Tips on Storing Bulbs, Pruning Hedges, Supporting Plants, and Overwintering Biennials

Fine Gardening – Issue 210
mesh bags for winter bulb storage
Photo: courtesy of Beth Cammarata

Mesh bags for winter storage – Winning Tip

Every autumn, despite having saved mesh bags from my purchases of onions, bulbs, and the like, I find myself searching for additional mesh bags in which to store bulbs, bulblets, and rhizomes for the winter. In the midst of my search this year, I spied an old shower puff in the laundry room. Bingo! After snipping the rubber band bunching the netting together, I had almost 3 yards of a tube of netting measuring 12 inches wide. I cut it into squares of 12 inches and stapled one end of each length together securely. I now have a dozen bags.

—Beth Cammarata, Schenectady, New York

Pruning hedges to a uniform height

Pruning an out-of-bounds deciduous hedge can be daunting, especially when you’re trying to get a perfectly even top at a newly shortened height. If the hedge is adjacent to a structure, I use duct tape to fasten jute twine on the building at the new desired top height and then use that as my visual pruning guideline. It’s especially easy to find a uniform height with brick or horizontal siding.

Judging a uniform top height gets trickier if the hedge is freestanding, however, and particularly if the ground slopes. In such cases I use tall, heavy-duty garden stakes as the end points for my twine. I rest a carpenter’s level on the taut twine, adjusting one end or the other until the taut twine shows a level reading. Then I begin pruning.

These two methods have enabled me to produce consistently uniform tops to hedges during my annual maintenance pruning, and even to hedges that were wildly overgrown.

—Tony Fulmer, Arlington Heights, Illinois

Handy plant supports

Following a local election, I repurposed a discarded holder for a campaign yard sign into a sturdy plant stake. Searching for a more available way to achieve the same thing led me to the concrete section of a home improvement store, where I bought 10-foot galvanized-steel masonry ladders. With a hack saw, I scored the steel lengthwise to create “legs,” which then easily snapped off into three sections, each about the same length as a campaign-sign holder. Useful in propping up a multitude of things in the garden, they have become some of my favorite garden stakes. If some plants—garden mums, for example—need additional support, I can just tie string horizontally from one leg to another at different heights.

—Esther Davis, Salem, Virginia

Get control over those plant stakes

I was constantly frustrated when I needed to wrangle together my plant stakes. To bring some order to this mess, I cut the bottoms out of some heavyweight nursery pots, drilled a few holes in the side, and attached them with wire to a fence. The bottomless pots keep the stakes in place with little effort on my part.

—Lori Walsh, Rockford, Illinois

Don’t leave biennials in pots over winter

When I lived in southeastern Pennsylvania I learned not to overwinter biennial greens in pots. They withstood freezing temperatures, but when rain fell on the frozen soil, it puddled on the surface, unable to drain away. Later freezes turned the puddles into blocks of ice, sealing the plants’ coffins.

—Mary Crum, Fort Myers, Florida

From Fine Gardening #210

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