How To Care for Poinsettia Plants

Every December, poinsettia plants (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are given or received as gifts. These beautiful red plants have become a sign of the holidays, but usually are thrown out as soon as the holidays are over. They are specifically grown for the holidays (those bright red leaves just scream Christmas,) but what if you could keep them growing all the way into the summer season? 

Lets start at the beginning. When poinsettia plants are first purchased they should be in prime condition; dark green foliage, be well shaped and have bracts free from defects. The soil should be kept moist at all times, but not excessively wet. When the soil begins to feel dry, apply enough water so it dampens the surface but also runs through the drainage hole. In between waterings do not let the leaves begin to wilt. Poinsettia plants should also be kept away from cold drafts and excessive heat- this can also cause the foliage and bracts to rapidly wilt.

Thank you to CCE for the original information. You can read more here.

Prune Your Oak Trees Over the Winter

Cornell Cooperative Extension has sent out another notice about Oak Wilt, which was found earlier this summer in the Town of Islip. Since the original notice over the summer, more and more accounts of Oak Wilt have been happening in other towns within Suffolk County. The DEC is urging homeowners to prune their oak trees during the winter and not during growing season.  “One way that oak wilt spreads is through insects (sap beetles are one of the main culprits), which can move the fungus from an infected tree to a healthy tree. During the warmer growing season sap beetles are active and attracted to the fresh wounds, increasing the chances of disease spread.” So be on the lookout! You can read more on the DEC’s website here.

What Is The Best Rock Salt?

It’s winter- which means cold weather, snow and ice. To avoid slipping and seriously hurting you or your family, it is necessary to melt that ice. Although all salts and de-icers work in the same way, they are not created or contain the same materials. Some of which, are harmful to the environment and pets. So what is the best rock salt/de-icer to use? 

Sodium Chloride- This is the cheapest rock salt you will find available. However, it is also the worst kind you can purchase. It has the ability to kill plants and trees, corrode cars, crack concrete and asphalt, and poison wildlife (this means your pets too!) 

Calcium Chloride- This is a better option compared to Sodium Chloride, but it still isn’t the best. It is effective in cold temperatures, and usually is sold as “pet safe.” However, being deemed as pet safe, isn’t all it should be. It can still irritate the paws of your four legged friends. If you use this, be sure to rinse and wipe off their paws after trekking over it outside. Protect your own hands as well by wearing gloves while handling. 

Potassium Chloride- This is exactly what you think- its the component of all those balanced fertilizers (its the K in the N-P-K ratio.) At amounts high enough to melt ice, it can also harm or even kill plants. 

Magnesium Chloride- This works well in colder temperatures (about 10 degrees below.) It dissolves to coat and melt ice quickly, and as a plus it isn’t as likely to hurt your pet’s paws. The only downside is that it can cost up to twice as much as Calcium Chloride. 

Always apply the least effective amount of any Chloride product when melting ice. All of them have the potential to damage driveways and sidewalks. Over the summer, apply a waterproof seal to the drive and walk ways can offer protection from ice cracks for a few years. 

Natural Products- A method that seems a little unorthodox is by using products that can be found in your cabinets. Mixing sugar, beet juice and molasses with smaller amounts of any of the rock salts listed above can be effective in even lower temperatures. The syrup mix is supposed to lower the salts melting point farther then listed on the packaging! Since the mixture is sticky, it adheres to the ground- which eliminates any kick back. Sure it may not be the best option for your driveway, but its worth a shot.

Kitty Litter/Sand- This is the most environment-friendly/green option. Its the best for plants, pets and groundwater. Buy the non-clumping clay litter or buy sand. It wont melt your ice, but it will provide that necessary traction to minimize slippage. 

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

Long Island Garden Events, Winter 2016-17

Winter is here on Long Island, that means it is time to clean up your garden beds and pull out that garden catalog to plan for next year! There will be many tours and public holiday events all over, but don’t fret- there will be some outdoor events and classes going on. Here is a list of some of the events going on. 

Ongoing Events

  • Seasonal Highlights Tour at Brooklyn Botanic Gardens –  Throughout November and December, 1PM-2PM. Click here to learn more. 
  • Holiday Train Show at NY Botanical Garden – From November 19th to January 16th, Click here to learn more.
  •  Wild Medicine in the Tropics at NY Botanical Garden – From January 21st to February 12th, Click here to learn more.
  • The Orchid Show at NY Botanical Garden – From February 18th to April 9th, Click here to learn more.
  • Training Course for New Suffolk County Master Gardener Volunteers – Starting February 1st and ending June 28th. Click here to learn more. 

Dated Events 

  • LI Dahlia Society Meeting and Talk: Dahlia 101 “Storing Dahlias Over the Winter” – Thursday November 17th, 6:30PM at East Islip Library. Click here to learn more. 
  • Gardening Lessons: Designs for Easy Maintenance – Saturday November 19th, 10AM-2PM at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Click here to learn more.
  • Thanksgiving Floral Design – Saturday November 19th, 10:30AM at Old Westbury Gardens. Click here to learn more. 
  • Floral Design Workshop: Holiday Centerpiece – Sunday November 20th, 1PM-2:30PM at Queens Botanical Garden. Click here for more information.
  • Holiday Wreath Workshop – Saturday December 3rd, 11AM-12:30PM at Cornell Cooperative Extension. Call 631-852-4600 for more information and to register.
  • Introduction to Ikebana – Sunday December 11th, 10AM-1PM at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Click here to learn more. 
  • The Camellia Festival – Sunday February 19th, 1oAM-4PM at Planting Fields Arboretum. Snow Date: Sunday February 26th. Click here to learn more. 

Thank you to Mjlgarden for the original information. Click here to view more events! 

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.

Plant now, enjoy later!

Picture this- the weather is crisp, the fireplace is lit, you are surrounded by friends and family in a perfectly decorated house. Everyone is sitting down for dinner when-oh no, there are no fresh vegetables. How do you solve this conundrum now? By planting your seeds early. It’s true, planting winter vegetables are probably the last thing on your mind right now. You’re most likely too preoccupied getting that perfect tan while sipping a cold refreshing drink. But, if you want a tasty and bountiful fall harvest, start planting now! Root vegetables and Leafy greens grow best in cooler weather. Cole crops such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, kale and kohlrabi actually benefit from a touch of frost. Lettuces wither under the hot summer sun, but by starting them now means you will be having garden fresh salad well into October. Plant arugula, mustard greens, radishes and spinach now and they will be ready by September. Chinese greens germinate and grow much more quickly than other greens in the garden. Scallions and parsley can survive most of the winter outdoors. Beets, Swiss chard, parsnips, and peas are also great to have in your fall garden. A way to further extend the season of root vegetables is to mulch heavily when frost threatens.

Plants that can withstand a hard frost (below 28 degrees) include:

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Collards
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Mustard
  • Onions
  • Parsley
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Turnip
  • Leeks
  • Sorrel

Plants that can withstand a light frost (28-32 degrees) include:

  • Artichokes
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chinese Cabbage
  • Endive
  • Lettuce
  • Parsnips
  • Swiss Chard
  • Escarole
  • Arugula
  • Bok Choy
  • Mache
  • Radicchio

Thank you to 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.