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Simple Preparation to Avoid Winter Kill in Your Garden

Credit: jppi at
People tend to think it's the cold that kills plants in the winter, but that simply isn't so. Winter kill can easily be avoided by taking the proper steps to protect and care for your garden during the winter months.

Plants do not "freeze to death". Most plants die in the winter from dehydration stress. While plants need less moisture in the winter, they still need gallons of water. Snow isn't water until it melts. Couple this with harsh, cold, drying winds, and you have a recipe for disaster in your garden. Just as your skin dries out in the winter, so do your plants.

New plants are especially susceptible to winter kill. Trees under 5 years old and shrubs and perennials under two years old are considered "new". The roots of new plants are closer to the surface, in the hard freeze zone. Older plants with deeper roots find sources of moisture underground that new plants cannot.

Later fall and early winter watering is the best way to save your plants from winter kill. Heavy mulching also helps retain soil moisture and can keep roots safe from dehydration. Mulch also helps the water from the spring thaw penetrate into the ground, instead of running off.

To protect the tops of your plants during the winter, you can wrap trunks and limbs in burlap or other material to avoid dehydration from drying winter winds. There are also anti-dessicant sprays that can be used on evergreens, but they are expensive, and eventually wash off. In nature, falling leaves and needles protect the forest floors from frost. Don't ever hesitate to do the same in your garden. Using wire or other material to build a fence around your more tender plants, and filling with leaves or pine straw until they are completely covered, is an excellent winter protection. In very harsh winter climates, it is sometimes wise to build a winter shelter around and over your plants, or store them in a cold frame until spring.

In warmer southern states, building a simple shelter from poles and clear plastic sheeting can provide an effective protection against the occasional hard freeze. Always be sure to remove or open the plastic enclosure as soon as the sun comes out, to prevent burning. In warmer climes, simply covering your plants with blankets or sheets, to prevent frost from settling on and burning the foliage, can be sufficient. Professional growers regularly keep sprinklers running during a freeze to form a layer of insulating ice on crops, such as strawberries and citrus.

Lighter, friable soil rich in organic material holds moisture very well. Adding compost to the soil is a good way to not only aid moisture retention, but air retention as well, which is nearly as important.

Piling up snow around plants is a good way to insulate them and keep them safe from winter winds. While you are shoveling your walks and driveways, toss that snow over onto your plants. If this snow melts slowly in the spring, it will provide a deep watering.

Dig up tender bulbs, wrap in newspaper, and store in a cool place until spring. Dig up tender perennials and tropicals and put into pots, and bring indoors if possible.

The time and effort it takes to winterize your garden is well worth it. Taking these simple precautions will keep your garden safe and healthy during the harsh winter months, so that it can burst forth in spring and provide you with hours of joy.

Gardens, Loss, and New Beginnings

I was over reading on Michael Nolan's blog,  My Earth Garden, about how he had gotten so wrapped up in his own life and losses that he had missed it when a friend lost his partner. I could totally relate to that.

I've had a tumultuous year...well, three years, but this year especially. Money problems, work problems, health problems...whatever could go wrong did go wrong. I got so wrapped up in my own stress and sadness that I started literally pushing people away because I just did not have time to worry about them. Gardening was  my only salvation, and now that's gone too.

I lost my yard, and all I have is a few plants on a 5x8 patio and in the house. I miss my yard, all but the taking care of it. I mostly miss the plants. I think they all got good homes, but who knows? I can get more plants, but I can't get THOSE plants, you know what I mean? It's such a hard adjustment that I have literally cried myself to sleep over it. Having no garden to tend, no fruits and vegetables to pick, no bugs to spray or fire ants to poison is sort of like being naked to me. You know, the kind of naked in bad dreams where nobody notices you're naked but you?

My life is changing in ways I never could have imagined, and I have to make this work. I turned 59 in May. I feel like this is my last chance to do something meaningful with my life. It's my gardening that has made me the person I am, so it will be my gardening that makes me into who I am to become. I really want to make a difference, to have someone one day when I'm dead and gone say "Do you remember Deborah Aldridge? Wasn't she great? She taught me so much about gardening!"

That's all I want. It's not too much to ask, is it?

The Dervaes and the Insanity of the Trademark Office

Who is running the trademark office these days? First, we hear that Facebook is trying to trademark the word "book", now it's the terms "urban homestead" and "urban homesteading", which they have evidently allowed to be trademarked by the Dervaes family. You'll have to look them up for yourself, because I will not dignify them with a link to their site.

Have these people been sniffing manure, or maybe some of that homemade diesel they have in their garage? Maybe the fumes are seeping into their house, killing their brain cells in their sleep. Whatever...they are getting way too big for their britches, as we like to say in the south.

Now they are going after one of my favorite blogs, Root Simple (formerly Homegrown Evolution). You can read all about it in this blog post. You see, the owners of the original website also wrote a book in 2008 named "The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City". I suggest that you rush over to Amazon and buy the book to help contribute to their legal fees.

You know, the world is getting to be an absolutely insane place, when people like the Dervaes can lay claim to everyday words and use that power to pick on little people. To demand that people pay you to use a phrase that has been around since at least the 1970's is such total bullshit it stinks even from way over here in Florida. If you'd like to let them know what you think, you can write to them at, write them at @urbanhomestead  on Twitter (yes, they claimed the name there too). Looks like they took their Facebook page down. Probably couldn't handle the truth. The strangest thing about these people is that they evidently own the domain, but don't use it. How weird is that? Or maybe they don't own it, but are not going to allow the owner to ever use it now that they've trademarked that term, so he will have no choice but to give it to them.

Who really cares about some crazy people in California who own 1/5th of an acre of land and act like they own the world?  I guess the hoopla about them died down, so they had to find a way to get some attention. Let me just tell you one thing, Dervaes...gardeners are NOT the people you want to go up against. We have sharp tools, and sharper minds, and we like to bury things. We will bury your website, have no doubt. You will no longer be famous, you will just be another infamous blip on the internet history of assholes who think they are more than they actually are.

Enjoy your 15 minutes of fame. It won't last long.

Gardening Barefoot in South Florida...Just Don't Do It!

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I know we live in Florida, and if you want to see feet in FL, all you have to do is look down. I'm going to tell you a story that isn't pleasant, but it's a warning I have to issue.

I am infected with Strongyloides stercoralis, commonly known at threadworm. Usually, this infection is easy to knock out with drugs, but there is a chance in immuno-compromised people and those on steroids that it will become a hyperinfection and become incurable. 87% of hyperinfected people die....yes DIE.

I have these worms in my eyes and my sinuses, my lungs, my digestive tract and maybe in my brain. I don't know, because I don't have insurance to get the tests I need. Without the tests, the doctor will not prescribe the medicine I need. 70% of the time, the tests come back negative anyway, so I'm not going to waste my time taking them.

So how do I know I have threadworms? It started when my right eye started twitching and watering, and I could swear I felt something crawling around in it. I started Googling, and came up with parasitic infection of some sort, so I started looking for an herbal parasite cleanser.  I found Humaworm, and took it for a month, during which time the eye got better. Unfortunately, this started another round of symptoms as soon as I stopped. The eye problems came back and worms started coming out of my nose. I don't mean literally crawling out of my nose, but as they die, they try to exit your body, so I would feel something in my nose, dig around with a q-tip, and literally pull 1" to 2" worms out.

The more I read, the more frightened I got. I started looking for ways to treat these creatures inbetween the doses of Humaworm (there is a 90-day wait between treatments).  I am now using coconut oil, iodine, and cayenne pepper. I actually have to use coconut oil drops in my eyes at night, and an eye wash with cayenne in it three times a day just to control the crawling sensations and watering. Then I have to take more coconut oil during the day, along with the iodine, to treat the ones in my stomach and digestive tract. I also have to drink quarts of clove tea to try and kill the eggs before they hatch and make even more worms.  You can read all about these worms and my attempt to rid myself of them on Deb's Health and Fitness.

So how did I get these worms? By not wearing closed shoes outside. These worms are in our soil, and they get into your body through your feet. I never wore shoes outside unless we had an unusual cold day. I lived in flip-flops and sandals, mostly flip-flops. I would come inside with my feet filthy, and I may not wash them for half a day or more. I went barefoot in the house, probably spreading the eggs all over my house, reinfecting myself over and over. I petted my cat and kissed her, and did not wash my hands between petting her and eating. Actually, I did not wash my hands near enough during the day. Who washes their hands every time they eat some snack food?  I do now.

I don't garden barefoot anymore. I wear shoes and socks, long pants, and tuck my pants legs into my socks. I use gloves, and even when I don't, I wash my hands before touching anything in my house. I have to wash my sheets twice a week in hot water.

At this point, this house is infected, my cat is infected, and I'm glad to be moving out of here so that I can be in a non-infected environment. At present, I don't put my feet on the floor unless they are covered with socks. I'm paranoid that the eggs can somehow get through the socks and onto my feet, so I wear slide sandals around the  house as well.

This is a horrible parasite to have, and it is dangerous simply for the fact that it auto-infects, which means it reproduces inside the body. Pinworms have to leave your body to lay eggs, threadworms don't. Pinworms stay in your intestinal tract, but threadworms bore through your intestinal wall and get into your blood stream, or simply crawl around under your skin until they get somewhere friendly, where they set up camp and wreak havoc.

So I'm begging you, wear shoes and socks outside when you garden, and if you have any of the symptoms of pinworm or threadworm infection, see your doctor. The Humaworm cleanse can take care of pinworm infections, and it helps kill the adults and eggs in the intestines, but it can't cure threadworms completely. Read more on my health blog about my ongoing struggle to kill these worms, and the final outcome.

Strongyloides on Wikipedia
Deb's Health and Fitness Blog
Parasites Support Forum on Curezone