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The Greener View: Grass, Garlic and Amaryllis

Jeff Rugg on

Q: We are discussing when to cut down our ornamental grasses. I want to see them last through the winter and let the birds eat any seeds. My husband wants to cut them down in the fall because he says it is easier then. The plants are still upright and not beaten down. We can burn the grass in the fall when we are doing fires in the fire pit. They make a good fire starter. In the spring they are wet, and we don't do cookouts in the fire pit. He doesn't want grass in the compost pile because of the seeds. Is there a better time to cut them down for the health of the grass?

A: Don't cut them down when there are still green grass blades. In the fall, plants are transferring carbohydrates from leaves into storage areas, such as roots, tubers and bulbs. Once the leaves are brown, it doesn't matter to the plant if the dead parts are cut off. However, in cold climates, the tall grass collects more snow, which helps insulate and water the grass root system.

It is easier to do landscaping tasks when the weather is pleasant. Fall is fine and if you are in an area prone to wildfires, getting rid of the dry grass is a good idea. For many gardeners, late winter or very early spring is when we are looking for something to do outside to help curb our cabin fever. This is a perfectly good landscaping task that can be done after the snow has melted and before most plants have begun growing in the spring.

PLANTING GARLIC

As many gardeners know, fall is a good time to plant spring-flowering bulbs. What some gardeners don't know is that garlic is a bulb in the lily family that can be planted in the fall for harvesting next summer. They should go in the ground four to six weeks ahead of when the ground usually starts to freeze. Plant individual garlic cloves an inch or two deep and about six inches apart in an unused part of the garden. They may need a few inches of mulch to protect them from drying out over the winter.

The two main groups of garlic are called hardneck and softneck. Hardneck garlic has a strong flower stalk in the spring that comes up from the center of the group of cloves. It does best in colder climates, like those that grow bluegrass lawns. Softneck garlic doesn't have a strong flower stalk and has cloves that are stacked up on each other. It grows best in warmer climates, like those with Bermuda grass lawns. There are other differences between the two groups. The softneck varieties are capable of being stored for over a year and their flavor is milder.

AMARYLLIS

 

Speaking of bulbs, if you have amaryllis bulbs that have been growing outdoors for the summer, it is time to bring them back indoors. They should not be exposed to a frost. Let the plants dry out until the leaves fall over and turn yellow. Don't be in a hurry to cut the leaves off. They need to transfer nutrients into the bulb before they die. Cut them off leaving a short neck on the top of the bulb.

Leave the dormant amaryllis bulbs in a cool, dry location for a month to three months. They don't have to be stored in the flowerpots. When you are ready for them to bloom again, plant them in new potting soil, water thoroughly, and put them in a warm, sunny spot. Don't water again until roots develop or until the soil dries out to prevent the bulb from rotting.

When the leaves start to grow, keep them in a room with bright sunshine and temperatures in the 50s to 60s preferred. Warm temperatures will speed up growth, but it will take six to eight weeks for them to bloom. Once they are blooming, cool temperatures will allow the flowers to last much longer.

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Email questions to Jeff Rugg at info@greenerview.com. To find out more about Jeff Rugg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

 

 

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