Prevent Moss Buildup

As the wet weather returns, moss starts growing again in shaded and other areas which stay constantly moist on top of the soil. Applying “Moss Out” or other moss killing products now, will reduce or prevent this buildup. All the products which are for use around plants contain an iron compound such as iron sulfate. They not only kill moss, but also provide iron, an important nutrient which stimulates chlorophyll production in plants and produces a dark green color. If you have not applied fertilizer this fall, you can apply a combination fertilizer/moss control product. Moss control products for concrete, wood and other surfaces contain zinc instead of iron. Iron stains concrete a rust color, so do not apply plant moss control products to concrete. Let us know if you would like us to apply one of these products for you.

Bulb Digging and Storage

Many summer flowering bulbs will freeze if left in the ground over winter. Gladiolus, Canna, Ranunculus and Anemone normally survive. Dahlias sometimes survive, but it is safer to dig them. Tuberous Begonias seldom survive unless planted near a building or other protected area.

The best time to dig is after frost has damaged the tops but it has not gotten cold enough to freeze bulbs in the ground. That is usually about mid November. After digging, cut off the tops leaving an inch or two of stem. Bulbs can be washed with water or simply brushed to remove dirt. They should be air dried a few days in a location where they will not freeze. After drying, stems usually separate easily from the bulbs. Dahlias with multiple tubers can be divided. Make sure each tuber has an attached growing point.

I like to use dry vermiculite or sawdust to store bulbs. This prevents them from drying too much. Best storage temperature is between 35 and 50 degrees F. They can be stored in a refrigerator if there is nothing else which generates humidity.

This is also a good time to divide and replant hardy bulbs such as iris and lilies. Iris should be dug and replanted about every 3 to 4 years. The older, inner rhizomes should be discarded and the outer, newer ones replanted. Tops can be cut back to 4 to 6 inches in length.

Lily bulbs also become too crowded after 3 to 4 years in the same location. Bulbs can be dug up and spaced so they are about 6 inches apart.

Now is also the time to plant hardy, spring flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Bulbs give the best landscape effect when planted in clusters of at least 6 bulbs. Spring flowering bulbs can be planted in annual flower beds. Then new annual flowers can be planted between the bulbs next spring.

Fall Pruning

For most plants, fall is an excellent time to prune. By now plants have become dormant and pruning will not stimulate new growth. However, spring-flowering shrubs have their flower buds already set. Pruning now will remove many of those buds and reduce next spring’s bloom.

Avoid using power clippers or shears to prune unless you want a formal shape such as a hedge or upright cone. Shearing causes plants to grow very thick with multiple branching on the outer edges. Inner tissue is shaded and stops producing leaves.

Most plants should be pruned one branch at a time if you want to maintain a natural shape and thickness. Upper branches grow faster than lower ones so they should be shortened more. Otherwise you end up with an “upside down” look with upper branches shading lower ones. Shaded branches begin to lose their leaves. When shortening a branch, try to prune it a little shorter than surrounding branches. This way the stub will be hidden inside other growth. Prune just above a side branch if possible. This keeps the natural thickness of the plant.

Not all shade trees need to have lower branches pruned up to 6 feet or higher. Lower branches can be beautiful if they are growing in an area where there is no conflict with traffic. Evergreen trees can have branches clear to the ground. If their branches touch the ground most weeds and grass will not grow underneath because of lack of light. Fallen needles can be left underneath as mulch.

Young shade trees will develop larger, stronger trunks if lower branches are allowed to grow for the first few years. The leaves on lower branches produce food which feeds the trunk area where they are growing. Lower branches can be shortened to keep them from growing too large. Once the trunk is strong and well established, lower branches can be removed.

When branches 3 inches or larger in diameter are removed, they should not be cut flush with the trunk or larger branch. A collar of one fourth to one half inch will leave vital wound healing tissue.

We can prune your trees and shrubs with natural pruning methods. This keeps the natural shape and thickness of growth.

Living and Fresh Christmas Trees

Many Christmas trees are grown on large plantations in the Pacific Northwest and shipped to all parts of the country. In addition, we have many smaller choose and cut growers within easy driving distance of most metro areas. Cutting your own tree from one of these plantations ensures freshness. Using a water holding stand can also keep a tree fresh and soft for a month or longer.

Living Christmas trees, growing in pots, are sold in local nurseries. These trees can be planted outside after Christmas. However, remember that most tree varieties used for Christmas trees ultimately grow to a height of 50 to 100 feet. So they should be planted where they have room to grow.

Indoor Plants

As the sun gets lower in the winter sky and days become shorter, less and less natural light reaches indoor plants. We also have more cloudy days in winter, which further reduces natural daylight. To compensate for lower light conditions you can move plants closer to windows, and make sure that curtains are open during daylight.

South facing windows have the highest light conditions. East and west windows are next. North facing windows get no direct sunlight, but still provide indirect light which is brighter than locations some distance from windows.

Even low light requiring plants such as Dracaena, Chinese evergreen, and Peace Lily can be placed directly in south facing windows from now until early March. However, medium and high light requiring plants should get preference if space is limited. Use east, west, or north facing windows, when necessary, for lower light plants. African Violets thrive in north windows year round.

Plant leaves naturally turn toward the light. Plants grow lop-sided if they are not turned periodically, especially when growing in windows. Rotate plant ¼ turn once each week. If you want some plants further from windows for decorative purposes, trade them with other plants closer to windows so they get some bright light during the month.

If you are not sure of the relative light needs of your indoor plants, buy or borrow a book on indoor plants from the library. Most books have pictures so you can compare them with your plants even if you do not remember the plant names. In most cases, you are better off with low light requiring plants. Maybe it is time to replace some of your struggling high light plants with those which require less light.