What we do around here in Winter

After all the cold weather we’ve been having, today’s high of 25 (F) felt like 40! This meant I could comfortably go outside and throw tennis balls to Jake and Buddy, who have a tendency to guilt us into coming outside and playing by standing at the patio door and staring in at us. Jake has also developed the bad habit of barking incessantly when he feels neglected. Less so when Buddy is around.

Today I sewed 20 grow bags. From this season forward, anything woody will be planted in a grow bag and grown in a cell of a concrete block. Growing trees and shrubs in bags made of spun landscape fabric, whether housed in concrete or not, allows roots to be air pruned, spurring the development of thick fibrous roots and preventing roots from circling, like they most certainly will in plastic pots. The concrete keeps the roots cooler in the heat of summer, and helps hold in moisture. We tried this growing method last year with a few black pussy willow shrubs and can report that this resulted in beautifully branched plants with healthy, well-developed root systems. We also planted a number of small trees in the grow bags and have concluded that yes, they grow much better this way. The bags are easy to make, but a little monotonous, which is why I stopped at 20.

I’ve been enjoying looking at the pussy willow lately. Some of the catkins are peeking out of their casings! We are currently growing  4 varieties:   Japanese Fantail, Giant, Black and Heirloom Purple. And we will be planting the following new varieties this year: a low growing weeping pussy willow (Salix Kilmarnock), a pink variety of Giant Pussy willow, as well as 6 other willows grown for stem color, a few having the added bonus of catkins. Willows are so wonderful!

This afternoon I went outside and begun the task of pruning volunteer mulberry trees to a more pleasing shape. I have come not to resent these trees as I did in the beginning, since they are among the few capable of germinating and growing rather quickly in brome grass, without needing mulch or extra water from me. In a mostly treeless slice of land like ours, a shapely 20 foot mulberry is welcome. There is another invasive, fast-growing tree around here that I still do not like: the Siberian Elm. Any suggestions on how to get rid of it are more than welcome!

And what did Alan do today? Spring cleaning and a great job of it! Keep up the good work, Al!