Six Garden Chores Not Worth Doing — Grumpy’s Gift to You

December 13, 2010 | By | Comments (15)

Wow, did you see this video of the football stadium in Minnesota collapsing under the weight of 16 inches of snow? (If you haven’t, just watch the first 15 seconds.) Grumpy couldn’t sleep all night, fearing that the roof of the cardboard box he’s been living in since the Madoff scandal would be next!

For the record, we’ve had snow flurries in Birmingham for two straight days now, which is enough to paralyze this city for a week and send frenzied mobs of looters into supermarkets making off with every roll of toilet paper they can haul! Wish I had a few rolls. I’d use them for insulation.

Heavy snow may be a pain for the masses, but for gardeners it’s a blessing. After all, when your garden is under two feet of snow, no work in it can be done. Even after the snow melts, some garden chores are just not worth doing. Like these.

Painting Tree Wounds. Jane asks, “When you prune [your tree or shrub] in winter, do you need to treat the cut area with anything to keep out bugs and disease?

Grumpy’s 100% Guaranteed Correct Answer: No. Tree wound paints are absolutely useless. Just make a clean cut and the tree or shrub will heal itself.

Planting Flowers for Your Wedding.  Ket writes, “I am planning to grow flowering bulbs for my wedding. I want whites, pinks, and reds for centerpieces. When should I plant the bulbs so they bloom at the right time?”

Grumpy’s  Extraordinarily Sensitive Advice: Never. The Grump gets many questions like this and his answer is always the same. For your wedding, you want everything to be perfect (don’t forget to pen up the hogs!). Unfortunately, flowers don’t care. They don’t care that you’re getting married on Saturday. They’re not blooming until Tuesday. So buy flowers from a florist. Sure, it costs a heck of a lot more, buy you’ll be guaranteed of having beautiful flowers in full bloom at the right time.

Digging Up Mushrooms. Shirley says, “Some mushrooms came up in the yard where I cut down a tree. One of them had a firm white mass that spread on the ground and was hard to dig out. How can I get rid of it?”

Grumpy’s Sage Suggestion: Wait a while. The white mass you see is called the mycelium — it’s the “body” of the fungus and makes up almost all of it. Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of the fungus. Their function is simply to spread around the spores. Most times, the mycelium is hidden beneath the soil surface, where it decomposes organic matter. However, after rainy periods, you’ll see it spreading on the soil surface. The fungus is undoubtedly living on the dead roots of the tree. Until those roots are totally consumed, the fungus will will remain, no matter what you do. So take a load off.

Planting Perennials.  Margie writes, “I bought an Oriental poppy collection that was supposed to arrive in October, but didn’t get here until last week. It is very cold here and the top inch of soil is frozen. Should I keep them in a box in a cold garage and hope they don’t rot? Or should I heel them in in a protected spot outside until spring?

Grumpy’s Rapid Fire Response: Those poppy plants need to be outside. I would find a protected location outside and heel them in (using ground bark mulch to cover the roots of the plants) and water well. You could also cover them lightly with leaves for extra protection. If snow falls on them, too, that’s OK.

Pruning Dead Branches:  Margaret says, “We have some large live oaks with dead limbs on them. They would cause no damage if they fall. Is it OK to let Mother Nature take them down eventually?”

Grumpy’s Common Sense Comment: Yes. Of course, if there are a lot of dead limbs, you might want an arborist to examine your trees to make sure they’re healthy. It’s also a good idea to prune off very large dead limbs, because when they finally fall, they may tear other branches or leave rotting stubs.

Aerating Your Soil Organically. Whitney writes, “I’ve seen my neighbors aerating their lawns. Upon doing some research, I stumbled across a liquid, organic product which claims to have “soil helpers” that naturally aerate and loosen soil. I would like an honest opinion from Your Grumpiness.

Grumpy’s Honest Opinion: Yes, Grumpy has heard of (and tried) those liquid aerators that claim to magically loosen clay soil. This claim meets a basic human need — fix something quickly and cheaply with no work. In Grumpy’s opinion, these products are useless. The best way to aerate your lawn is to rent a gas-powered core aerator that removes little plugs from the soil and drops them on the surface. Your lawn will look like a flock of geese is visiting, but the plugs will soon disintegrate. Do this once or twice a year.


  1. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Excellent question. Tulip poplar is slow to start blooming. It usually has to get quite tall first. How tall? That’s up to the tree. In any case, there is nothing your sister can do to speed it up.

    January 18, 2011 at 10:05 am
  2. Sue

    I dug up a small Tulip Poplar (TN’s state tree) that grew from seed from a large Tulip Poplar in my middle TN yard and gave it to my sister in Tupelo, MS. As the parent tree, mine has bloomed for years, but hers has never bloomed. It is now about 25′ tall. We want to know why there are no flowers? Thank you.

    January 17, 2011 at 2:18 pm
  3. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Been on vacation since Xmas, so sorry about the slow response. You may be able to save the flower if you put the broken stem in water, but doubt the plant will root.

    January 4, 2011 at 10:35 am
  4. Mary

    Two stems of my lenton rose broke off at the base. Each one had a flower bud. Will they survive if I put them in water or maybe in some potting soil?

    December 26, 2010 at 3:49 pm
  5. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    As always, glad to be of service.

    December 18, 2010 at 10:50 am
  6. Laura

    Excellent advice. Thank you both very much! Our palms came through just fine with our “mild” freeze on Thursday, but old man winter is still lurking out there somewhere. This year, I’m determined not to lose any of our palms!

    December 17, 2010 at 7:40 am
  7. Helen Yoest @ Gardening With Confidence

    As always Steve, great advice. H,

    December 16, 2010 at 6:18 pm
  8. Henry H.

    Laura, You definitley need to water well before the freeze. The ideology behind that is that if it does freeze, it will protect the roots, etc. from becoming any colder. The ice works as an insulator. That is why farmers will intentionally freeze their strawberries.

    December 16, 2010 at 1:57 pm
  9. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    I have no direct experience with protecting tender palms from freezing (all mine are hardy), but I do know this — it is critical to protect the growing point (called the apical meristem) atop each trunk. If it dies, the palm dies. So if possible, wrap that point with insulating material. The heat of Xmas lights might help a bit. There’s only one way to find out!

    December 15, 2010 at 5:02 pm
  10. Laura

    Hey Grumps, my question is about palm trees and the freeze that has hit here in the Tampa Bay area. We have two remaining Queen palm trees that survived last years freeze, but we lost 3 good sized palms at the time. Is there anything we can do this year to prevent it from happening again? The trees were about 20 yrs old so I thought they would be ok, but they succumbed anyway.
    Should I water before or after the freeze hits? One of my neighbors wrapped each of his coconut palms at the top of the trunk where the fronds come out and stuck christmas lights in there. Think that will help? Any tips or links you can provide will be most welcome!!

    December 15, 2010 at 10:56 am
  11. annie w

    Good advice on the wedding plants – my friend had pots and pots and post of plants that hadn’t flowered, and a panicked and expensive deal with a florist!

    December 14, 2010 at 12:13 pm
  12. Jim Long

    Probably in a thousand years or so, archeologists will be digging into our culture and finding abandoned football stadiums and claim it’s where Americans used to go to watch gladiators tear lions to shreds. They’d never believe it was guys running around in tights chasing a dead pigskin.
    Good set of chores that don’t need anything done for them. I can relax now. 🙂

    December 14, 2010 at 11:58 am
  13. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Grumpy has honed his laziness to a state of perfection — as his wife will testify to all who will listen.

    December 13, 2010 at 4:20 pm
  14. esh

    Cool tips – thanks a bunch. You are the king of lazy – and sometimes that is just fine.

    December 13, 2010 at 3:43 pm
  15. Henry H.

    That video reminds me of the last time I went to a party at Tony Montana’s house!!!!!!
    If I had a dollar for every time I was asked the wedding/bulb combo question, I could have paid for my wedding myself!!!
    Thanks for the tips Steve

    December 13, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s