New Batch of Master Gardeners Sprouts, and a Late-Winter Work Calendar

I recently had the privilege of attending a closed session of public presentations, the final stage of training and evaluation for an elite group of new Master Gardener Volunteer candidates. After many weeks of intensive, research based instruction in all areas of horticulture under the direction of Cornell Cooperative Extension, I am happy to report the following people will graduate and share their education with the greater community.

They are Nereida McBeath, Hankins; Lindy Goodman, Claryville; Darleen Beers, Roscoe; Jill Weiner, Callicoon Center; Pamela Petty, Wurtsboro; Russel Scheirer, Neversink; Kelley Gips, Woodridge; Janet Gula, South Fallsburg; Eustacia Schwalb, Youngsville; Terry Forshay, Livingston Manor.

Congratulations to all. They will join a veteran group of 11 Master Gardeners active for a number of years. The real reason our county's volunteers are unpaid is because they are priceless.

For your information: The annual tree and shrub program sponsored by the Sullivan County Soil and Water Conservation District is getting under way. If you've missed it in the past and want to get on board, call 845-292-6552 for a complete list of plants available.

Similarly, Cornell Cooperative Extension has its tree seedling program beginning, and for a list of available species and packets call 845-292-6180.

I'm sure you're familiar with the notion that snow covered ground is beneficial to plants. Did you ever consider in what ways? When snow covers the ground before it is frozen, it insulates the ground, helps to lock in moisture, and this in turn protects roots of tender plants from freezing and being thrust out of the ground by heaving, which could be deadly.

The snow slowly melts at the soil level providing the plant with a steady supply of water and a relatively even temperature. Because the ground isn't frozen, erosion is prevented as well. An additional bonus comes from the fact that snow (as well as rain and dust that falls in precipitation) adds ammonia gas and nitrates to the soil. Of course, the water table is recharged, too.

As a final note, you've likely heard of frost seeding. If not, I hope this is useful. Frost seeding is a practice of seeding and overseeding legumes, grasses, and, in general, forage crops either on frozen ground or on snow. On frozen ground the freeze/thaw cycle allows the seed to work its way into cracks and crevices for spring germination. On snow the seed likewise works its way down with subsequent weather events ready to sprout in spring.

If you're a flower person, you can frost seed right on top of the snow. The only real requirements are two: the ground beneath has to have been prepared before the snowfall; and, when you scatter seed on the snow, you must offer some protection to the seed from the birds. I, fortunately, prepared two beds this fall for tulips bulbs. They are now quite snow covered.

I will sow seeds of poppies, cleomes, Johnny jump-ups, and whatever else I come across. Key follow up: I will cover with branches from my Christmas tree until the snow melts and spring is more in evidence. Think of all the self-sowing annual and perennial flowering plants. Snapdragons galore!

This is a good time to survey your property for snow drifting. With all the high winds and deep cold we experience, snow fences or judicious plantings could save you both money and labor by protecting those areas impacted by drifts. Is your driveway involved? Or the entrance to your home?

For you sun worshippers and those influenced by SAD (seasonal affected disorder), your best six months out of the year are about to begin in just a couple of weeks, March 9-10. Take advantage of it. My solar-heated-greenhouse will really spring into action.

If you have lengths of hoses about to irrigate your various beds, a useful tool you can spend a bit of time making in these cold weeks goes by the name of "hose caddy", retailing for $5.40 each. Imagine a length of broomstick (six inches above ground) topped with a ball, tennis or other. This will keep your hose out of the beds and reduce damage to you bedding plants. Of course pipe can be used and any ball to top the vertical member. I suggest painting the ball a bright color so you won't trip over your device.

Make a bunch and your hose will stay where it belongs, outside the garden beds you want to tend. A great cold weather project, no? Tennis anyone? Racquetball?

I promise I'll have an early spring calendar of projects for you to consider in my next column.

"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most pick themselves up and hurry off, as if nothing has happened." Winston Churchill


From The Garden of Ed. Submitted for publication in The Towne Crier on February 25, 2003

© 2003 Ed Mues. All Rights Reserved.