Here is the weekly crop of Master Gardener tips from Nebraska Extension in the Panhandle. These tips are relevant to local lawn and garden issues in the High Plains and follow research-based recommendations. This week’s tips come from Vicki Schmitt, Nebraska Extension Master Gardener Volunteer, and each focuses on the roles that trees can play in home landscapes.
Using a rain barrel to water plants: Surprise! The old-fashioned rain barrel is making a comeback. Catching water from your roof allows you to store it for later use. Even ½ inch of rain on a small home can yield 150 gallons of water. That water can be used for ornamental plants and flower pots, but not recommended for edible plants. You can keep precious rainwater from running down the gutter. Install a rain barrel!
Trees and shrubs save on energy costs: Want to save money on air conditioning? Plant the right trees. Trees and shrubs can reduce heating and cooling bills by providing summer shade and protection from winter winds. A deciduous tree, one that sheds its leaves in the winter, will provide shade for your home in the summer but still let winter sunlight through the branches. Careful planning can save money and energy.
Mulching potted plants: You probably have mulch in your yard or garden but what about your potted plants? Outdoor pots benefit from a layer of mulch in much the same way as your garden, reducing moisture loss and evening out the soil temperature. Clean compost, straw, hay, and shredded bark are all good choices. Apply no more than 1 inch and keep it away from the plant stem.
How mulching helps your garden: Have you considered using mulch in your garden? Compared to bare ground, mulch moderates soil temperature, retains moisture and keeps the weeds down. Inexpensive, organic choices include leaves, straw, newspaper, and compost. Spread mulch on warm soil no deeper than 3-4 inches. Grass clippings can be used if they are pesticide-free. Just keep them under 2 inches at any given time. Now is a good time to consider your mulch options.
Harvesting and preserving herbs: If you have herbs in your garden, now could be the time to harvest and preserve them. To dry herbs cut them just before the flowers open, morning is best. Tie the sprigs together at the cut ends and hang them upside down in an airy, well ventilated, dark area away from direct sunlight. Strip the leaves when they are crispy and store in airtight jars. Enjoy your dried herbs all year.