compost around perennials

Want to water less often? Try using mulch

by Connie Oswald Stofko Have you gotten any rain lately? If so, lucky you! I’ve been hearing forecasts of thunderstorms, and I happily anticipated having my rain barrels refilled. But we got only lightning. There was barely enough rain to dampen the porch– and the areas under the plastic lawn chairs stayed dry! We’re significantly below average for precipitation, said John Farfaglia, extension educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Niagara County. The last summer that was comparable to this was…

holly raguza, Bugwood.org

Let’s clear up confusion on using bark as mulch

by Connie Oswald Stofko You may have heard that using bark as mulch is good because it provides nutrition for your plants, or that it’s bad because it eats up nitrogen making the nitrogen unavailable to your plants. The article Woof! No, Bark! clears up the confusion on using bark as mulch. This article is in WNY Gardening Matters, produced by the Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners in Erie County….

Liatris spicata. Photo courtesy Ball Horticultural

Is it too early to plant liatris bulbs in Western New York?

by Connie Oswald Stofko Here’s a question I received from a reader early last week when the weather became warm and sunny: Hello. Can I plant liatris bulbs now? Or should I wait until the soil warms?  Thank you. Linda in Tonawanda In case you’re not familiar with this plant, here’s a little bit of information about liatris. It blooms in summer with large flower spikes that attract butterflies. The plant is drought-resistant, so it doesn’t need much care. It…

snow in Amherst garden

Which was better for our gardens– this winter or last winter?

by Connie Oswald Stofko Last winter was bitterly cold, but there was a lot of snow cover to protect perennials. This winter has seen some swings in temperature, which can be bad for perennials. I thought our gardens might have liked last winter better than this winter. Not so, say my gardening experts. “Definitely this year is better, hands down,” said Teresa Buchanan, Teresa Buchanan, general manager at Lockwood’s Greenhouses, 4484 Clark St., Hamburg. Note that she’s in the South…

annuals in pots in Amherst NY

What does this mild autumn weather mean for Western New York gardens?

by Connie Oswald Stofko What’s up with this warm weather in Western New York? We can’t predict these things with 100 percent accuracy, but because of El Niño, it looks like we are going to have a mild autumn and early winter, said John Farfaglia, extension educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Niagara County. Our winter may not be as cold as the two previous winters have been, “which would be nice for a change,” he added. We may not…

ice sculpture with ribbons in Western New York

Make the most of these low temperatures by creating molded ice centerpieces

by Connie Oswald Stofko The winter I heard about making colored spheres out of ice, I thought it was a great idea. But I waited an entire year before I could try it outside because the previous winter had been too mild. Temperatures would repeatedly bounce up above freezing. The forecast never seemed to call for enough below-freezing days in a row to make the effort worthwhile. Then last winter it was finally cold enough to experiment. I was able…

Replace Botanical Gardens’ storm-damaged plants & 4 more ways your donation helps

by Connie Oswald Stofko During the recent Snowvember storm, the wind and the weight of the snow broke 150 panes of glass in two greenhouses at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical  Gardens. The storm destroyed 154 plants indoors. It will cost roughly $6,000 to replace them. That’s not taking into account damage done to plants outside. But you can help by making a monetary donation today. Not only did the Botanical Gardens lose plants in the storm, it lost…

dandelion late November 2014 in Amherst NY

For the record, it’s not winter yet in Western New York; let’s make the best of our weather

by Connie Oswald Stofko It sure felt wintry in Western New York before Thanksgiving. When people ask me how much snow I got, I say: “Just 10 inches.” I emphasize the word “just.” In other years, 10 inches of snow before Thanksgiving might feel like a lot, but compared to the seven feet that other people got, it’s hardly worth mentioning. Yet after Thanksgiving, the weather got so warm it felt like the calendar was going backwards. It seemed as…

snow plow stuck Snowvember 2014 from David Clark Hamburg NY

What does WNY’s Snowvember storm mean for your garden?

by Connie Oswald Stofko First, let me say that I sincerely hope you and your loved ones are safe. Since this is a gardening magazine, we’ll talk about what the Snowvember storm means for your garden, but I do want to let you know that I understand how serious this storm was. It was dangerous. People were injured and people died. There was property damage, too. Even if you got through it unscathed, it was scary. My thoughts and prayers…

5 tips to make the most of autumn leaves in your garden

by Connie Oswald Stofko Do you know that there are people who essentially throw their leaves away? They rake them out to the curb and wait for someone to haul them away. I find that amazing because those autumn leaves are a valuable commodity for your garden– yet they’re free! Here are five tips on making the most of autumn leaves. Tip #1: Use leaves as mulch around your perennials to help them survive the winter. If we have a…