Gardener’s Corner — Winter 2024

January 11, 2024

With Director of Horticulture Eric Kimbrel

As winter sets in, SHR staff and volunteers are cleaning seeds like a bunch of squirrels as snow falls with temperatures below freezing. It is important to inventory seeds so we can plan for germination and stratification. Other indoor tasks include updating records and paperwork related to all the plantings and sometimes fatalities. We also focus on maintenance of equipment and tools in preparation for the busy spring.

In the garden, wintertime is all about planning. We review large-scale projects involving water mitigation and planting design, and we assess and address the overall health of garden rooms. It’s a great time to test soil pH levels, which are an important factor in the health of plants. Because we are located on Toxaway gneiss, the pH of our soils consistently decreases toward the acid end of the scale, often measuring four rather than six, which requires us to add lime often. Even fertilizing causes pH to drop, so we add lime to our turf areas as well.

We are being very meticulous in bed cleanout right now, removing rhododendron leaves and holly leaves because leaving these in the beds breeds pest issues for the plants. We spray these broadleaved evergreens with antitranspirant to help reduce winter damage.

Winter is a time to complete tasks that have fallen to the wayside — this year because of increased time spent watering in the drought. In preparation for springtime rains, we clean out drain boxes and monitor the resilience of our garden pathways and the effectiveness of our stormwater mitigation measures. We are addressing water mitigation in the Vaseyi area and adding a step pool feature to help with water runoff and add beauty to the aesthetic there. This is also good time of year to take inventory of broken irrigation heads and make notes for repairs in the spring. We are thinking also about the plants and materials we will need to order for the spring.

Managing the greenhouse project, which broke ground in November, has become another full-time job. One of the first tasks we faced was to create another access road to our bulk storage materials while Duke Road was blocked with construction. The silt fences and erosion control around the construction site require daily monitoring. We meet weekly with contractors and daily with the construction crew to ensure the project is running on schedule. Currently all timelines point to a late summer completion, and we look forward to sharing continued progress reports with you.