Q: Last year I planted my spring flowering bulbs, but the animals got them before they flowered. How can I plant them this time without the animals eating them?
A: Planting spring flowering bulbs without the animals getting them is a challenge. Make a wire basket from ½-inch galvanized wire mesh, approximately 8-inches wide, 18-inches long and 2 to 3 inches deep. Put your bulbs inside and put a piece of mesh on top, making sure to secure it to the cage, and plant it as you would normally plant bulbs.
Q: This time of year is really busy for me. What are the things I should focus on before winter sets in?
A: Clean up garden waste, especially if you have any infestations; dead leaves, vines, stalks and similar wastes provide a paradise for overwintering insects and fungal spores. Rake up leaves that will mat and kill grass. (Note that we advise using a rake!) Give evergreens, trees and newly-set perennials a thorough soaking. Continue to water until the ground freezes. Mark with labels those perennials that start late in the spring, e.g., platycodon, Japanese anemones, eupatorium, mallows and aconite. Remove all dead foliage from around rose bushes to prevent black spot. Work cow manure and bone meal around rose buses in the garden before they are covered for the winter. Place hardware cloth around the base of young or thin-barked trees to prevent rodents from girdling the trunks. (Don’t forget to remove the hardware cloth in the spring.)
Q: I’ve put my garden to bed for the winter and find I have time on my hands. What can I do to keep the winter blues away?
A: There are lots of things you can do during the winter. Bring in your garden tools and sharpen your spades, shovels, hoes, shears and pruners using a fine file; clean off the rust and protect the tools with linseed oil. Check on your houseplants to make sure they are happy where you have put them; check especially for insects. You can plan next year’s garden. Using your notes from the past season, assess what grew well and where, and browse catalogs for new plants. Before you know it, winter will be over, the flower show will be here and you’ll be back in the garden.