In the Garden
Caring for perennials this winter
In fall, gardeners often start thinking about perennials either because they want to add additional plants to their gardens or because they need to take at least some of them out of their garden beds.
Perennials are plants that don’t die after one season but continue to live year after year. The category actually includes trees, shrubs, lawns, hardy bulbs, some vegetables and houseplants, and a large number of plants that are grown for their ornamental flowers or foliage.
Days when temperatures climb into triple digits followed by evenings with fast-moving thunder storms can leave beginning gardeners unsure about whether or not to add supplemental water to their vegetable gardens.
The general rule of thumb is that plants need about one inch of water a week either from rain or irrigation or a combination of the two.
The amount of water can vary depending on the type of soil in the garden, but the objective is to wet the soil to a depth of 5 or 6 inches and not water again until the top few inches begin to dry out.
Pet worms? Well, not exactly.
But those whose plants have benefitted from the rich vermicompost that worms produce are usually enthusiastic about having a plastic bin of these wiggly red creatures in their home. Vermicompost is a humus-like material that contains large numbers of worm castings produced when organic materials pass through a worm’s gut.
“It’s an alternative to conventional backyard composting,” said Henrico Extension Agent Karen Carter. “And it’s generally a faster process.”
Tomatoes, say the folks at the Burpee Seed Company, are America’s favorite vegetable. Fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes are delicious. The lycopene they contain is good for your heart. And, provided they are properly cared for, a standard tomato plant can yield 10 to 15 pounds or more of fruit.
In Central Virginia tomatoes are usually transplanted into the garden in early May, but even now you have time to plant tomatoes since the growing season stretches into early October.
Gorgeous roses have bloomed all around us during the last month, and seeing them tempts gardeners and landowners to add these magnificent plants to their landscapes.
Many, many varieties are available, and choosing the right rose to get what you want can be confusing.
Just some of the options include hybrid teas, floribundas, grandifloras, and miniatures. Then there are old garden and modern roses, and shrub, tree and climbing roses. And, of course, there are also the ramblers and the polyanthas.
Now that lawns are greening up, it’s time to consider best practices for mowing your grass.
“How you mow is important,” advises Henrico Extension Agent Karen Carter. “One of the best ways to prevent weeds in your lawn is to mow correctly.”
Start by checking the blade on your mower. It needs to be sharp so that you don’t chew off or shred your grass, which makes it vulnerable to disease and attacks by insects.
The blade needs to be set high enough to leave grass at least 3 inches high. “This is probably the most important thing,” said Carter. “Mowing high improves root growth and helps shade out weed seedlings. You’ll still have some weeds, but the number will be greatly reduced.”
Ever feel guilty about throwing all those plastic garden pots in the trash can? Well, here’s good news. Now you can recycle them.
A number of local garden centers are participating in a plastic pot recycling program that enables gardeners to get rid of those pots without adding to the local landfill.
“The project was intended to help people responsibly get rid of their pots by recycling,” said Dr. Joyce Latimer, an Extension Specialist at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Dr. Latimer coordinates the program that began in Henrico in 2010 and was taken state-wide last year.
Would you like to have a vegetable garden but don’t think it’s possible this year?
A lack of space, experience or resources such as tools or money to buy seeds and bedding plants doesn’t need to stand in your way. Applications for Gardens Growing Families, a community garden program for county residents, are now being accepted at the Henrico Extension Office.
Planting times for vegetables vary depending upon the type of vegetable and the date of the average last killing frost in an area. In Henrico County, the average last killing frost is approximately April 15 so vegetable gardeners can use mid-April as the starting point for deciding when to plant their gardens.
Hardy vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and onions can be planted as early as four weeks before the last killing frost, which means these plants can be put into the garden any time now.
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