A GROWING CONCERN: Start your year and garden off right

WOW! WHAT AN end to the year! Large amounts of snow over several days, over the week actually, and then the accompanying cold — very cold weather has closed out this wild year.

Well, the great news is those two came in the perfect order. For you see, the robust amounts of snow accumulated in sufficient depth throughout the Olympic Peninsula, which, in turn, then actually insulated the ground.

This blanket of snow also trapped in the ground heat, thus making the soil surface warmer than it would have been with freezing temperatures and no snow cover. So all in all, a white Christmas that blanketed our gardens against the harsh cold … Happy New Year!

However, all may not be well in Camelot, for many of you did have heavy snow falls in quantities over a foot on your yard and landscape.

Some of this heavy snow actually broke off limbs or branches!

Please make sure to cut these off clean and below any damage or long-running splinters or cracks the snowfall caused.

Some of your plants may be crushed or weighted down by the copious amounts of snow and may need to be tied back later this year to return them to their proper dimension and shape.

Some of your plants like boxwoods, spirea, potentillas, even rhododendrons, vibernuim and certain ornamental evergreens and shrubs may greatly benefit from having the snow gently brushed, broomed or blown off.

Be very careful not to do this if the snow has thawed and then frozen back onto the plants, because you will snap off last year’s growth.

Also, be very careful that it is not too cold, below 26 degrees, to do this. That, too, will cause limbs to break off because they are frozen and brittle.

The advantage of gently removing the snow is that their shape will not become distorted due to the weight of heavy, wet, slowly melting snow pressing down on them and bending their branches. I did mention being very careful, yes?

Outside of those concerns, as the snow melts it is a great time to throw down bone meal and wood ash or other fertilizers around your plants. The moisture will carry it into the ground as the days are getting longer.

As to your family farm, your orchard and other edible vines, canes or plants (think rhubarb or asparagus) should have a thick treatment of lime now. It will greatly increase their yield this year. During winter it will take a couple of months to alter soil pH, so now is the perfect time because our soils here are acidic, but these plants want near-alkaline conditions.

Do not, however, lime your blueberries, raspberries, strawberries or blackberries. These plants want an acidic soil, so get a fertilizer specifically for them. Your rhododendrons and azaleas also flourish in acidic conditions, as do your camellias and hydrangeas, so take this opportunity to give them a bloom-enticing fertilizer.

I know your rhododendrons would crave an iron treatment too, because we are so deficient here on the Peninsula of available iron. Lack of iron is why they are yellowish, not a deep green, so correct that now.

Besides that, watch out for water-puddling problems as the snow melts. This will be a great chance for you to correct these issues by filling in low spots, digging a channel, putting in a drain pipe or sloping the ground away.

A new year brings you this new opportunity so why not use it?

Happy New Year everyone and please, please, stay well all!


Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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