Mid-Atlantic

January, 2008
Regional Report

Time to Mulch

Bill Thomas, executive director of Chanticleer, a "pleasure garden" in Wayne, Pennsylvania, says they mulch in winter for three reasons. First, the staff has time because the garden is dormant; no immediate horticultural work demands attention. Second, with the ground frozen, you don't have to worry about compacting soil with a wheelbarrow or truck full of mulch. Also, adds Thomas, "We can play around with the mulch to experiment with new bed patterns."

Make a Wildlife Plan

Winter's down time has restful benefits. I love watching cardinals and titmice flitting around the bird feeders without feeling the need to weed someone's garden. That leads to wondering how to encourage more wildlife (except squirrels and deer!). The National Wildlife Federation offers guidance to help anyone transform a patch of land -- small or large -- into a habitat encouraging more insects, frogs, hummingbirds, and birds of a feather. It's less complicated than you think. For details about official certification, go to their Web site: http://www.nwf.org/backyard .

Ring in the New Year with Easy Exercise

No more excuses of "I'm too busy preparing for the holidays." Start 2008 with exercise to keep in shape for gardening come March. It's okay to start easy and increase as you get stronger and more motivated. A morning stretch and brisk walk around the block will warm your muscles and stir your senses. Could inspire you to train for a marathon, try yoga, or dream of expanding flower beds. Either way, your body will be better tuned for spring gardening.

Winterize Ponds With No Fish

Before your pond freezes, remove fallen leaves and debris that will decay into a gooey muck by spring. In small ponds without fish, remove and store the pump, and thoroughly rinse filter pads and biomedia. If they haven't frozen, bring pots of papyrus, horsetail, and corkscrew plant (juncus) indoors; keep moist and in a sunny window for winter. In a larger pond, reduce water circulation by decreasing flow rate, switch off air pumps, and retrieve pumps from the pond bottom and bypassing bottom drains where possible.

Winterize Pond With Fish in Mind

Fish get stressed out when their pond home is disturbed. But they won't survive winter if muck and debris decay and carbon dioxide and ammonia accumulate. Some experts recommend a partial late-season cleaning that accommodates the fish. On a relatively warm day, pump out and save the top half of cleanish pond water. Gently net catch the fish to temporarily store in a tub of that pond water. Pump out remaining yucky pond water, then thoroughly clean the bottom by vacuuming all sludge. Refill the pond with the cleanish pond water mixed with new, dechlorinated water. After a half hour, gently net the fish into their cleaner home. Install a deicing device to keep the pond from freezing.

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