Tasks for the Georgia Gardener in January & February by RGC Blogger Suzy Crowe

Tasks for the Georgia Gardener in January & February by RGC Blogger Suzy Crowe

For several years I’ve been a little late trimming the liriope. Determined to get a jump on it this year, I did some research and found great info on what I can do right now, not just with the liriope, but with my gardens and my entire landscape.

 Gwinnett County UGA Extensions office’s Tips for the Landscape & Garden: January says it’s time to:

  • Plan & prep new construction projects and planting zones
  • Study your lawn & figure out how to eliminate hard-to-mow spaces…after making a plan, push your mower around the new space to test the flow
  • Review your vegetable garden plan…think about last year’s layout, yield, and maintenance–are changes needed?
  • Sterilize your tools, pots, etc…use one part household bleach to nine parts water; sharpen edges; oil surfaces
  • Plant fruit trees…it’s not too late, but you’ll need to water them
  • Prune grapes now to avoid bleeding from the cut ends… check out the Extension Publication Dormant Spur & Cane Pruning Bunch Grapevines for a wealth of info
  • Start Gerbera seeds for June blooms
  • Think about your deer prevention plan, putting necessary components into action now or mark your calendar for the right start time for you
  • Prune the appropriate woody perennials in your landscape (more to follow)

The Tips contain detailed info on each of the above items, so be sure and click on the link and check it out.

The UGA Extension Bulletin Basic Principles of Pruning Woody Plants gave me my marching orders. It’s time for me to prune my nandina, trumpet vine, fringe flower, crepe myrtle, Rose of Sharon, and barberry. The bulletin has information on how to decide what pruning method is best for your design and how to effectively prune different woody plants.

 While reading, I also found out it’s time to clean up my Lenten Rose.

 So much to do… this year I have plenty of time and I can’t wait to get going. Hope you can join me. Not ready to get outside yet? I urge you to head to the UGA extension page and browse some of the publications. They are informative and inspirational.

Christmas Cactus FAQs by RGC Bloggers King Trousdale, Lisa Ethridge & Suzy Crowe

Christmas Cactus FAQs by RGC Bloggers King Trousdale, Lisa Ethridge & Suzy Crowe

A Christmas Cactus is a succulent plant from the Brazilian rain forest. It is at home in a jungle, not a desert. Treat your Christmas Cactus right and it will live and bloom for decades. Here are some FAQs to help you treat your Christmas Cactus just right.

Should I repot my Christmas Cactus?

  • If your Christmas Cactus came in a small pot, it needs to be transplanted to thrive
  • Select a medium pot and fill it with a mix of potting soil and perlite

When do I water my Christmas Cactus?

  • During bloom season, water when it is dry to the touch–not sooner
  • In spring and summer it likes frequent and thorough watering with good drainage
  • Never let your Christmas Cactus sit in water

What kind of light does my Christmas Cactus like?

  • Your Christmas Cactus needs bright indirect light
  • It will adapt to low light by forming fewer blossoms

How long will my Christmas Cactus bloom, and will it re-bloom?

    • A Christmas Cactus blooms for about three weeks, from Christmas to Thanksgiving
    • It’s normal for some blooms to fall off
    • If your Christmas Cactus is indoors year round, you need to force dormancy for it to re-bloom
      • Force dormancy 6 to 8 weeks before you wish it to re-bloom
      • Force dormancy by cutting back on moisture, light (12 to 14 hours of darkness) and temperature (around 50°)
      • Make sure you keep your Christmas Cactus away from drafts

Can my Christmas Cactus live outside?

  • The Christmas Cactus isn’t cold hardy so leave it inside until April 15
  • At that point, take it outside, put it in a shady area, and water it weekly until early October (cool nights are required for the bloom cycle)
  • You may want to take precautions against squirrels and chipmunks. Common precautions include spraying hot wax on the Christmas Cactus. Hot wax is a product that has a thin coat of wax with hot pepper sauce
  • RGC member Nancy Moses keeps her Christmas Cacti on a beautiful rolling rack, which she displays on her patio during the spring, summer, and early fall. When it’s time to force dormancy, Nancy rolls the rack into her garage

Where can I read more about my Christmas Cactus?

Have fun with your Christmas Cactus. We hope it will live long and prosper.


Plants: Winterizing Your Dahlias by RGC Blogger Donna Feit

Plants: Winterizing Your Dahlias by RGC Blogger Donna Feit

I love my dahlias. I bought some tubers online a few years ago, planted them as soon as they arrived, and several weeks later was delighted with beautiful pink and sunset-orange blossoms. They bloomed throughout the latter part of summer right up until the first frost. I left them in the ground for the winter and they returned the following year.

After that, I wanted to learn more and started to research growing dahlia. I was surprised to learn that they don’t “winter” well and are often killed by freezing cold weather…I was fortunate in that the first winter was an especially mild one and my tubers survived.

I don’t want to run the risk of losing my beautiful dahlias, so this year, I’m going to dig up the tubers and store them properly over the winter. Since we’ve already had a couple of frosts, now is the time! Cut off the stems and leaves. It’s a good idea to let the tubers cure (dry out a little), especially the larger ones. Shake the dirt off, but it’s not necessary to completely clean them. They may be okay wrapped in newspaper, and/or stored in a paper bag. But, it’s even better to store them in dry-to-slightly-moist packing material such as peat moss, coco coir, wood chips, pet bedding, or sawdust. You could also use a mixture of vermiculite and perlite. Use whatever you have on hand.

Line the bottom of a box with newspaper to keep any packing material from falling through the cracks. Layer the packing material on top of that. Lay the tubers in the box so they will be surrounded by the packing material. You can store several clumps in the same box as long as they are not touching. Fill the box with packing material so the tubers are completely covered. Close the box and put on a shelf. It’s important that your dahlia storage space is cool and dry. A basement or the inside wall of your garage should work. If it is too warm, the tubers could rot.

You’re all set! After the last frost next spring, you’ll be able to replant your tubers and enjoy beautiful dahlias from late summer through fall.




Baby It’s Cold Outside: Show Your Plants Some Love by RGC Blogger Lisa Ethridge

Baby It’s Cold Outside: Show Your Plants Some Love by RGC Blogger Lisa Ethridge

Cooler temperatures and fewer hours of sunlight throughout the fall initiate the cold-acclimation process which enables plants to withstand winter temperatures. The best way to prevent cold damage is to select plants that can tolerate temperatures where you live. Georgia has different climatic zones, so it’s important to select plants that meet the minimum cold-hardy requirements for our area. For North Fulton that’s zone 7B.

Cold temperatures and wind can damage all parts of the plant including fruit, stems, leaves, trunk, and roots. Carefully selected plants can survive a freeze but may not survive a prolonged period of below-freezing temperatures.

Healthy plants have a better chance of surviving cold weather. A soil sample is the best method to determine what nutrients plants need. Contact the UGA extension agent to get information about soil testing. Pruning and/or fertilizing in late summer or early fall encourages tender new growth which leaves plants vulnerable to freezing temps. Check publications B961 and B1065 for information about feeding and pruning ornamental plants. Mulch is important too. It reduces heat loss of the soil, retains moisture, and protects the plant roots which also can be damaged by a freeze.

Covering plants with sheets, blankets, or cardboard boxes helps protect them from low-temperature injury. Plastic sheeting is not recommended; temperatures under the plastic rise quickly which can result in burned leaves or worse. Remove the cover during daylight hours to provide ventilation and allow the release of the trapped heat.

Plants have water requirements during the winter months. Make sure plants get at least 1” of water per week which is essential for a healthy, cold-hardy plant. If a cold snap is predicted, water the plants. Moist soil absorbs more heat and helps maintain an elevated temperature around the plants.

GA Extension offers more than 600 free, research-based publications to help you learn about everything from planting the perfect vegetable garden to raising a backyard chicken flock, and from identifying stinging and biting pests to determining if your agribusiness is feasible. For more information, go to http://www.caes.uga.edu/publications.