Mike explains how to safely rid your soil of wasps, the best way to protect your potted plants through the winter, how to get slugs out of your garden, when and how to plant spring bulbs, using iced tea grounds in your compost and how to keep deer away from your plants and trees. Plus Mike talks with author George Adams about his new book Gardening for the Birds.
Question of the Week:
“I wrap my young trees every winter to protect them from deer rubbing their antlers and destroying the bark—and in some cases, the trees. (Before I started doing this, I had the bark completely stripped off some of my young trees, which of course then died. But I haven’t had a single scratch in the three years I’ve been wrapping the trees from mid-October through February.) I use rolls of six-inch wide professional paper and fiber mesh wraps to cover the trees from about a foot off the ground to a height of around four feet. Both work well, but it seems like 36” fiberglass window screening would work just as well, and be a lot easier for me to apply. Your thoughts please.”
— John from McLean, Virginia
Photo by Flickr user Chiot’s Run
Highlights from show for November 2, 2013:
Safely ridding your soil of wasps
Vicki in Ayden, North Carolina has a “Jumping Iris” that Mike admits he’s never heard of! However, once she describes this orchid like plant that also acts like an indoor spider plant Mike wants one of his own. However, to her utter dismay, Vicki found wasps living in the soil of this plant, so Mike recommends arming herself and a friend with cooking spray to coat the wasps if they try to attack while cleaning away debris with heavy gloves. “Essentially what your doing is using a horticultural oil which is a century old non-toxic insect remedy.” If no nest is found then Vicki should take the plant somewhere else and drench it with water to take care of any nest that might still be in the soil.
Protecting potted plants through the winter
Jay from Pomeroy, Pennsylvania is not sure what to do with his outdoor potted plants over the winter season. Mike warns that leaving a dormant plant in a pot outdoors in the winter will kill not only the plant but the pot as well. Mike explains: “When wet soil freezes, it expands incredibly and it would absolutely shatter your terracotta pot, or even glazed pots. I’ve seen it make splits in plastic pots that I’ve forgot to dump the soil out of.” So to protect the plants and their pots, Mike recommends two courses of action. If working with plastic pots, Jay can dig holes in the ground and bury the pot to protect the plant’s roots during the winter chill. In the spring time, the pots can be dug back up and placed back on the porch. Terracotta pots do not fare as well when buried, however, as they tend to crack. To care for a plant that’s been in a terracotta pot, Mike recommends removing the plant from the pot, burying the dormant root system in the yard and storing the pot indoors. In the springtime, the plant can be dug up and transplanted back into its original pot.
Special guest: George Adams
Mike speaks with author George Adams who has a new book out called Gardening for the Birds: How to Create a Bird-Friendly Backyard. George talks about designing your garden with these feathery creatures in mind, which will help control pest insects and help bolster the beneficial ones. George also urges gardeners, and the country as a whole, to put up more bird houses, because it could be a way to stop our dependency on pesticides to control unwanted insects that are eating our crops.
“I think the bird song should be louder. We’re losing so many birds … I guess my vision would be to let the birds do the job that they were doing before the pesticide companies came in.”
Getting the slugs out of your garden
Barbara in Wrangell, Alaska needs help controlling the huge slugs eating her strawberries. Since it’s light all summer long there and dark in the winter the summer growing season for strawberries is actually very good. There are many remedies for slugs, but Mike recommends, “For long term protection— something you do once and then don’t have to do again— there’s nothing better than copper.” Specifically he recommends using copper flashing to deter slugs from entering Barbara’s garden.
Preparing to plant spring bulbs
Ben from Yardley, Pennsylvania is wondering how to plant spring bulbs that will grow at varying heights. Mike explains that it’s important to pay attention to the life cycle of the bulb. Mike explains, “After the bulb show is over, if you want these bulbs to flower again the following year, you have to let their greenery alone until it turns brown … If you do it correctly, the newly emerging bulbs hide the greenery of the old ones, often long enough for some of that greenery to turn brown, so you’re always seeing flowers. That’s how I like to do it.” Mike further recommends that with spring bulbs, the more the better! Mike will plant some bulbs at quantities of 500 to create an explosion of color in the spring.
Photo by Flickr user Chiot’s Run
Iced tea grounds for compost?
Mary from south Florida works in a restaurant and has access to a lot of coffee grounds as well as iced tea grounds. She would like to know if ice tea grounds are as effective as coffee grounds as a compost materials. Mike explains that the best compost has a lot of brown material, like dry leaves. Mike muses: “I have been thinking about this tea issue, and I’m thinking that rather than being like coffee grounds, I think used tea leaves are more like tree leaves.” So Mike recommends that Mary would benefit from adding these grounds to her compost mix.