Wasn't last weekend a beautiful time to get outdoors? I took advantage of the weather and walked around the yard to see what if any damage had been done by our local wildlife. It appears so far my gardens faired pretty well.
I know it may be tempting, but don't remove the burlap wraps from your arborvitae and other shrubs just yet. Remember there are a lot of hungry does eating for two at this time of year. Wait until the field grasses and weeds start growing and give the wildlife something green besides your landscape to munch on. Don't forget to get your pruning done now before your trees and shrubs break dormancy and the bugs come out. This is critical for fruit trees and grapes.
Don't remove mulch yet since we don't know where this rollercoaster of a winter is taking us. It's OK to cut down any dead perennial plant material including ornamental grasses it you left them up for the wildlife or winter interest. Speaking of winter interest, this year I left the heads on some of my Annabel hydrangea and they were quite an attractive addition to my winter landscape. If you didn't prune your hydrangea last fall, now would be a good time to do it. I have found that Annabels don't flop over in a heavy rain, if you don't prune them to the ground. I've been leaving mine about 18" tall. Just like trees and other shrubs, make your pruning cut at an angle, just above an outward growing bud.
In one of my previous articles I wrote about phenology or natural correlations that exist in nature. This weekend I read a great article that expanded on the few correlations I knew about so I wanted to share them with you. I'm sure many old time farmers are going to say this is nothing new, we already knew this, but us newbies, are still learning. So here goes. Plant peas when forsythia and daffodils bloom or when you hear spring peepers. Plant potatoes when the first dandelion blooms. Plant beets, carrots, cole crops, lettuce, and spinach when lilacs are in first leaf. Plant corn when oak leaves are the size of a squirrel's ear. Plant bean, cucumber and squash seeds when lilacs are in full bloom. Plant tomatoes when lily-of- the-valley are in full bloom. Transplant eggplant, melons, and peppers when irises bloom. Japanese beetles often arrive when morning glory vines begin to climb. When chicory flowers open, be on the lookout for squash vine borer moths. Grasshopper eggs hatch at about the time the common purple lilac blooms. Mexican bean beetles appear when foxgloves flower.
With phenology you can determine the right time to do things in your garden based on specific conditions at your site. You can be even more specific if you observe and keep a journal of every single garden activity. If you are starting seeds inside this year, note the date you started each variety of veggie, how long they took to germinate, did they get leggy before you could plant them, what date did you start setting them outside to harden off, and what date did you transplant them into the garden. Now, start journaling the weather conditions, and diseases and insects encountered if any and for how long. Your journal will be a valuable tool for next year's garden. You can make adjustment when appropriate and remember that the garden bugs were not there all summer, but only a few weeks.
Cydney Steeb, Advanced Master Gardener, can be contacted at Emmet Conservation District, 3434 M-119, Harbor Springs (231) 439-8977 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Her Gardening Wit and Wisdom column runs every Wednesday.