Q. I planted a lime in my yard this summer. The bed, next to the privacy fence, gets a western exposure. Recently, the tips on some branches have wilted and turned brown. Is this due to Mother Nature, or the erratic weather we’ve been having? Or is it a pest issue? Nearby, my artichokes appear to be doing fine. Should I be feeding or doing anything else to them this time of year? — Jesse Holt, Hampton
A. You have already had a few cold nights, with some frost up your way, and I believe that is the issue with your lime. While cold hardiness varies among citrus, they can suffer cold damage when temperatures get down near freezing. Some folks might try some elaborate outdoor covering, but with your small plant, I think your best option is to dig it up, pot it and move it indoors for the winter. If you have the room and a bright spot, you can park it inside the house and treat it as a house plant. Don’t worry about feeding it, but do watch out for insects. Option 2: You can let it overwinter in an unheated space, such as a garage. It will probably drop its leaves, but it should be fine as long as you don’t overwater it. Next year, you might consider keeping it in a container outside rather than planting in-ground.
Now, the artichokes. Artichokes are herbaceous perennials that prefer mild winters and cool summers. They grow in Zones 7 through 11 and colder but will require overwintering protection in our mid-Atlantic region. While our hot summers and erratic winters are not optimum for them, they are worth a try. (Note: Some varieties are treated as annuals.)
As with other garden plants that need overwintering, they can be protected in a number of ways. Plants can be cut back to ground level or slightly above and covered with several inches of a mulch such as straw or leaves. They can be enclosed in chicken wire or similar and covered with mulch. Combinations of vented row covers and mulch are used in some production systems. As for feeding, that is necessary only during the growing season.
We have crossed the Rubicon. Wednesday was the winter solstice, the first day of astronomical winter. The sun rose at 7:14 a.m. and set at 4:52 p.m. where I live, yielding nine hours and 38 minutes of daylight — the shortest day of the year. Rejoice that now the days have begun to get incrementally longer and will peak on the summer solstice, June 21. We can look forward to that day being about five hours longer than it is today.
But for now, while the days will be getting longer, they will be also getting colder. Buckle up: This is just the beginning of the end. Old Man Winter is just now toying with us; we have two more months of this to go.
One of my favorite plants is rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, and I’m particularly reminded of this at this time of the year.
This fragrant shrub is a symbol of fidelity, respect and remembrance, and has a long religious tradition. Its use during the Christmas season dates to 16th century Europe. Various religious fables associate its blue flowers of winter with Mary and the baby Jesus. “Ros marinus,” the original name, is Latin for “dew of the sea,” and refers to its seaside Mediterranean origins.
Rosemary is an attractive and interesting landscape plant. Indispensable in cooking, the herb is a must in kitchen gardens. What would I do without it at this culinary-intensive time of the year?
Happy holidays to all, and see you in the new year.
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