Gardening Tips by Bob Beyfuss

"Gardening Tips" is a column about all things flora written by Bob Beyfuss of the Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Gardening Tips: Feb. 25, 2015

Are Herbal Remedies Safe?
Before I continue with the topic of herbal medicines, I want to share some cold weather tips with you. If you did not put rodent guards around the base of your fruit and ornamental trees, this would be a good time to shovel away the snow at their base and either install plastic guards or wrap hardware cloth around the lower two feet or so. Mice, voles, and rabbits will tunnel under the snow, quite happily and eat the bark off, possibly killing the plant. If your houseplants are looking a little sickly due to darkness and indoor dust, take them in the shower with you! Be careful with rock salt around garden plantings, use Calcium Chloride or one of the newer “plant friendly” alternatives. In a pinch, ordinary garden fertilizer such as 5-10-5 will melt snow and ice. Now back to herbs!

Gardening Tips: February 11, 2015

Salt Alternatives for the Homeowner
I read in the Greenville Pioneer that the Town of Green­ville has to budget more money for road salt as snow continues to fall. The price of salt, like almost everything else, has gone up substantially this year, from $48 a ton to almost $63. Green­ville uses about 1,000 tons per year. This is another reason why property taxes are so much higher in Northern states compared to places like Florida.

Gardening Tips: February 4, 2015

Forcing Plants to Bloom
The massive blizzard predicted for earlier this week turned out to be a bust for much of our region, although my brother reported close to two feet of snow in Groton, CT where he lives. NY City had between seven and 10 inches. I guess it’s important to warn people when a blizzard is predicted, but I feel sorry for those late night businesses in the City that were all forced to close because no one was allowed outside.

Gardening Tips: January 28, 2015

Backyard Bird Feeding
Before I begin this week’s column I want to pass on a suggestion from a reader that was prompted by my comment last week about supporting your local food pantry. Many people who need food from these pantries also have pets and pets must be fed also. My late friend Kathy loved her cats dearly and sometimes she would spend her last money on cat food instead of food for herself. If your local food pantry allows it, consider donating some pet food along with groceries. Most privately run pantries will not object and you will be doing a really nice service to those less fortunate than most of us.
Many gardeners are also bird lovers and for good reason! Birds are important predators of insects that damage our gardens during the growing season. They also provide us with beauty and amusement during the cold winter as they flock to our bird feeders.

Gardening Tips: January 21, 2015

2015 All American Vegetable Variety Selections
Since the 1930s new or improved, vegetable and flower varieties have been tested at various locations around the country. The ones that perform the best are designated as AAS winners for each year. Some of these varieties go on to become more or less mainstay selections for thousands of gardeners all over America. Some never become popular and quietly disappear from seed catalogues, despite their glowing reviews.