Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
November, 2007
Regional Report

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Putting up this minigreenhouse is like playing with big Tinker Toys.

Winter Protection Under Construction

No question about it, autumn is finally here. Winter is 'round the corner. Another gardening season is nearly over and I'm still playing with the idea of installing a substantial greenhouse. In the meantime, I ordered a Garden Starter Greenhouse to overwinter tender perennials and shrubs; small pots of struggling perennials and grasses; three oval planters with tarragon, spring mix, Swiss chard, and cold cabbage lettuce from Slovenia.

The price was right -- $159 plus shipping. The size (4 feet 6 inches wide and long, 6 feet 3 inches tall) would easily fit along an empty section of the cottage stone wall. With an additional plastic cover reaching the ground, hot manure in the bottom, and two or three light bulbs for heat, I'm counting on the minigreenhouse to protect my marginal plants this winter.

Construction was easy ... to a point. The green steel frame and resin connectors fit together like Tinker Toys. A few taps with a mallet eased pieces into place. Three shelves on either side have removable metal grids. The clear, plastic cover with two zippers brought a glitch, though. It looked fine in the advertisement. In reality, it fits too snuggly over the frame and doesn't close. Reminds me of trying to hold my breath and pull up the zipper on too-tight jeans. Something always pops.

In this case, one plastic corner ripped when I knotted the inside ties to the frame. Sally, a gardener friend suggested I heat the cover with a hair dryer to soften the plastic to pliability and pullability. I tried that once to dry a cell phone dripping from a quick dip in a bucket of water. Was not a success. Before I accidentally melt this cover, I'll call the distributor for a replacement or a remedy.

Forecasters predicted a frost that night. So there were tender plants to tuck inside. Two phalaenopsis fit on a lower rear shelf, my favorite sweet marjoram in front, three golden Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'), scented geraniums, and leafy greens snuggled in. The hose is conveniently close, so watering the pots only takes a few minutes, until a deep freeze. I'll keep you posted on this project.

Beware: Bronze Birch Borer
While weeding, cutting back dried perennial stalks, and planting spring-flowering bulbs, we unfortunately discovered a drought-related problem that doesn't bode well for property owners and trees they value. The upper branches on several white (paper bark) birches are defoliated while the lower branches are still leafy. The damage is from bronze birch borers, whose larvae feed on the tree's nutrient and sap conduits -- the phloem and xylem. The injury girdles the tree, stopping food and water transport. Tree roots die.

If unchecked, this infestation is fatal. Contact a certified, licensed arborist to assess the damage and treat and prune accordingly. The insecticide imidicloprid (Merit) injected into the soil at the trunk base can control borers. The fewer branches damaged, the greater the possibility of effective treatment.

Prevention is the best and first line of defense. Keep your birch trees healthy with frequent, deep watering, and mulch around the crowns. Welcome any woodpeckers, which devour the borers.

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