Posts tagged window

Attracting birds and other wintertime tips

The following Q&A is from Iowa State University Extension’s garden experts:

I recently purchased a Norfolk Island pine.  How do I care for it? 

 

The Norfolk Island pine is a popular houseplant. During the holiday season, many individuals turn their plants into living Christmas trees by decorating them with miniature lights, ribbons and ornaments. The Norfolk Island pine thrives indoors when given good, consistent care. Place the Norfolk Island pine in a brightly lit location near an east, west or south window. Rotate the plant weekly to prevent the plant from growing toward the light and becoming lopsided. 

 

Thoroughly water the Norfolk Island pine when the soil surface becomes dry to the touch. Discard the excess water, which drains out the bottom of the pot. From spring to early fall, fertilize the plant with a dilute fertilizer solution every 2 to 4 weeks. A temperature of 55 to 70  degrees F is suitable for the Norfolk Island pine. Winter is often a difficult time because of low relative humidity levels in most homes. Raise the humidity level around the Norfolk Island pine with a humidifier or place the plant on a pebble tray. Low relative humidity levels, insufficient light, or infrequent watering may induce browning of branch tips and lead to the loss of the lower branches. 

 

Which trees and shrubs provide food for birds during the winter months? 

 

When attempting to attract birds to the landscape, trees and shrubs that provide food during the winter months are extremely important as natural foods are most limited at this time of year. Trees that provide food for birds in winter include hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), hawthorn (Crataegus species), eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) and crabapple (Malus species). Shrubs that provide food for birds include red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia), northern bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica), sumac (Rhus species), roses (native species and Rosa rugosa), snowberry (Symphoricarpos species), nannyberry (Viburnum lentago) and American cranberrybush viburnum (Viburnum trilobum). 

 

Can I dispose of my wood ashes in the garden? 

 

Wood ashes contain small amounts of several plant nutrients. The nutrient content of wood ashes depends on the type of wood burned, the thoroughness of its burning, and other factors.  Generally, wood ashes contain 5 to 7 percent potash, 1 percent phosphate, and small amounts of other elements. However, the largest component of wood ashes is calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate is a liming material. Liming materials raise the soil pH. 

 

The soil pH is important because it affects the availability of essential nutrients. The pH scale runs from 0 to 14. Any pH below 7.0 is acidic and any pH above 7.0 is alkaline. A pH of 7.0 is neutral. Most vegetables and perennials grow best in slightly acidic soils with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Plants may not perform as well in soils with a pH above 7.0 because of the reduced availability of some essential nutrients. 

 

Avoid applying wood ashes to garden areas with a pH above 7.0. Applying wood ashes to alkaline soils may raise the soil pH and reduce the availability of some plant nutrients. An application of 10 to 20 pounds of wood ashes per 1,000 square feet should be safe if the soil pH is below 7.0. If the soil pH in your garden is unknown, conduct a soil test to determine the pH of your soil before applying wood ashes to flower or vegetable gardens. 

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Grandma’s plants

     The following is from Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith:

 

     Did you get Grandma’s Christmas list?  I’ll bet she says she doesn’t want anything:  she has too much stuff already.  What do you do?  How about a winter blooming window sill plant!

     There are some really neat little fellows out there.

·         African Violet:    has soft thick leaves and beautiful petite blooms.  Enjoys temperatures around 70’ with good air circulation.  Likes about 16 hrs. of daylight and 8 hrs. of darkness each day to produce blooms.  Hmmmmm sounds just like my Mom, warmer temps. and a good night’s sleep!

·         Shamrock:  resembles a large clover. Can have green leaves but can also be tricolored or deep purple.  Desires cooler temperatures, around 65’ and lots of bright light.  Grandma will be lucky to receive this one.

·         Spider Plant:  enjoys bright light and temperatures around 65’.  Mine profusely  grows long slender leaves with tiny white flowers in a sunny Northwest window.   Pebbles and water in a saucer under the plant offers humidity, keep the roots away from the water though.

·         Cyclamen:  heart shaped leaves and papery soft petals blooming in winter.  Wants well drained soil, really cool temperatures, i.e. 55’ and indirect light.  Great for an area without a lot of windows.  

    If Grandma would prefer a larger plant try:

·         Peace Lily:  not for the faint of heart, this plant has the capacity to become huge. Use it to fill an empty corner.  One of the first plants I ever had, I can attest that the Peace Lily will survive well in almost any condition.  Prefers bright, filtered, or natural light.  Has abundance of glossy, green foliage and regularly produces dramatic white blossoms.  Enjoys any comfortable room temperature.  Soil should be kept evenly moist.

·         Norfolk Island Pine:   Grandma gets a small live Holiday tree with this one.  Let the grandkids have fun decorating with lightweight ornaments.  Thrives with consistent care.  Needs brightly lit window.  Rotate weekly as it will grow toward the light.  Water thoroughly when soil becomes dry to touch. Discard excess water from saucer.  Likes humidity:  place on a pebble tray.  Likes temperatures 55-70’. 

    Complete your choice with a colorful bow and a handmade card and Grandma’s gift will be indeed special! 

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