By Cecilia Rice
December is here and the 21st of December is the first day of winter. We never know what kind of weather it will bring. But whatever the weather, it is usually a busy month for nursery workers. Many different things become available at nurseries because it is the dormant season for so many trees and plants making them easier to ship without causing them damage.
December is a month that doesn’t require too much effort in the yard, though there are some things that are needed. The most important of those is the second spraying of dormant spray to keep the fungal infections at bay, and that should be done in late December. As mentioned in November, curl leaf on peaches and nectarines is the main target, and it is useful on a host of other things which can be found on the directions for use. December usually brings cold enough weather that we need to be alert for the possibility of frosty and/or freezing cold nights. All citrus trees are quite vulnerable to the cold weather because they are evergreen and sub-tropical . A light frost will likely damage the leaves of the plant, whereas a hard freeze will cause much leaf damage and fruit damage as well – best to be ready for it. An old blanket can be placed over a plant as long as it isn’t apt to rain causing it to get wet and heavy. A blanket would be best used by putting them on at night and taking them off daily in order to be exposed to the sunlight. I’ve seen large cardboard boxes sheltering plants. Frost cloth is not expensive, works well, can be held in place by tucking it under a few of the pots so wind can’t displace it, and it can be saved and re-used – just fold or roll it up and put it with other gardening supplies. It also has the advantage of being permeable enough to water plants with it in place. Adequate sunlight also reaches the plants. Plastic should not be used directly on a plant. It has no insulation quality, in fact it can direct the freezing temperature directly to the leaves. Make a temporary frame work with a few stakes several inches from the foliage of a plant and put the plastic over it as a covering, tee-pee style. Or, three to four stakes can be driven a little way into the ground to create an enclosure over which to put the plastic covering. The dead air space within has insulating quality. Time was that a light bulb could be hung in the enclosure and provide warmth, but the newer, more efficient bulbs do not emit much heat. If you have any of the older bulbs, or any strings of the old Christmas decoration lights, they can be used to keep plants warm when the weather forcasts suggest that it will be especially cold. For containerized plants, be sure that they have been very well watered when especially cold weather has been forcasted . A dry plant will freeze more quickly than a wet one. The moisture in a potted plant will freeze at 32 degrees and roots won’t get colder than that because of their insulating blanket of ice. Dry cold can be much colder and damaging. Of course, any delicate foliage on the plant will need to be covered
Are you interested in bare root fruit trees? Bundles of them will start coming in soon. It takes a bit of time to get them all organized once they arrive, but we are usually ready to offer them for sale by late December. Roses will also be here soon. If you are interested, we have availability lists to help you make choices. Oregon stock with live Christmas trees and dogwoods and other Oregon stock usually comes in late November, so should be here and ready for sale. You can see that there are lots of possibilities for the gardeners. Many of them are also good Christmas gift possibilities as well.
Lilacs do well in our area and don’t require lots of care, but they are especially happy in very cold climates. The flowers they produce are generally larger clusters than those grown in our more temperate climates. To compensate for the lack of very cold weather, try putting ice cubes around the base of the plants several times during the winter to keep the roots colder, as they would be in snowy climates. Poinsettias are a frequent gift at this time of the year. They seem to bloom and fit right into the season with the festive red flowers. If you are given one or buy one, and the pot has a lovely foil wrapping on it, before you water it cut out a circle of the wrap on the bottom of the container, then place the plant on a saucer with a layer of pebbles to hold it out of any standing water – then water when needed. The wrap won’t become a reservoir to waterlog the plant and you will enjoy its beauty longer. We wish everyone a Joyful Christmas.
Cecilia Rice and her son Jeff Rice are partners at Bald Mountain Nursery on Bald Mountain Road in Browns Valley.
Tel. (530) 743-4856 www.baldmountainnursery.com