Cover Crops

By now, you have started to overwinter some of your favorite plants. With your garden bare, it is the time to plant cover crops. What are cover crops you ask? These are plants used to help protect and renew your soil. Cover crops can:

  • Suppress weeds
  • Protect soil from rain or runoff
  • Improve soil aggregate stability
  • Reduce surface crusting
  • Add active organic matter to the soil
  • Breaking hardpan
  • Fixing the nitrogen levels
  • Scavenging soil nitrogen
  • Suppressing soil diseases and pests

Most plants can be used as cover crops, the most popular being Legumes and grasses (including cereals.) More and more people are gaining interest in using brassicas (such as rape, mustard, and forage radish) and continued interest in others, such as buckwheat.

Thank you to Cornell Cooperative Extension  and SARE for the original information. You can read about Cornell more here, and SARE here.

How to Overwinter your Dahlias

Dahlias are tropical plants, which means they will not survive the cold New York winter that is upon us. Since New York is in zone 7, they are treated as annuals or they are dug up and have their tubers stored in a frost-free environment (like your house) until the spring. Overwintering Dahlias is an easy task, and here is how to do it.

Digging

Wait until just after the first killing frost has passed, You will notice the top of the plants turning black. Cut the plants back to 4-inches and dig up a wide enough area to ensure including the entire root zone.

Clumping

Remove the soil from root clumps by hand, but do not shake them; the plants are fragile.

Drying and Packing

Place the tubers in a dry basement, or outdoors on a screen rack or in a dry shady spot for a few days to dry. Gently wipe away any remaining soil from the tubers and tag them accordingly for different varieties, this way it will be easy identifying everything in the spring. Put four cups of vermiculite, sphagnum peat moss, wood shavings or sawdust into a gallon-size produce bag. These bags have pinholes spaced about a half-inch apart to allow for air circulation. Add tubers, then pack the bags into a wood, cardboard or plastic box, and cover it to ensure complete darkness. Store at 40-45 degrees. Check your tubers monthly. If you begin to notice any shriveling, sprinkle water onto the packaging material. If any of them are more than slightly shriveled, you can put them in a pail of water overnight, if they plump up– pat them dry and return to the soil. Discard any rotted or molding tubers, and air out the bag and box they were in. Expect to lose 10 percent of all tubers stored.

You can plant your Dahlias outside around Memorial Day. Place them in a spot that gets at least six hours of sunlight daily. To give them a head start, plant them in pots outdoors, kept by a sunny window, about a month before transplanting time.

 

Thank you Jessica Damiano for the original information. You can read more here.

 

How to Bring in Plants Without Bugs for the End of the Season

We are planning to bring geraniums into the greenhouse to winter over, and to use for cuttings for next year’s plant giveaway.  If you have plants you would like to bring in, let Kathy know. Before you bring any plants into the greenhouse please try and be sure they are insect-free. Here are some steps you can follow to de-bug your plants:

  1. You can spray foliage with insecticidal soap if you see any signs of critters
  2. Then I would pop the plant out of the pot and inspect around the bottom and outside edge for any hitchhikers.
  3. Flick them off or scrape them off.
  4. Then I dunk the entire plant and pot in a spackle bucket full of water for about 15 minutes to convince all the other insects to make an escape.
  5. If you have a bug problem in the soil (ants or any other burrowing critters) you may have to take the plant down to bare roots get rid of the them. You can rinse the soil off the roots with a hose and repot in fresh soil.