Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hairstyles of the Fresh and Fragrant

Braiding. Cutting. Trim. Shave. Sure, sounds like a crash course at Supercuts. But this isn't about the latest styles of your coiffure. It's all about the foliage of your Spring bulbs. Or ANY bulb for that matter!

A certain "do-it-yourselfer" who shall remain nameless (only because we love Martha), use to teach and demonstrate on national TV how to braid your foliage. It was stylish, it was très chic, and for that reason people felt that they HAD to do the latest and greatest thing. When in fact, it's the second worst thing you can do to your foliage behind mowing it down too early. So, what do you do? Well, the answer to that can be found in a quick trip, back in time, to your middle school earth science class. Let's go, shall we? (Whooosh...)

Wow! So this is your old middle school, huh? Nice. It smells of canned vegetable medley and old sweat socks. And is this your earth science teacher? Holy beehive, Batman, how much hairspray did she use to get all of that hair to stay up that high? Apparently, she hasn't heard about the ozone layer yet. Ah, but it seems she does know about plant health and how they take care of themselves through photosynthesis. You remember, the synthesis of organic compounds from carbon dioxide and water, with the release of oxygen, using light energy absorbed by chlorophyll. See! After all these years, you thought you'd forgotten all of that stuff. On the way back we'll stop by 'Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader' and fill out an application for you. ANYWAY...in layman's terms, the plants photosynthesize to create food energy and this energy can be stored into the bulb for next years blooms. Uh, oh...speaking of "next year", we better get back. I think that's the principal and he's eyeballing us with that paddle in his hand. (Whoooosh....)

Ok, let's review what we've learned. By leaving the foliage alone, it allows the plant to do what it should do naturally. Don't braid or tie it, because that just decreases the amount of surface space that can absorb the sun's rays and help with photosynthesis. Don't bother with it at all. Let it do it's thing and let it feed itself. Yes, put away the sippy cups and wide handled forks, this plant is a big boy now and can feed itself! Without you! I know, it hurts to think that this plant doesn't need you, but I'll give your ego a boost in the next paragraph. When it starts turning yellow, the photosynthesizing is complete and then you can feed that odd desire to brutally mow it down. Or better yet, for Spring bulb foliage, plant Daylilies with them and the Daylily foliage will come up and hide the dying foliage.

 Ok, here's your ego boost. The bulb does need you! ("They like me, they REALLY like me!") Yep, every Fall your bulbs need to be fed to restore the nutrients they depleted in the Spring. A simple compost on top will work just fine or whatever you want to use. But, here's what that does. Because you let the bulb be a big bulb and feed itself last Spring without interference, it already has some stored energy in the bulb. Then, by feeding it in the Fall during its root production period, you've added even more energy. You've given it everything it needs to explode in the Spring, full of strength, confidence, and vigor, ready to be an even bigger bulb! Hey, who knows, maybe it might ask to borrow the car next year.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Deadhead - Not Just Band Groupies Anymore

Although "Deadheads", or Grateful Dead groupies, are still around, this post has NOTHING what-so-ever to do with them following the band around the country! It DOES, however, have everything to do with keeping your garden clean, beautiful and healthy.

Deadheading involves the removal of the expired bloom of a plant. And it's one of the easiest most enjoyable parts of gardening! Now, you may think to yourself, "Why would taking off a dead bloom, ala Marie Antoinette, be enjoyable?" Well, think about it. Most blooms are within reach without kneeling, so it's easy on the body, young or old. It keeps the garden looking tidy and makes your garden visually more appealing. And it only takes a few minutes of your day, so not a lot of time needs to be spent doing it. In fact, make it a habit to grab a friend or loved one, pour a glass of wine or two (two meaning one for you, one for them, not "two-fisting" it!) and take a stroll to enjoy your garden. While you walk and admire the beauty, the sweetly fresh scents, and the joy of being outdoors, just reach down and..."pop"...off with their heads! Doing this every day or every other day not only gives you a great way to wrap up your day, but takes care of the deadheading situation with little to no effort. But, there's another reason to do this that is beneficial to the plant.

Most bulb plants like Daffodils and Tulips have heavy pollen. It is not blow by the typical breeze. They have no nectar so, usually, bees don't root around in there and pollinate it. But, if by chance one IS pollinated, removing the dead bloom keeps the bulb from creating seed. And the energy that would have been wasted creating the seed is now stored in the bulb and saved for next year's blooms. Along with letting the foliage continue to photosynthesize until it dies back (another story for another day) and feeding the bulbs every Fall (like you ALWAYS do, right?), this will give the bulb the highest concentration of stored energy that it needs to show off for you again and again! Speaking of again and again...

Some plants, like Dahlias, will actually bloom over and over within the same growing season if they are deadheaded regularly. By deadheading them, the plant believes that it has not "done its thing", and will put out another bloom. Keep deadheading it, and subsequently confusing the hell out of the plant, and it will keep on keepin' on!

Deadheading. Easy. Fun. Enjoyable. Beneficial.