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Gardener’s Checklist

Winterize power equipment prior to storage. If you don’t recall details of winter maintenance, get out the Owner’s Manual. Lost the Owner’s Manual? Doofus! OK, I did too. However, I found it is possible to track down equipment manuals via the internet. Phew!!

 Use small mesh chicken wire or hardware cloth to make protective cylinders around stems of young trees and thin-barked trees. The purpose of the cylinders is to prevent rabbits from eating the bark. If using mesh size greater than ¼-inch, leave a space of an inch or two between the wire cylinder and tree stem. With multi-stemmed shrubs, it’d be easier to build an exclusion fence around each shrub, or several shrubs if they are in close proximity. Small mesh chicken wire is the best choice for such a fence.

 Place four to six inches of loose mulch over strawberry plants as soon as garden soil develops a frozen crust — that could be as soon as this week if current forecasts are correct. I prefer straw for mulching but chopped leaves and weed-free hay (Is there really such a thing?) are often recommended. Another option is to place a winter-grade row cover fabric over your strawberry bed. Such row covers should be available at your local garden center.

 Make a sowing of spinach if soil is not yet frozen. The spinach may or may not germinate this fall, but it will come up very early in spring. In either case, place a row cover over the seeded area. The results will be even better if you sow spinach seed in a raised bed.

Cut back the dried leaves of amaryllis that is in its resting stage. Amaryllis that is given a rest period, i.e. darkness and no watering, can be forced into bloom after eight weeks of rest. A rest period is not essential but without it amaryllis takes longer to force into bloom. My brain works in much the same way.

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While on the subject of forcing bulbs into bloom this winter, I came across some interesting results of experiments done at Cornell University on paperwhite narcissus. As most people know, paperwhites are one of the easiest bulbs to force into bloom. They require no cold treatment and can be forced into bloom by simply placing the bulbs in water, e.g. in shallow pans of water filled with pebbles. About the only problem with paperwhites is that the plants tend to flop over. The studies at Cornell found that watering the bulbs with a four to six percent solution of alcohol resulted in shorter and sturdier plants that did not flop — alcohol has the opposite effect on me. Initially, use plain water, but once new growth is an inch or two tall, pour off the water and replace it with the alcohol solution. To make the solution, mix one ounce of 80 proof gin or vodka (don’t use wine or beer) with seven ounces of water. I can see booze sales skyrocketing.

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