these sites, except this, is about Adaptive Gardening, but they all contain good information that you may be able to use.

Visit https://thepancoastconcern.com/the_geriatric_gardenerto order The Geriatric Gardener book. If you can’t connect by clicking on the link, copy and paste it in your browser.

GGSign

Extend Your Reach. Add A Reacher To Your Gardening Tools

Reacher 1

Do you remember having a tool something like that in the picture for reaching stuff on high shelves? I do and I recall that they didn’t work very well. The product development has come a long way.

I was reintroduced to the reacher by the occupational therapists following my recent stroke. They’ve proven so useful that the one in the photo is from the five that are placed strategically around the house. They were developed for household chores, but also make a good garden tool to keep seniors safe. They work well regardless of the type gardening that you do. I have to use them quite often for picking my Tillandsias(air plants) off the floor when transferring them from the container where they live to the watering container or vice versa.

Reachers can be a very useful gardening tool, especially if you garden from a wheelchair, walker,  garden seat or even a kneeler. It can prevent you from extending your body too far from your seat and slipping off or tipping and falling. You can use them for picking stuff up from the ground. When working in a raised bed or from a garden seat parked on a path, a reacher can be very useful for retrieving tools that you may have dropped. The nub on top of the reacher I’m holding makes a good furrow maker for sowing seeds. The reacher can even double as a weed puller in soft or loose soil.

If I can think of these uses in a few minutes, think of how many you can think of, And when you do, please share them. Just double click on the headline and scroll down to the reply box at the end of the post.

Reachers are inexpensive. We purchased one at WalMart for about $5. The others was purchased at a medical supply store for about $10 each. The reacher that stays in my office (pictured) is longer than the rest. I can sit at my desk and pull copies from the discharge chute of the printer across the room. I don’t know how much more this one costs than the others.

Th object of adaptive gardening is to use the tools, techniques and material that will reduce the amount of work that you’ll have to do so that gardening will continue to be enjoyable and safe. That’s why occupational therapists recommend these tools.

Visit https://thepancoastconcern.com/the_geriatric_gardener to order The Geriatric Gardener book. If the link doesn’t work by clicking on it, copy and paste the URL into your browser.

The Geriatric Gardener Is Now In Print

Cover

All of The Geriatric Gardener posts are right here on this site but it takes awhile to scroll all the way down to the early posts. So. I’ve made it easy for you to find any subject at a glance.

The technology isn’t new. It doesn’t take a battery  or power cord. That’s because it’s not electronic. This technology dates all the way back to 1440!

I’ve compiled and edited nearly two years of blog posts into a book. That’s right, a book – ink on paper. The cover is pictured above. The book is 114 pages in a compact size – 5.5” x 8.5” – so you can easily carry it with you. A great feature is the complete table of contents that makes finding what you’re looking for a breeze.

You can buy your copy now for just $14.95, plus shipping and handling, online at:

https://thepancoastconcern.com/the_geriatric_gardener

If the link doesn’t take you to the site, copy and paste the address in your browser.

 

Your Landscape May Benefit From Companion Plants

Edibles In Garden

Companion planting simply involves the planting of two or more species together in the same bed for their mutual benefit. And that benefit may include less work for you. Those benefits may be to ward off insect attack, to fertilize the soil, to cover space that weeds would otherwise occupy, to attract pollinators or to just look attractive.

Companion planting isn’t new. Like everything else today, it just has a new name, which is good. It used to be a practice used only by farmers for vegetables. They called the practice Intercropping. Today, the trend is to mix vegetables and ornamental  plants together in the same bed, and that takes new thinking and different companionships than intercropping. See the photo of tomatoes growing among perennials,

Europeans learned the companion planting concept when they arrived in the New World. As they settled into their new life in the colonies, the Native Americans taught them about the Three Sisters. The Three Sisters is the Native American practice of planting corn, beans and squash together. Each crop provided something the others needed. The corn grew tall, providing support for the beans to climb. The beans had the ability to gather nitrogen, which they shared with the others. Finally, the squash grew thick and close to the ground, where it kept weeds at bay.

Modern gardeners may include onion and/or garlic with their ornamental and edible plants to repel insects. Bright, flowering plants that attract pollinators may be  paired with plants with less attractive flowers to “introduce” pollinators to the less colorful plants. Beans and other legumes may be paired with plants with big nitrogen appetites to help fertilize the soil. And who wouldn’t be attracted to bright red tomatoes growing among plants with blue, white or yellow flowers.

While most plants can grow well together, there are some that should never be grown together. For example, the onions and garlic that repel insects so successfully shouldn’t be paired with beans and peas. They can stunt the peas’ and beans’ growth.

There are too many successful and unsuccessful pairing to list here. So,  I recommend checking the internet, your extension service and your garden center for the companion plant pairings that will work and those that are not right for your garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Is Proper Senior Gardening Attire?

Dressed for Gardening LR

This is not a fashion piece. You don’t have to go out and spend big bucks on special clothing. It’s about dressing comfortably and safely, Most of us garden alone and the plants don’t care what we look like.

The photo is me in my office ready to go out and garden. There’s nothing fashionable about my outfit. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it an outfit. Like me, you probably have comfortable clothes right in your closet.

As we get older, practical gardening clothes become more important. The consequences of all the problems that can beset us are greater the older we are. Using my image as a mannequin, I’ll enumerate from head to toe.

The wide brim hat covers my ears and neck, as well as shading the sun from my face. Ears, especially the tops, take a particular beating from the sun. Skin cancer there often requires surgery rather than just a spritz of liquid nitrogen. And I’m sure every gardener has suffered a painful sunburn on the back of the neck. I chose a crushable hat so I can roll it up and put in a suitcase when traveling. Greek fisherman’s caps are my headgear of choice but they afford little protection from the sun.

The sunglasses should be a must. UV rays can be very damaging to the eyes, especially if you have macular degeneration, or if you are old enough to be susceptible to age related macular degeneration.

I’m wearing a short sleeve shirt with plenty of sunscreen on my arms because I won’t be doing anything that requires a long sleeve shirt. If you’re pruning shrubs, a long sleeve shirt will protect your arms from scratches. If you’re working in long grass or weeds where ticks are lurking, long sleeves are a better choice. It’s also a good choice when mosquitoes are flying around.

Note the medical alert around my neck and there’s a water bottle ready to go with me. Both are essential accessories. And my phone is in my pocket.

Although you can’t see them, I’m wearing ieans. They’re always a good pant choice. They are comfortable and impervious to many thorns, bugs and other hazards. I seldom wear shorts when working in the garden. (And now we have to worry about the Murder Wasps that have just arrived from Asia.) Whether you choose to hold your jeans up with suspenders or a belt is entirely up to you.

As far as footwear is concerned, let the work you are about to do guide you. Don’t wear sandals if you are string trimming. It hurts if you get too close. That’s experience speaking. If you’re working in or near a pond, a pair of Wellingtons might be appropriate.

The take away here is that the well dressed senior gardener wears what’s comfortable and, most importantly, what’s safe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avoid People Pests In The Garden

Deer Tick

There are plenty of pests attacking plants in the garden but some prefer attacking people. Ticks and mosquitoes come to mind immediately. Both should be avoided because they carry pathogens that are harmful to you.

We just survived a worldwide pandemic in which we were urged to stay at home. Surely you wouldn’t want to leave those confines only to be bitten by one of the aforementioned people pests and contract a devastating disease that’s been around for decades.

Deer ticks (See Photo) carry lyme disease. Don’t be fooled by their name. They are carried by field mice, dogs and cats as well as deer. Mosquitoes carry a variety of diseases, including malaria, yellow fever, West Nile virus and others.

A tick bite looks like a red bullseye, and usually occurs on the lower body, especially the legs. Lyme disease symptoms begin with fatigue, achy muscles and joints, headaches and swollen lymph nodes. As the disease progresses, symptoms include hearing, vision and memory problems, arthritis and numbness or tingling in your extremities.

Ticks tend to hang out in brushy and wooded areas. Many are found along borders with lawns and landscaping. When venturing into those areas, it’s recommended that you wear a long sleeve shirt, long pants, socks that are long enough to tuck your pant legs into, shoes or boots. Repellents containing DEET are also effective at keeping them away from you. Ticks can’t fly but they are great hitchhikers, and they often eat while riding.

Whether removing ticks from your pets or your own skin, don’t squeeze them or try to pull them off by hand. Instead grip them with a pair of tweezers as close to the skin as possible and pull slowly upward. Ticks pierce the skin and suck blood, and their mouth parts are barbed so they aren’t easy to pull off. Do it very slowly and carefully.

. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing, or stagnant, water. Remove that and you will be less likely to have a mosquito problem. Stagnant water that attracts mosquitoes ranges from ponds to low spots in your yard that hold water after a rain. Even birdbaths may attract breeding mosquitoes. Emptying your birdbath frequently, cleaning it and filling it with fresh water will go a long way toward reducing the mosquito population on your property.

When you see mosquitoes flying around, dress as you would to discourage ticks and use a mosquito repellent

Ticks or mosquitoes can ruin your summer, and even your life. But only if you let them. You may have to sacrifice a little comfort by wearing more clothes than you’d like but that’s a small price to pay for your life and health. And as always, the symptoms are often worse for seniors so it’s better to err on the side of precaution.

Deer tick photo coutesy of Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org .