HELEN LANG: Tamp down the soil to reduce those air pockets

If might be a good idea to buy yourself a row-boat for Christmas in case we get marooned.

It is another foul day outside. With a completely overcast gray sky and a puddle in every dip in the pavement it’s still raining!

I guess we may as well get used to it. Almost certainly it’s going to pour almost daily until May of 2017. If might be a good idea to buy yourself a row-boat for Christmas in case we get marooned and need it to get us to the grocery store.  A couple of life-jackets might be a good idea and don’t forget the oars, unless you plan to swim along behind and push the boat. I’ll bet the water is almost freezing so, unless you have a better idea, buy those oars!

Actually if you are rich, an outboard motor would save a lot of effort on your part and maybe next summer you’d be able to supplement the food supply with all the fish you’d catch.

Pardon me while I enjoy a hearty laugh! We’d have starved to death if we’d had to rely on the fish we (almost) caught. But it was fun trying and much nicer for the fish who never seemed able to see our lures!

If you plan to give an Amaryllis bulb as a lovely Christmas gift for a dear friend, you could buy it now and get it started growing so that it will flower about Christmas time.

Planted a little later, it would also provide delight. The flowers are magnificent and January always seems to need cheering up.

Being so keen on gardening myself, I can’t help but think in terms of gifts for gardeners.

If the person is someone you really care about and money isn’t a problem, a really nice bird bath makes a wonderfully interesting gift but of course, if the recipient has a cat, please forget it, and settle on a metal garden bench, a big handsome pot or a hardy  shrub (an azalea, rhododendron,or a pieris) or perhaps a fruit tree (make sure you don’t need a male and a female tree to achieve pollination or be willing to settle for flowers only.

Consult your nursery staff to be sure your choice is actually what you had in mind and keep the roots moist until you actually plant it, please, and  the roots are safely under the soil.

Do add a big handful of bonemeal to the bottom of the planting hole, mixing it into the loose  soil there, before adding the shrub (tree), which will cover the roots with soil.

That needs to be tamped down before being flooded with water to make sure there are no pockets of air between those  roots and the soil.

You should drive in a strong stake to support your newly planted tree, tying them loosely together with wide bands of soft cloth until your new plant has had a chance to settle in, and produce a few roots to anchor it in place.

Helen Lang has been the Peninsula News Review’s garden columnist for more than 30 years.