Gardeners are by nature, adept weather watchers. Some of us are better with pictures than with words. This is also true with weather predictions. Thanks to the National Center for Atmospheric Weather (NCAR), here is a link to a great web site that graphically shows you the next 48 hours of weather. It is helpful in allowing you to envision where the fronts are coming from and the severity of the future weather. See the link here.
Before it gets really cold, check the garage, storage shed and yard for a roundup of your tools, sprinklers and hoses.
• Scrape the dirt off the tools and rub vegetable oil on the handles and blades to prevent rust and wood cracks.
• Drain and store your sprinklers and hoses.
• If water is left in plastic sprinklers, ice may form and crack them if they are stored where it gets below freezing. Don’t forget to bring in water timers too!
• Check and clean out the gutters. This can prevent possible basement flooding.
• Sweep your chimney to prevent a chimney fire. If you are comfortable getting up on and being up on your roof you can purchase a chimney sweep tool and do this yourself.
• Rake up your leaves and compost them or use a blower/vac to suck them up which also grinds them into a fine mulch that you can apply to your growing beds. You can also mow your leaves into tiny pieces with an electric or gas powered mower which makes a great soil amendment for your lawn.
If you want to protect your garden follow these tips
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1) These crops need no extra covering or protection unless the temperature goes down to the low 20’s F.: any leafy or root crops such as lettuce, spinach, carrots, turnips. Also crops like peas, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower will survive light frosts and actually may become sweeter. Continue to harvest into the fall as long as possible.
2) These plants need protection: fruiting crops such as tomatoes, peppers or squash. Other crops susceptible to light frost include the beans, herb basil, and most annual ornamental plants. Perennials are usually fine in a light frost.
3) Frost usually (but not always) occurs on cloudless nights when high pressure moves in. When there is moisture in the air the first frost is less likely (but you never know!).
4) Use a blanket or plastic sheet to protect plants from a light frost but anchor the covering with a brick or rock to prevent it from blowing off.
Researchers at the University of Nebraska have been testing grapes in Scottsbluff for 10 years. They have identified the following varieties for having good yield and hardiness potential: Frontenac, Valiant, Leon Millot, Marechal Foch, Elvira and deChaunac.
While Scottsbluff is a bit milder than most of Wyoming’s cities it still may be good to consider these varieties for Wyoming’s High Plains.
Tomatillos are a cousin to tomatoes. Tomatillo fruit are treasured as an essential ingredient in making authentic green salsa. They produce fruit ranging from a large marble to golf ball size inside a papery husk. They grow best in full sun and in a warm spot and can be treated in a similar manner as tomatoes.
When ripe the husk turns tan and the fruit may or may not change color from green to pale yellow. For best storage leave the husks on until you are ready to use. They need to pollinate each other for best fruit set so always grow more than a few plants.
Hedges are living fences. They block wind, noise, neighbors and enclose space with a green wall. One unusual choice for a hedge is the common blue spruce.
A spruce hedge is both impenetrable and green year-round. The Cheyenne Botanic Gardens has a great example of a spruce hedge. We started with low cost, small blue spruce trees, which if left to their own, would grow into full-sized trees.They were planted in a straight line on 4′ centers.
By simply pruning the tips each June, we were able to trigger intense bushiness. Then as they approached the desired size and height, we began shaping the hedge with regular pruning (about once or twice each year in June and sometimes again later in the summer). Unlike many hedges, a spruce hedge totally impenetrable to people, dogs and the wind. It also a great wildlife habitat as it it always filled with many different birds who enjoy the protection that this hedge provides.
Fresh, cut flowers are readily available. For the best presentation, avoid distracting over-decorated vases. Don’t allow flower stems to cross above the vase’s rim. The heaviest flowers and leaves go at the lower positions. Put darker flowers in lower positions and lighter colors towards the top. Don’t make the vase top heavy. Often one flower in a small vase works better than a complicated bouquet.
Have you seen a moth that flies like a hummingbird? It is likely a “hornworm,” and are also are known as hawk, sphinx, or hummingbird moths. There are dozens of species found in Wyoming and they are among the largest of caterpillars, measuring up to ½ around and up to 4” long. Many have the characteristic horn. Most do little harm to crops and are fun to watch and help with some plant pollination.
However, the tomato hornworm species can do significant damage in a short amount of time in the garden. Look for larges holes in the leaves and you can’t miss the caterpillar with a horn on one end doing the eating. These caterpillars can be easily handpicked off plants (a great job for bug-loving kids).
Suckers, also known as “water sprouts,” are notorious for sprouting from the base and crotches of some trees. They grow fast and straight. These succulent shoots are more susceptible to disease and insects. Prune these suckers on a regular basis. They occur most frequently on Canada Red Cherry, crab apples, and many other trees. Over-fertilization may trigger the production of sprouts.
Don’t give these suckers a break!
One of the joys of having a flower garden is cutting your own bouquets. When you look at the price of store bought bouquets a cutting garden can also save you lots of money.
There are many great choices for cut flowers for the High Plains including dahlias, sweet peas, zinnias, snapdragons, sunflowers, black-eyed Susan’s, lilies, daisies, roses, and gladiolas. Cut flowers last longer if you harvest them in the morning and cut the stem at a slant. For hollow stemmed flowers, hold the flower up side down and fill the stem with water. Flowers with milky sap are best preserved if burnt at the cut end before placing in a vase of water. Roses are best cut as soon as a second petal unfurls. (more…)