Some Plants Enjoy The Warm Blanket Of Snow

GOOD GARDENING

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The countryside is so beautiful when covered with a white blanket of snow. Take time to stand and stare. It doesn't happen everyday. Enjoy it while it lasts. Even some of our plants enjoy the warm blanket provided by the snow. Have you noticed the century plants with their leaves projecting up through the snow? There are some alongside the road between Payson and Pine.

The black-tailed jackrabbit is always around, but not often seen. He left behind his characteristic footprints as he bounded across our yard and into the forest.

Even though we were without water for two days and with two guests staying with us, it proved to be fun getting back to basics by melting snow for essential purposes.

I found out (the fun way), that with our dry snow, it takes over 20 buckets of melted snow to flush one toilet. When everything happens at the flick of a switch these days, it does us good to find out how people used to live in the old days and to appreciate some of the benefits of modern day technology. Gardening is good therapy for us too in our fast-paced lives.

Minivegetables are in.

Chefs in many of the better restaurants are demanding miniature vegetables. They find they are more appealing to their clientele than a big chunk of a larger form of similar vegetable. Wholesale vegetable farmers are developing more and more of these popular veggies. Keep your eyes open for seeds of these smaller delights.

Rabbits love the new stuff.

There is always a lot of suitable food for the cottontails and jackrabbits in my yards. And I have no objection to their eating it. However, I do like to have some plants that they leave alone. Once a plant is well-established, the rabbits have become used to seeing it and leave it alone, but when you plant a new specimen, they find it within 48 hours and start chewing on it.

Sometimes they eat the whole plant in one night. The solution is to place a cylinder of wire netting around a newly-planted specimen to allow it to become established without being molested, and after a few weeks the wire cage can be removed and, hopefully, the rabbits will then ignore the plant.

It is lovely to be able to see the local wildlife and enjoy their company, but it is also pleasing to be able to enjoy some plants, too. Seeing a rabbit's ears pop up among the flowers reminds me of Beatrix Potter's stories of "Peter Rabbit" and "Benjamin Bunny."

If you weren't reared on "Peter Rabbit" books, then you could learn more when you see the new film, "Miss Potter."

Rabbit proofing

To completely rabbit-proof some areas, you need wire netting to surround the area and set two feet (yes, two feet), down into the ground, and at least two feet high above the ground, with bird netting strung across the top.

It used to be believed that a few inches into the ground was enough, but rabbits burrow deeper than that. If you have solid granite you will have to find somewhere else to grow plants, or modify the cage design, or change to the lasagna way of growing vegetables and flowers.

Raised beds are another alternative. Rabbits go through chain link fencing easily. Chicken wire is OK, provided you give it some support. Raccoons climb wire fences and their weight can bend it down.

Soon, it will be time to think about bird proofing over the fruit trees.

Time flies. Where does Einstein's Theory of Relativity fit in when you think how fast time flies the older we get, whereas it goes so slowly for young people?

Winter watering

Most plants and trees need some water in winter, too. Rain and the snowmelt will suffice at the moment, but, in between, water them once a week. Plants and recently planted trees can easily become dehydrated, just as we can, and will die without water. Have you noticed how thirsty we are in the cold weather?

Indoor plants

Don't trap potted plants between the drapes and the window panes in cold weather. They're indoors because they don't like the frost, and they will get too cold and maybe die if trapped.

Terrariums

Terrariums are containers such as plastic bottles, glass jars or bowls, in which plants grow for decorative purposes. If you would like to see a demonstration of how to make a terrarium, go to the meeting of the Rim Area Gardeners at the Payson Public Library at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 12.

Frost protection

We've had sufficient number of frosty nights this winter to know if we are trying to grow less hardy plants. You need to decide if those that appear to have suffered this year would always suffer at these temperatures, or are the plants which have died because they are unable to tolerate the excessively low temperature that occurs only once every ten years or so.

If a plant dies after one of these exceptionally low temperatures, then maybe it is worth growing this particular plant and accepting that it will die in some winters. At least you can enjoy it in the years between these exceptionally low temperatures. If the plant dies every winter, then it is probably not worth trying to grow it as a perennial in your yard. If you particularly like the plant, then give it the protection of a heated glasshouse, conservatory or maybe just the Arizona room. Many of my succulent plants come from the tropics, so I have automatic heating in some of my greenhouses.

Even so, this year's frost has zapped some plants this year that usually survive well. So, in the summer I'll start again with another specimen.

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