Porch Pots Create an “Oasis” for Thanksgiving Guests

11/22/2013 | Ken Lain, mountain gardener Container Gardens, Evergreen shrubs

Porch PotThanksgiving is just days away, family and friends ready to gather, and landscapes are dormant, bare, and almost ugly.  But they don’t have to be that way if we keep in mind that the eye naturally is drawn to any touch of beauty; that’s a phenomenon known as the “oasis effect”.  With landscapes dormant and void of vibrant beauty, anything that outshines drab surroundings will be the first thing the eye notices.

Strategically placed pots of pretty plants can create an oasis effect.  Concentrations of beauty, they cut through the drabness and offer a warm welcome as Thanksgiving guests arrive at our doors. This is why so many ‘Porch Pots’ find new homes just before Thanksgiving.  Porch pots are containers of flowers that are designed to be placed outside the front door, porch, or deck, and to keep their good looks right through winter.  If you are not cooking the family turkey this year, but are one of many guests contributing a side dish, an inexpensive porch pot is an excellent host/hostess gift.

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This is an exciting time at garden centers as stocks transition from autumn-colored trees to the exciting varieties of holiday plants.  Already the first crops of poinsettias and Christmas cacti have arrived; they will be followed the day after Thanksgiving with the first cut trees. There is nothing like the fragrance of freshly cut Christmas trees.  Can hardly wait!

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Garden Alert!  The extended warmth in autumn mixed with a little moisture has caused ‘Foxtails’ to start germinating two months earlier than usual.   A beautifully soft “grass” comes up until it reaches ankle height where it develops seed heads that act like little arrows.  Arrows that will pierce and lodge in your socks, the dog, and anything else that comes in contact with them. This is a nasty, nasty weed, but the good news is that it can be deterred.

Solution – You can pay a maintenance company close to $200 to spread weed preventer around your landscape or you can do it yourself in 10 minutes of easy work.  Spread “Crabgrass & Weed Preventer” from a hand spreader everywhere that problem weed areas exist.  The rain and snows of winter will break down this granular product and carry it into the soil and prevent this nasty weed’s seed from developing its taproot.  Without a taproot weeds are not able to take hold and grow to fruition. This simple garden project will keep you from dealing with hours of weeding, and a possible veterinarian bill if the family dog or cat sniffs a burr up its nose.

This preventative product is so selective that it is safe to spread through existing flowerbeds, around all shrubs, even roses, and under trees without damaging existing plants.  It is especially effective when used in grass lawns.  The product, spread like a fertilizer, keeps dandelions from coming up, but does not hurt the existing grass.

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Bulb storage – A wave of gardeners has been asking how to store summer bulbs through winter.  There seems to be some confusion from all the Google searches’ information.  Lets me make this issue very simple:

Garden_Bulbs-Daffodil.jpegSummer bulbs like dahlias, lilies, cannas, and gladiolas should not be allowed to freeze or they will not come up next spring.  Those of you living below a 5500-foot elevation have soils that don’t freeze deeply enough to pull bulbs from the ground.  A little extra insulation on top of a flowerbed will protect them enough.   Simply cover dormant bulbs with an extra six inches of composted mulch through winter and your bulbs can remain in the ground.  Next spring simply distribute these mini piles of compost through the rest of the bed and the nested bulbs will pop right back to life.

Gardeners that are above 5500 feet in altitude or live on the north side of the mountain where soils stay cool, it is recommended to pull bulbs from the ground and store them in a cool dry place like an unheated garage or basement.  The biggest danger is bacteria feeding on the sugar retained in these roots.  If left unchecked they can devour stored roots before replanting in March.  There are a couple steps to take for proper storage.

Wash the soil off the roots to be stored.  Dip each root cluster in a liquid solution of organic ‘Copper Fungicide‘.   This anti-fungal solution will prevent bacteria from feeding on the roots during their winter rest. Garden books suggest storing roots in sawdust so bulbs remain dry.  For those of you in ranch country, barnyard animal bedding works just as well.  Also, I have used shredded cedar bark with equal success.  If you only have a few bulbs to store, a paper bag works well as does a cardboard box with pages of my garden column to separate layers of bulbs. As the objective is to prevent moisture build-up through winter, refrain from using plastic bags.

If you need further details or solutions, on your next visit please don’t hesitate to ask for help.

Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center.