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.