New buds and blooms at Christmas time? Many plants have been fooled this year into thinking spring is right around the corner. Quince, clematis and crabapple have been producing flowers lately with the hope that winter passed us by this year. They were wrong. But luckily, nature doesn't punish these late-fall bloomers as badly as she does the early-spring bloomers. So, if you have had some plants bloom this fall, don't worry -- their growth and spring blooms should not be greatly affected.
But if now is not the season for blooming, what should winter gardeners be doing this time of the year? While not the season to watch the grass grow, it could be important to watch the water puddle because where water puddles in the winter may cause you trouble in the spring.
The heavy clay soils in this area make water drainage a real problem and plants will not grow well in poorly drained areas. The solution may be as simple as removing a berm or raised area that is blocking the flow of water.
Poor soil conditions may also be the culprit. The soil can be improved with organic matter (compost, shredded leaves and shredded grass clippings) but never add sand. Adding sand to soil in this area creates a mixture with the drainage properties of concrete. Sand combines with clay soil, actually reducing the porous spaces for drainage. Flowers, trees and grass may not grow well in soils with poor drainage, but they won't grow at all in concrete.
And finally, at this time of the year, be extra careful with a favorite holiday decoration -- mistletoe. Every part of the mistletoe plant is poisonous -- leaves, stems and berries. Keep small children away because they have a tendency to taste everything, and always wash your hands after handling any part of mistletoe. Symptoms of mistletoe poisoning include gastric upset, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
And by all means keep older kids and adults away from this plant as well or impeachment may occur. Talk about the "kiss of death!"
--The Garden Center is sponsored by K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County office and written this week by Master Gardener Bill Padgett. For more information, call 843-7058 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.