December Gardening

THERE may be some who think it is a little late to talk about winter protection of plants in December, but as a matter of fact, mDecember gardeningost growers are agreed that the really critical tune for plants which are on the borderline of hardiness is in late winter when a warm sun, combined with drying winds, takes moisture from leaves and branches at a time when roots are unable to replenish it owing to the cold or frozen earth. Therefore, if you have procrastinated do not worry unduly, but on the other hand, do not delay much longer.

Pruning

Advantage should betaken of those days when it is comfortable to work out-of-doors to get busy with any pruning of trees and shrubs, which may be necessary. It is especially desirable to get an early start on pruning those trees which “bleed” if pruned in late winter or early spring. Although we are told that this bleeding does not do any harm, it does prevent one from promptly applying a protective coat of paint to the wound. So, if you have any maples which have to be pruned, doit now or wait until midsummer. Dead and diseased branches should be the first to receive attention. Whether or not to cut off any of the healthy ones depends upon the purpose you have in view. If’ it is a matter of improving the symmetry of the tree, that can be done now, but if you have a tree which is growing too vigorously and you wish to restrain it, it would be better to wait until the summer pruning in winter stimulates vigorous shoot growth, while summer pruning tends to cheek it.

Don’t prune shrubs indiscriminately

Before pruning shrubs one should have a good knowledge of their flower bearing habits, otherwise harm rather than good may result. Most of the early blossoming shrubs start the formation of their flower buds in the fall and any extensive pruning during the time that the bushes are dormant results in the diminution of the number of flower,produced the following spring. A good point to bear in mind when pruning is to prone in such a way that the natural shape of the bash is maintained. Usually this means that priming should be a thinning process, restricted to the removal of dead and worn-out brandies.

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Before disposing, of the prunings via the bonfire, look them over with a view to saving any which are likely to be of value next year as a plant support. Many low-growing perennials of sprawling habit, such as Veronica, Teucrium, Potentilla, Coreopsis, and Gypsophila, can be more effectively and artistically supported by means of twiggy growth pushed into the grounds around them before they have completed their growth,than they can be by the more usual method of stakes and twine. If the plant one wishes to support are to be grown in rows, making fan-shaped supports desirable, the prunings selected should be laid on the ground and weighted witha plank to press them to the required shape. If this is done fairly early in the winter they will retain the desired form when the plank is removed prior to using them..

Pests

Those who live in sections, which are bothered by tent caterpillars, gypsy moth, and tussock moth, could advantageously spend a little time during the winter hunting for and destroying the egg masses of these pests. The mahogany brown ones of the tent caterpillar are found on young twigs in a band almost completely encircling them. Usually the most convenient way of getting rid of them is to clip off the twig with the eggs attached and destroy by burning. Gypsy moths and tussock moths lay their eggs in clusters. The mechanical removal of the eggs, or daubing them with a paint brush moistened with creosote is a useful winter chore.

Any garden debris which might harbor insect or fungus pests and, therefore, is not suited for the compost pile should be destroyed by burning. This includes Peony tops, which may carry the botrytis fungus, and fallen Rose leaves, which harbor the winter spores o black spot.

Propagation

It is not too late to make hardwood cuttings of deciduous shrubs. These, as mentioned in a previous calendar (October), should be cut in lengths of from 6 to 10 inches,tied in bundles and buried in moist sand or peat moss and kept cold, but not freezing, during the winter. If a greenhouse has available cuttings of evergreens such as Arborvitae, Taxus, Juniper, Teucrium chamaedrys, Box and Euonymus, can be inserted in the propagating bench.

Forced bulbs. Bulbs should be brought in at intervals from the planting pit outdoors for forcing in the home or greenhouse. Do not expose them to too high a temperature at first. Give them a few weeks at a temperature of 50° and then raise it to 65°.

By C. Grayson


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