Episode 69 – New Year’s (Gardening) Resolutions

Ground Breaking Banter - Rick

The Babylonians are also the first civilization to hold recorded celebrations in honour of the New Year, even though their year began not in January, but in mid March, when the crops were being planted. During this festival, people planted crops, pledged their allegiance to the reigning king or crowned a new king, and made promises to repay debts in the year ahead. The Babylonians believed if they fulfilled their new year promises, then the gods would look favorably upon them in the coming year. It wasn’t until the emperor Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar, in 46 BC, which declared January 1 as the start of the new year. And of course, to this day, the new year still symbolizes an opportunity for a fresh start.

Tune in on your favorite podcast platform or at the YouTube link above to her Rick and Stacey’s resolutions. We also invite you to tell us your garden resolutions – you can go to YouTube and leave them as a comment on the video, or click here to contact us.

And here’s Rick’s resolution-themed Lim-A-Rick:

I open the doors with a sense of dread
Lost tools and I’m seeing red
I hereby am resolved
To finally have evolved
and have a clean garden shed.

I trip on a leaning rake
step on a pot that I break
I knock over the weed killer
bang my shins on the rototiller
I’ve got a tension headache.

I’m tangled in a lawn chair
Can’t find my pruners anywhere
The charcoal briquette bag broke
My pitchfork gives me a poke
A horticultural fun house nightmare.

And yet you’ll be happy to hear,
I’m out the door and of good cheer
While in there looked around
And look at what I found
The trowel I lost last year!

Why? Because we could all resolve to Just Chill a little more! Also, Just Chill Red Tip camellia is a beautiful plant if you are able to grow it in your climate. It is generally hardy to USDA zone 7a, though we have seen excellent survival here in USDA zone 6b. We’re also covering this camellia today because it’s a nice follow-up to our chat with Debra Knapke a few weeks ago, where we talked about tea, which is a camellia – C. sinensis. Just Chill Red Tip camellia is not suitable for tea, but it is much hardier than tea camellia and is a gorgeous plant in its own right.

Just Chill Red Tip is a fall blooming camellia, with glossy evergreen foliage that emerges a handsome deep red through out the season. In fall, pink flowers begin to appear and they continue through winter. We have seen good survival of the plant itself here in USDA zone 6b, though truth be told, we don’t usually get a great flower show because the temperatures get a bit too cold too early to encourage good blooming. Still, it’s worth growing for its beautiful foliage, and you may find that in some years with a long, warm autumn, you will get to enjoy those fab flowers.  

Camellias like acidic soil that is rich in organic matter. The mythical, moist but well drained soil really is ideal, but drainage is key. The moisture you can manage with some mulch. In colder climates, plant in spring so the plant has the longest possible time to get established, mulch well, and site in a protected area.

Just Chill Red Tip camellia is hardy in USDA zones 7(6b)-9, takes full to part sun, and reaches 5-8’ tall by 5-6’ wide at maturity.

If you’d like to add Just Chill Red Tip camellia – or any of the 320+ Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs – to your garden or landscape, you’ll find a list of local retailers here

Gardening Mail Bag - Stacey

To attract and support the most birds in your yard, plant a combination of plants that produce good seed for seed-eaters and host a wide variety of insects for insect-eaters and omnivores. This means a combination of perennials, things like echinacea, agastache, rudbeckia, and other plants with small seeds, and trees and shrubs that are favored by insects. Oaks are famously hospitable to native wildlife, as they sustain the widest diversity of insects of any other North American native plant. Now, not everyone has room for an oak – most get huge – but if you do, planting one would be the best thing that you can do to help birds. In terms of planting shrubs to attract insects, and in turn, birds, it is indeed best to stick with native species like ninebark, coralberry, dogwood, and willow, as these will have natural relationships with insects that encourage egg-laying and feeding, giving birds a good chance to feed. We also mention another favorite tip: if you have crabapples or similar trees that get tent caterpillars in spring, simply use a stick to rip open the webby “tent” – the birds will then happily take care of the infestation for you!

Both Rick and I love the Espoma “Tone” line of fertilizers – they have a good stony grain that’s long-lasting and easy to apply, are manufactured sustainably, and happen to be organic. However, I often discourage the use of Hollytone because it is formulated to acidify the soil. Not a lot, but a little, and depending on where you are located, what your soil is like, and what you are growing, its repeated use could push the soil pH to a level that is unfavorable for plant growth. As such, I only recommend using it if you are certain your soil and the plants growing in it would benefit from acidification. Instead, we recommend Espoma Rose Tone as a general purpose shrub fertilizer, and/or Flower Tone or Garden Tone for all-purpose.

Whatever you use, my preference is to apply the fertilizer in late winter/early spring. Here’s why: for the fertilizer to become available for plant use, it must “weather,” or begin to broken down by rain, soil moisture, sun, etc. If you put fertilizer down in fall, it will weather and could potentially become available to the plant at a time when it is still dormant. The plant won’t use it, and even though it will chemically bind to the soil particles, there’s still a chance it will simply leach out without ever being taken up by the plant. This contributes to pollution of waterways, as well as wastes time and money. Instead, I recommend applying your fertilizer in late winter/early spring – this will give it plenty of time to weather and become available to the plant, which will happen just as it is beginning to come out of dormancy. 

Do you have a question for us? We’re happy to help! E-mail us or use the contact tab above. Due to high volume, we may not get to your question, so if you need an answer quickly, please reach out via the Proven Winners website.

Branching News - Rick

Pink rose of Sharon flowers bloom on a plant with variegated foliage.

Episode 92 – Weeding by Example

Ah, weeds – maybe the #1 thing that discourages people from gardening. But weeds are interesting and become a lot easier to manage when you apply some basic IPM principles. Featured shrub: Sugar Tip rose of Sharon.

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