The winter months of January, February, and March can be great months for working outside for those of us who are not inundated with snow or frozen ground for long periods of time.
Although here in Virginia temperatures can drop into the teens at night and the 20s and 30s in the daytime, it’s not the norm.
This winter, except for the severe cold spell in December, has been mild. Daytime temperatures have mainly stayed in the 40s and 50s. Perfect for working outside – at least for me.
Exceptions for Going Outside Everyday
It’s my habit to work some outside everyday unless there’s ice on ground or it’s raining hard or below freezing. Don’t even mind working in light rain most of the time. The exception would be if my clothes get soaked through and I get too cold.
Of course, as with most everything you could mention, I always think of Bill when it starts raining while outdoors. If we were working together when it started raining he’d say (much to my disappointment), “Theresa, I’m not working in the rain.”.
3 Things That Finally Made the Priority List
In addition to continuing efforts to close borders and finish preparing for Spring planting, I’m working on 3 things that have need to be done for some time.
- Taking up an almost decade old ornamental grass
- Removing a Lilac tree
- Moving a rose bush
Removing a Large ornamental grass
When I planted this grass by my front porch almost decade ago I thought it would look good. Although it didn’t look horrible, it didn’t look that good either. Much too big and something not worth the effort anymore.
The task was put off last year because I knew how hard it would be for me and other things needed the priority.
Made it my first winter task this year since it would be one of the hardest. Large ornamental grasses hug the soil and can take a lot of effort to get up.
A man’s muscles are more perfectly suited for this task, but anyone can do it if you’re willing to make the effort. I worked on it about 30 to 45 minutes each day until I got it up.
Procedure for Digging Up the Ornamental Grass
- Cut it down as close to ground level as possible. (The cuttings were used for mulch in that border.)
- Use a transplant spade (great for deep-rooted shrubs and perennials)
- Place spade (a/k/a transplant shovel) close to base and push with your foot to sink it into the soil
- Pull back on the handle to loosen the roots from the soil (It won’t “give” much at first.)
- Continue around the base of the grass several times.
- Use a regular shovel if you find it necessary (I did) to move soil so you can better get to the deep roots.
- Repeat until finally the roots detach from the soil
My best guess for the weight of the root ball was at least 100 pounds. Had to roll it to move it.
You Can Use the Root Ball
It will eventually make great organic material I can use. Turned upside down in an out of the way place it can sit and dry out.
How long it takes depends on the weather. It’ll dry faster in hot weather. The roots will die.
As it dries I can pull it apart little by little. The dry pieces can be added to the cold compost pile. Or thrown in garden paths to decay.
Picture of a transplant spade below
The shape of the blade is intended to penetrate the soil as you work your way around the plant.
Eventually the roots will be loosened from the soil and the plant can be removed.
Removing the Lilac Tree
The lilac tree was in the border that runs along the white fence parallel to my driveway.
It had become brittle and really needed to be removed years ago. It didn’t make the priority list until this year.
I used the transplant spade and basically the same procedure used for the grass.
A Warning about Pulling on Roots
The temptation here is to pull on the root when it doesn’t come up easily.
In case you’re new to digging roots etc. be warned they can break when you least expect it.
Effort applied when pulling can cause you to fall backwards with momentum that can cause injury. It can be serious depending on your position, what’s around you, or even how hard the ground is. (I learned this the hard way many years ago.)
Winter can be a good time to move rosebushes since they’re dormant and less likely to be disturbed than one that is actively growing.
The rose being moved was in the back of the property where I’m closing a border. Its new home will be where the lilac tree was. Used the transplant spade to remove it. Knocked the dirt off and moved it to its new location.
It’s an old fashioned climber whose name I’ve forgotten. I doubt that it’ll have enough room to reach full potential, but it’s the only place available. Even when not allowed to climb the hot pink double blooms are prolific, beautiful, and fill the air with a wonderful fragrance.
If weather allows use the winter months to get caught up on some of the harder tasks you plan to do this year.
PS – Be sure to read Jim’s comments below the post for additional procedures.
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