Gardening has been a lifelong passion for Wende and she’d like to share her passion with her readers. Follow her as she writes about her gardening adventures, lists tasks to do depending on the season, and gives easy to understand gardening advice.
Winter in Wisconsin – of course we need to use salt to melt dangerous ice - but salting can be very damaging to many landscape plants and grasses, so please be careful with how much you salt your walks and driveways. Additionally, we can’t control how much salt is applied in the street that sprays up onto your yards. Here’s some good techniques (from the Steins Gardening Calendar) to help avoid plant damage:
“Apply deicing compounds down the middle of walks and drives, avoiding the grass. Use a deicing compound such as ‘Ice No Mor’ ice melt which contains AMC, the catalyst that ignites ice melting power, and calcium chloride for fast melting action. It is safe for both concrete and surrounding vegetation when used as directed and is even dyed blue for easy application and increased visibility. It works so fast it doesn’t leave a chalky residue to track indoors, which can potentially cause damage to carpets and flooring. Always read and follow label directions.
With all this warm weather lately, the plants think Spring is almost here! I noticed buds on trees that are easily seen as I drive by, tulips are trying to poke through the ground, and my parsley is still green and growing in the back yard!
I gotten a few questions from friends about what to do so that they can save their tulips from dying. Let me assure you, for the most part, any plant that was hardy enough to tough it out over winter and is starting to grow now will not die when we get another freeze. The bad news is that in Wisconsin we may still get freezing weather through April. Some years are worse than others, but if we do get a hard freeze, those portions of plants that are green and growing may get frozen and wither and die off. All this means is that any flowers it was trying to produce probably won't bloom. New leaves may drop off. The plant will have to start over, getting a slow start for Spring. Spring blooming plants will probably skip the blooming and put their energy into growing leaves and roots instead, and bulbs will just pack it in and go back to sleep until next spring.
Great News! After 20 years, the USDA has updated the Plant Hardiness Zones! Beware, our Zone 4 (or 5 depending on where you live) has now become Zone 5b (-15 to -10F). The new 13 zone map has been brought into the internet age with GIS-based interactive maps and more accurate zones that take into consideration things like elevation, terrain, and closeness to bodies of water. Using a 30 year timespan (unlike the 1990 version that used a 13 yr span), many more weather stations, and expert input from the climatic and horticultural community, the map is much more accurate than it was plus it shows a 5 degree increase (warmer) overall for the US.
Zone 5b's limits go just west of Waukesha, where it becomes 5a (colder!). Plant hardiness zone designations represent the average annual extreme minimum temperatures at a given location during a particular time period - emphasis on average. They do not represent the lowest temperatures that can happen.