“When we lived in Florida I had several elephant ear mammoths, which I dug up and moved with me to Maine. Can these be planted as a perennial in this northern climate or will I need to dig them up every year?”
In the southern states, where the winters are mild, elephant ears are perennials. However, moving them north of the Mason-Dixon Line will turn them into perennials that have to be dug up before hard frosts and winter snow hits. If you have it in a movable pot and have the room, you could cut back the leaves and bring it in the house in the winter. Otherwise, after the first frost you can cut the dead foliage back with a scissors and let it go dormant for the winter by putting it in a cool dark basement.
About 2-3 weeks ahead of dormancy I would also recommend making an application of Monty’s 2-15-15 formula. This formula is excellent for helping the plant store energy and developing the roots over the winter, however, it will not provide enough N to spur on any late season growth. Then in the spring when you transplant them or get ready to move them back outside, start them off slowly with Monty’s 4-15-12 it will provide enough N to slowly wake them up and bring them around (if you will be transplanting them it will also help minimize transplant shock). Once they are established well, feel free to use Monty’s 8-16-8 to develop the enormous, gorgeous ears that make elephant ears the pride of the garden.
One last note, in your growth zone, as cold as winters can be, if you leave it in the ground, like cannas, the constant heaving of the soil from the elements, will simply cause it to crack, rot and dry out.
“We had such warm temperatures in April in our area that I went and starting planting some of my cool weather vegetables and what I thought were hardy flowering plants. A cold snap slipped in about mid-May – much to everyone’s surprise – and froze all my plants. Is there ever a standard rule of thumb regarding when it’s safe to plant in a person’s particular zone?”
What you want to find out is what the average last frost date is in your area or zone for starters. Visit www.noaa.govand type “frost dates” into the search box and you’ll get some pretty valuable information. Another great site I found was through an online retailer call Greenhouse Magazine who has a facebook link: facebook.com/greenhousemegastore that shows detailed charts for all areas in every state. It even has a nice image showing what the average dates are in your area.
Even with all of the cautions in the world, sometime mother nature has some surprises in store for us. Even though at Monty’s we have not investigated it scientifically, many gardeners and even farmers swear by the ability of Monty’s to help plants withstand the shock of our of season freezes. One of our favorite stories came from a farmer who farms above the high-line in Northern Montana. In 2005 they had a freeze where temperature dropped to 28 degrees for over 4 hours one July night. While his untreated corn and all of his neighbors corn suffered severe frost damage, his Monty’s treated corn showed no sign of damage and went on to produce a great crop that fall. As soon as your plants emerge or get established start treating them with Monty’s 8-16-8 every week or so. See for yourself if you don’t join the ranks of homeowners with amazing Monty’s tales to tell.
“Late last summer my tomatoes got a blight that destroyed all of them. Is this something I have to worry about again this summer? So far my plants look excellent.”
Late blight does not winter over in the soil in colder climates, but in warmer climates it can still be a threat – even in Georgia. Be sure to water your plants close to the ground so moisture doesn’t actually splash up on the leaves. A good bed of mulch like grass or straw will help keep the moisture in and the “splash” factor down which should help tremendously.
An application of Monty’s Liquid Carbon to your soil in the fall and/or the spring (you can even make an ‘emergency’ application now) will help to increase the organic matter in the soil. This will give you two benefits: One, it will help the soils drain. Well drained soils do not have the tendency to create anaerobic environments that are beneficial to harmful bacteria. Two, it may help improve the overall soil environment and encourage the native beneficial bacteria population so that they out-compete the harmful ones for resources.
Finally, since you are tlaking about late blight, I assume your plants are already blooming. Spoon feed the plants additional nutrients like a tsp of epsom salts around the base of each plant (for added magnesium) and weekly applications of Monty’s 2-15-15 to provide for the overall health and nutrient needs of your tomatoes.
Like all pest, diseases, and bacteria, late blight is a symptom that something else is wrong with your garden or plants. Across all of nature, disease and prey always attack the weakest first. By providing the nutrients they need, your plants will be able to better defend themselves with their own natural defense mechanisms.