Friday, December 19, 2014

MI Squirrels - Boston Division

Boston Division's MI Squirrel Team Leader's Report:

When Mrs. Red House moved in to this sector, we received the full report from the MI Squirrel Division down near Raleigh, NC.  After reading their report, I thought our mission of breaking into her bird feeder would be one of the hardest challenges of my career.

Now I find that thought laughable.

We have found Mrs. Red House's supposed 'baffles' to be completely un-baffling.  I only regret that my entire team is putting on too much weight.  Thanks to Mrs. Red House, all of us squirrels are getting entirely too fat.

What can I say?  Either my team is just that well trained
...or that team down in North Carolina are all idiots.

MI Squirrel Division of Raleigh  vs.  MI Squirrel Division of Boston

I'm looking forward to a nice, quiet holiday season....
oh, wait, what is this?  Another report?

You've intercepted Mrs. Red House's letter to Santa? 
And she asked for WHAT for Christmas??!

You may acquire your very own Squirrel Practice Targets from various Etsy stores!
Houston, we may have a problem.  

Calling all team members, get down off those bird feeders!
Time to whip you back into running shape, STAT!

Aww, man!

To see past mission reports, click on the topic Mission Impossible: Squirrel Division.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

How to Overwinter Tender Bulbs, Tubers, Corms, and Rhizomes

When I lived down South in zone 7, I rarely ever lifted bulbs for the winter unless I wanted to move them or share them.  I was usually able to get away with piling extra winter mulch on top of tender bulbs and that would get them through, even if they were only hardy to zone 8.

Calla Lily, hardy to zone 8, overwintered in zone 7 with protective winter mulch
Now I'm up North, though, and, sadly, extra mulch just doesn't cut it.  Those tender bulbs (or corms, or tubers, or whatever they might technically be named) have to be lifted and packed away for winter storage and then replanted next spring.  Here are my steps for lifting and storing them:

1.  After the first good frost, cut off the browning foliage and carefully dig up the bulbs, avoiding bruising them.  Gently brush off excess dirt.

Digging up Gladiolus murielae corms
2. Dry in a warm, well-ventilated place for a couple of days.  Corms such as Calla Lily, Crocosmia, Freesia, Gladiolus, Tigrida, and Tritonia need to cure in a warm place for longer, about three weeks.

Sometimes those corms will have lots of little baby 'cormlets' on them.  Just separate them gently from the main corm.  You can keep them for planting next year if you like; they will eventually grow big.

a corm with lots of little baby 'cormlets' attached
3.  If your storage area is humid, you might want to dust the bulbs with an organic fungicide.  (I've never done this, though, since my storage area is thankfully pretty dry.)

4.  Store in paper bags or cardboard boxes filled with peat moss, sand, vermiculite, or sawdust.  Gladiolus can just be stored in paper bags or onion bags, or in a box between sheets of newspaper.  For some tubers and corms, such as Dahlias, Foxtail Lilies, and Rain Lilies, the peat moss or other medium should be very slightly dampened, so that they do not completely dry and shrivel up.

Don't forget to label your bulbs!
Just make sure you don't store the bulbs in enclosed plastic boxes or bags, as that will keep in moisture and cause them to rot.

5.  Store in a cool, dry place, around 40 to 50 degrees.  Check on the bulbs a couple times during the winter.  If the bulbs are shriveling up from dryness, give them a mist.  Discard any bulbs that are getting mushy and decaying.

6.  Plant next spring...

Dahlia 'Kelvin Floodlight'
... and enjoy!

Here are a couple other resources that list how to store different kinds of bulbs:
A.D.R. Bulbs: preserving summer bulbs
P. Allen Smith: storing summer bulbs

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Started Early

The morning before Thanksgiving, I went to the grocery store to buy some last minute ingredients for our Thanksgiving meal.  However, when I returned home, I found that the feast had already started.

A whole flock of Robins had descended on my Winterberry Holly bushes and were busy gobbling up as many berries as they could get their little beaks on.  
Apparently, the Thanksgiving feast had started early this year.

There must have been around twenty birds on my two little bushes.
Of course, with so much family at the dinner table, there were bound to be a few squabbles.

As much as I couldn't begrudge the Robins their Thanksgiving feast, it was rather sad to see all the berries go even before Christmas.  Last year they were my natural holiday decorations. 

my Winterberries last December
After the horde of Robins left, only a few, sad clumps of berries remained.
What can I say?

my Winterberries this year
I guess the early bird gets all the berries!

For those of you celebrating Thanksgiving, I wish you safe travels, and a warm and happy holiday with your loved ones!  And may all of us be thankful for our blessings.

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