Monday, February 6, 2012

Heave Ho - Garden Style

A few years ago, I wrote about heaving in the garden. When you live where I do, and have winters where the ground freezes for several months, it's unavoidable. It isn't the freezing itself that causes a plant or bulb to heave out of the ground, it's the repeated cycle of freezing and thawing and freezing again that does it.

In most so-called "normal" winters, the season reaches a point where the ground freezes and stays that way for awhile, then as spring approaches, the air temperatures start to fluctuate and so does that of the ground. But in this strangest of winters, where with a couple exceptions we've had early spring weather the entire season, the ground hasn't really frozen and stayed that way.

As a result, we're experiencing excessive heaving and it's happening earlier than usual. This is important to note, because as roots become exposed and in some case, entire bulbs, they're at the mercy of Mother Nature's whims.

I walked through Max's Garden earlier this week and noticed unusual amounts of heaving, first in the plant tags as they lay scattered across the garden, out of their proper locations. I tried to put them back as best I could, but it will be spring before I really know where some of them belong. I usually make proper tags that go deep into the ground and stay in place during heaving, but I neglected to do it with several new plants.

Heuchera 'Amber Waves' has heaved a couple of inches out of the ground.

Then I noticed the heucheras, which are notoriously bad heavers. No surprise there, but it was happening in January, not March. And the Asiatic lily bulblets were peppered around the location of their mother plants. Again, pretty normal stuff, just earlier.

Asiatic lily bulblets lay heaved out of the ground.

But what really surprised me were the crocuses. Entire bulbs had sprouted and were sitting on top of the ground, despite them being planted at the proper depth and using several inches of mulch on my gardens to help modulate the ground temperatures. Even though these bulbs would freeze if they were in the ground too, exposure to the light and heat of the sun as well as the drying winter winds wouldn't bode well for them.

Trying to find a bag of mulch to buy in the middle of winter in a northern climate in a rural location is next to impossible. Not much demand for it, I suppose. Most of the independent garden centers are closed for the season here and the big box stores haven't started stocking it yet.

So I took some mulch and leaves from parts of the garden where it isn't needed for its function and after gently pressing the bulbs back into the ground, I mulched them some more. For the heucheras, I didn't try to push them down into the ground too much; I simply piled more mulch around them.


Sue said...

Hope this works for you. It would be a shame to lose these plants. It's been a crazy crazy winter, even way up here. I've got a good stockpile of evergreen boughs to cover up the exposed stuff, but really have no idea if we're going to make it through this nutty winter without losing a lot of the fruit snow---no protective cover. Sigh........

Commonweeder said...

Makes one think stockpiling a bale or two of straw for winter emergencies might be good idea these days.

Jennifer@threedogsinagarden said...

I have noticed that heuchera do tend to be really bad heavers. Your application of mulch will help them through winter, but what do you do in spring to correct the problem?

Aimee@RedGardenClogs said...

Oh dear. I hope the extra mulch will help! I like commonweeder's idea of keeping an extra bale or two of straw on hand...I usually do anyway for the feral cats, and I occasionally dip into it for gardening as well.

I sure hope those crocuses make it! The heucheras too!

Kylee Baumle said...

Sue ~ Like I said, they usually do this, just not so early. If we don't get any truly frigid weather like below zero or a little above for any extended time, I'm sure they'll be fine. That would be fine with me, too. ;-)

Pat ~ I have made a mental note to buy a couple extra bags of mulch to keep on hand for next winter. I don't like using straw because we're so out in the open here and it's so windy that we'd have straw all over everywhere. Now if it would just blow AWAY, then that would be one thing, but it never does. It just goes where you don't want it and that's a mess.

Remember when the farmer across the field didn't plow his corn field last year? We had DRIFTS of corn stalks and leaves everywhere and it was packed into the bushes and other plants. Huge mess. This is why we have the largest wind farm in Ohio right where I live. LOL.

Jennifer ~ If it's too bad, I replant them. Otherwise, I add soil around the base of the plant.

Aimee ~ See my comment to Pat. LOL. We do have straw inside the cat condo.

Bajaj Pulsar 135 LS said...

Makes one think stockpiling a bale or two of straw for winter emergencies might be good idea these days.

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

I don't think we really get much heaving here, other than the moles pushing them up as they tunnel under. Hope your plants all do okay, this has been a weird winter for all of us.
It was so nice to see you yesterday!!

Aimee said...

Haha - good point about the straw blowing around. We've had a bit of that ourselves.

By the way, I nominated you for a blogging award that has been circulating...details are in my latest post. No need to feel obligated to pass it along or do anything with it unless you want to...I just very much enjoy your blog and wanted to encourage other people to come check it out! :)

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