Plants For Spring

Plants for Spring Gardens-Canva

Well we are back to a new year and hopefully 2016 will be a great year for you all. One of my favorite things about a new year is getting excited to start planting again. Now, obviously we can’t go out and plant in our gardens right now, but we can start to determine what we will plant this spring to add new interest to our gardens. A great place to start would be the “Great Plants for the Great Plains”.

The Great Plants program is developed by the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum. It is a program to bring superior ornamental landscape plants into gardens to meet the challenging growing conditions of the Great Plains, according to their website. This program helps to increase diversity in our landscapes and encourages homeowners to plant with underutilized plant material.

The members of the arboretum choose a tree, conifer, shrub, perennial, and grass selection for each year. This year, the group has chosen

  • American hornbeam for the tree
  • Ponderosa pine for the conifer
  • New Jersey Tea for the shrub
  • Fremont’s primrose for the perennial
  • ‘Dallas Blues’ switchgrass for the grass.

2016 Great Plants Collage

Try incorporating these unique and great plants into your landscaping this spring.

Other good plant choices would include the 2016 All American Selections. These are selections that were tested for their performance by impartial judges. The plants chosen as National winners are selected based on the fact that they perform best over all of North America. There are also regional winners that perform best in certain regions. The varieties chosen for the 2016 National Winners include:

  • Brocade Cherry Night Geranium
  • Brocade Fire Geranium
  • Japanese Red Kingdom Mustard
  • Cornito Giallo Pepper
  • Escamillo Pepper
  • Strawberry Delizz F1 Strawberry
  • Candyland Red Tomato
  • Chef’s Choice Green Tomato
  • The regional winner from the Heartland, which includes Nebraska, is Summer Jewel Lavender Salvia

These are some unique and fun choices of plants that can be added to your garden and your cooking. Try growing some of these with your children or grandchildren as a fun way to introduce them to gardening.

You can also look at seed catalogs and local seed sources to find fun, new varieties for your landscape and vegetable garden. January is an exciting time for any horticulturist as the new seed catalogs start coming in the mail in January and February. If you aren’t receiving any seed catalogs in the mail you can go online to sign up for a catalog, most of them are free. Just go to your favorite seed company and request their catalog. Good choices include

  • Burpee
  • Jung
  • Johnny’s
  • Gurney’s
  • Stock Seed Farm

Take the time now, while it is too cold to go outside, to plan out your gardens and determine what you will plant in the space you have available. Remember to always follow the guidelines for spacing in your gardens to help avoid disease and insect issues. It might be helpful to draw out what you will plant. Your drawing does not have to be to scale, just so you get the actual distances and the spacing of the plants you choose. We may not be able to get outside and get planting just yet, but we can start to plan for the spring while we are stuck in the house.

Deicers

Deicers blog header

With winter in full swing, it is a common practice to use deicers on our sidewalks and driveways to prevent falling on ice. With deicing agents, we need to be careful to not harm our plants when we use them and make good choices on what we use.

Bag of DeicerDeicers can cause damage to our concrete sidewalks and to our plants growing beside them. Many deicing agents contain salt substances, such as sodium chloride and potassium chloride. Because of the salt content found in these products, it can cause severe damage to our plants if too much is piled on them too often. Typical plant symptoms of salt damage include:

  • Desiccation (drying out)
  • Dieback
  • Stunting
  • Leaf margin and tip damage that looks as though the leaves were burned by a chemical

DSCN5874To avoid damage to the concrete, remove the salt as soon as you can. Deicers are meant to make shoveling easier, not to completely melt away the snow and ice. As soon as the salt melts through the ice and snow enough that it can be removed, go out and shovel it off of the concrete. When removing the snow, do it in a manner that protects the landscape plants growing in the yard. Do not pile the snow onto trees, shrubs, or flower gardens. If it has to be piled onto your landscape, move the salt onto the grass and try to do it in a manner that makes it more uniform on the grass surface. If too much salt continually gets piled up on the grass in one location, the turf can be harmed.

If you are very concerned with the effect the deicers have on your plants, you can use alternate products for melting the ice. Calcium magnesium acetate is a deicer that contains no salt. This is a safe alternative to the regular salts because it does not harm plants or animals and can be used on concrete because it doesn’t cause the damage that salt does. It is also less damaging to the environment that some of the other choices, but runoff of this product can degrade water quality in the surface water. You can also choose to use sand on your concrete, which will cause no damage to the plants in your landscape, this will not melt your ice, but it will give you traction to walk on the sidewalk. Sand and gravel will not cause any harm to your plants and minimal damage to the environment but it will have to be swept away after the snow and ice melts.

Another snow related topic is that of the snow and ice resting on your tree branches and on top of your shrubs. The snow can be removed with a broom if you desire to do so, but can be left alone to melt for no damage to the plants it is sitting on. As for the ice, let it melt naturally. Do not try to hit the ice off of the tree branches because this can cause you to break some of the branches, which will be more detrimental to the plant. If there is snow on your tree causing it to bend down, it will reform in the spring once the snow melts off of it.