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This week in your Massachusetts garden & landscape

Week of November 14, 2016 By Ron Kujawski

Awhile back I mentioned amaryllis as a good choice for those who don’t want to fuss with the chilling requirement needed for forcing hardy spring-flowering bulbs.  However, for those who don’t mind a little extra work involved in forcing hardy bulbs, here are a couple of tips:

If forcing one or two pots, make room for them in the refrigerator. Of course, this means you’ll have to pig out at dinner so that there is less need to store leftovers in the fridge.

I have two solutions to the problem of chilling large numbers of pots of bulbs for forcing.  The simplest is to place the pots in a large Styrofoam cooler.  Stack the pots and then fill in spaces between pots with sawdust, peat moss, or packing peanuts.  Next, drill into the cooler lid to allow for ventilation.  Then place the cooler in an unheated location such as a garden shed.  A more involved technique is to dig a 12-inch deep trench in the garden and place the pots in the trench, preferably atop a layer of sand or pea stone to insure good drainage.  Put a piece of hardware cloth over the pots to keep mice from getting at the bulbs and then fill in the trench with sand or compost.  Finally 12 to 18-inch deep layer of straw, hay, or shredded leaves is placed over the filled trench as insulation.  After 10 weeks (about late January) a pot or two can be brought indoors each week for forcing.

  • Place a 2 to 3-inch layer of organic mulch, e.g. wood chips, around but not against the stems of trees and shrubs planted this fall.  Soils are still relatively warm and mulch insulates the soil, keeping it warm a while longer and allowing additional time for growth and establishment of plant roots. On the other hand, delay placing mulches around established roses and over perennials until the ground begins to freeze.  The purpose of mulch for these plants is not to keep the soil warm but to keep it frozen.
  • Dig up leeks and store them for winter use.  Yes, they can be mulched with a deep layer of straw and then dug as needed, at least through early winter.   However, heavy, wet snows tend to weigh down the straw and flatten the leek shoots. I dig our leeks and pack them into five gallon plastic buckets that are kept in a cool corner of the basement.  Soil can be washed from shoots and roots but allow the leeks to dry before placing in the bucket.  In about a month, the outer skins of the leeks will become papery dry.  Peel away these skins to reveal the inner parts of the leeks that are still moist and tender.   A hot bowl of potato leek soup with some crusty bread is an ideal meal on a cold wintry eve.
  • Keep the garden spade handy to dig up carrots and parsnips for Thanksgiving dinner.  Home grown root crops that are allowed to remain in the ground through fall have a sweet flavor that cannot be found in store bought carrots and parsnips. The same can be said for Brussels sprouts grown in the home garden.

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