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Toughen up Your Perennials
April 25, 2011

Thank you Everyone for the Easter wishes and Blessings.

I hope you too enjoyed a wonderful Easter season and Resurrection Sunday.

As I mentioned in my Easter letter, it is the most important time of the year.

Because it is considered a religious day, it comes with little fanfare.

Thank you everyone that took the time to share a bit on your favorites or what you look forward to about spring.

I enjoy doing that, and the comments I receive tells me you do too.

I'll be doing something again later on.

Again, our prayers go out to all that are effected by the weather and the fires in Texas (weather related).

We enter the last full week of April, yet, many of us experienced snow and winter type weather this past week.

The cold has slowed the growth of many perennials as well as buds opening on shrubs and trees.

One plus...............................

Daffodil blooms last longer and they handle the snow too.

(There are pictures as you read along to enjoy as well.)

The cold hasn't slowed down the local birds from nesting as witnessed by the picture of the robin nest with eggs.

I enjoyed watching a pair of White breasted nuthatches, as she was bus building a nest in a natural cavity at the end of a large oak branch, while he was busy pecking away for food.

Male Canada geese now stand watch as their mate sits on the nest.

Around here, Most of the female Mallard ducks are nesting and the males are now hanging out in small flocks, doing their own thing.

As I mentioned last week, the male duck isn't the devoted mate, or parent like the goose is.

Migration continues.......................................

Annual visitors to my yard are a couple of Rufous sided towhees.

They hop back and forth as they scratch up and toss leaves around as they scrounge for food under the leaf litter I leave (partly for this reason).

They also search the edges of the lawn for something to eat

I have also spotted a couple of White-crowned sparrows, not photo worthy, however.

I currently have more Dark-eyed juncos than I ever had during the winter.

Yes, they are getting ready more a mass exodus north.

One day I will look out the windows and they will be gone.

We have one last Spring favorite to wrap up the month.

Paulette from Pleasant View, TN:

One of the first signs of spring in my neck of the woods is to watch the deciduous trees began to show a red tint on the branches just before the seeds and leaves form. It is a beautiful sight to watch the transformation after seeing them standing bare all winter! This year the daffodils, Lenten roses and other early bloomers were magnificent! Also, the cherry and Japanese magnolia trees thrilled me with their beautiful blooms! Now the iris, Japanese red honeysuckle, and azaleas are showing off their gorgeous colors!

In the animal world the Purple martins, bluebirds, chickadees, Tree swallows, and other species are busy building their various nests. Some of the bluebirds have already laid their lst clutch of eggs!

God has blessed us with so much beauty.

Thank You and Amen Paulette.

That red tint you see from a distance are the trees in bloom. Thousands upon thousands of tiny red blooms that produce the seeds.

Again, thank you everyone for your participation, what a diverse bunch you are.

Mothers Day is early this year.

Second Sunday is May 8 this year.

I know many moms get stuff for the yard and gardens.

Some even get a new bird feeder or two.

If you are asking for a new hummingbird or other type of bird feeder, be sure to ask for and give specifics, if at all possible.

The best hummingbird feeders are the saucer or disk styles with the feeder ports on top.

Aspect's 'Hummzinger' is the best on the market.

You pay a few dollars more, but you have a feeder that is made in America, and comes with warranties,

It is bee resistant, with a built in ant moat and so easy to clean and fill, you will wonder why you never had one before.

Tube and Hopper style feeders need to be functional as well.

Cute isn't always practical.

Especially when it comes to bird feeders.

A couple of weeks ago, Karen spotted this bird feeder (pictured).

It said it was squirrel resistant.

Karen thought it was cute.

We are now proud owners of a bird feeder that will never get used as a bird feeder in my yard.

Why, it isn't functional enough.

Sure the birds can feed, but how am I going to clean this thing.

It is virtually impossible to get it clean.

Another issue..........................

The cute lid keeps blowing open.

So much for squirrel resistant.

Hopper feeders should be sturdy and well built as well.

Wood should be screwed together, not stapled.

Easy to fill and easy to clean.

Tubes and hoppers should be designed to have drainage so your seed and feed isn't sitting in water to spoil on you.

A few dollars spent now on quality, will save you several dollars later on.

Spend your hard earned money on function and spend your money for cute, on other things in side the house or real yard art.

Getting Ready to Plant You Perennials?

You need to do a couple of things first.

You may grow your own perennials from seed or cuttings.

Or you may purchase them from a catalog or local garden center.

If you are like me, probably all three.

Don't be in a hurry to get your prizes in the ground.

Don't get me wrong, they need to get planted as soon as possible.

However, not just yet.

There are a couple of things you need to do first.

Especially if you live in more northern regions.

Number One is to toughen your plants up.

You read that correctly.

Your perennials have spent the past few months in greenhouses, maybe your living room window, and other warm locations.

Just like annuals, they need to harden off before you plant.

That's right, get used to the local climate.

Not just the cold but the sun as well.

A few hours a day in some early day or late afternoon sun before they get an all day blast.

Just like you and me.

That first day of warmth and sunshine, you want to spent all day outside.

By the time evening rolls around, your tender, pasty, winter skin is feeling the pain.

In a few days or so, you may even start to peel.

Plants don't have that luxury, without a hardening off period, or getting used to the elements, your plants will suffer dearly or possibly die.

Yes, your new and tender perennials will fry (just like your house plants and annuals) id they don't have time to harden off.


While your perennials are hardening off, you have time to prepare the locations you intend to place your new plants.

For all of you seasoned gardeners, I realize I am preaching to the choir.

However, we continue to attract new readers and new gardeners that may not have the years of experience.

If you get bare root plants and can't get them in the ground right away, try potting them up and bring them in and out as needed.

Don't keep them in the bags or packages.

Even refrigeration isn't as good as planting them in a pot for now, where they can strtch their roots.

I'm doing this with several plants as I write this to you.

My bare root plants are growing a strong root system, growing leaves and hardening off at the same time.

Make sure your bare root plants are well hydrated before you plant in a pot or the ground.

You can do this by snipping a very small portion of the roots and placing your plants in room temperature water.

By sniping the roots, the plants sucks up more water and this also forces the roots to scar over and grow many new feeding roots.

More roots, a stronger and healthier plant.

When the weather allows, you can properly prepare the locations You intend to plant in.

Site preparation is very important

Now, perennials offer a wide variety of forms, colors, textures and sizes, for sunny, shaded, wet and dry settings.

Some plants require a rich loam, while others actually prefer a sandy or poor soil.

A carefully planned garden will provide the needs for the right plants.

If you can't meet the needs of a plant, save your money.

Understand how large a plant is going to get when mature.

You may even want to design your beds on graph paper and place plants as mature plants, not as the babies they are now.

You can always fill in with annuals for a year or two.

Now, take time to prepare the soil where you intend to plant.

Dig and loosen the soil, at least twice as deep and twice as wide as the container they are in.

Loosened soil also adds oxygen to the soil (required by plant roots).

Fluff up the root ball and if roots are winding around the pot, score the roots in a few places and then fluff out.

This forces new root growth and stops the girdling cycle that will eventually choke of and kill a plant

For bare root plants, do the same and spread the roots out

Amend the soil where required. .

Allow for proper drainage (amending helps).

Use organic material if possible as this adds nutrients and beneficial microbes to your flower beds.

Organic matter like compost, leaf mold, well-aged manure, and peat moss.

By working in the organic material and soil amendments, you increase the availability of air and water to the plant.

Plants will be healthy and less stressed. improving their ability to fend off pests and diseases

Remember to plant like needs with like needs (sun, shade, damp, dry, etc.).

Back fill the hole and tap firm, but not too firm or you will compact the air right out of the soil you so carefully prepared.

Leave a slight saucer shape around your plants to hold water (This should be loose soil, not packed to allow for

Water now and as needed.

Even if a plant is considered drought resistant, it is still a new plant the first year and requires water on a regular basis the first year.

Don't plant it and leave it.

Side Note:

Plant no deeper than what is growing in the pot.

Bare root plants can vary, with plant crowns being at the soil surface and roots with eyes should be planted slightly below the soil surface.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

"Remember three things and save yourself lots of heartache:

You're not God.

This ain't heaven.

Don't act like a jerk."

Rev. James Martin

Here is something to remember...................

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

Jesus in Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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