You have four weekends to finish putting the garden to bed for the year, because
Daylight Saving Time kicks in on November 6. When the changes kick in, it will
be dark by 5:00 PM, so let's get moving while we still have daylight to work
with. It may sound like a lot of time, but let's go over the list of things that
have to be done in the next four weeks.
Let's start with the vegetable garden and get all the plants pulled out and
the soil raked and cleaned. This will remove some of the potential problems for
next year, because all insects and diseases have left insect eggs and disease
spores in the garden to continue the cycle of life in your garden. By cleaning
the garden now, you should have fewer problems next season. By placing this plant
material in your compost pile, you should have plenty of recycled organic matter
to add back to your soil in June.
Conditioning the soil will make a big difference for next year garden if you
do one of the following things. If you live near the seashore, go to the beach,
collect seaweed after a big storm, and cover your garden with it. Most years
I will add 3 to 6 inches of seaweed over the garden and till it under in early
April. Seaweed is like adding peat moss to your garden but seaweed is full of
the natural fertilizers, minerals and nutrients that will improve the quality
of your soil and help your plants to grow better.
Rake your fallen leaves and pine needles into the garden and chop them up
with your lawn mower. Never put them into trash bags and dispose of them, recycle
them into your garden and turn them into wonderful soil conditioners. If you
live far from the ocean and have no source of leaves, go to your local garden
center, nursery or feed and grain store and purchase winter rye seed. Winter
rye will grow a root system up to a mile long in your garden, plus provide wonderful
shiny green foliage this fall.
In the spring, as soon as the ground thaws, it will continue growing--reaching
18 inches by late April. Then, mow the grass down with your weed whacker, and
then rototill everything together into the soil. The foliage of the winter rye
and the root system is considered a green manure crop and it will help to condition
your soil. This will help sandy soil hold more moisture during the summer months
and it will also help to break apart clay-type soils to provide better root growth
If you live in an area where the soil is acidic, now is the time to add limestone
to the gardens to help sweeten the soil. If you see moss growing in your lawn,
if you have pine, maples or oaks growing in your yard, or if your plants never
seem to have real green foliage and lack vigor, it's time to add limestone to
the garden soil. If you have a wood stove or fireplace and you burn wood products,
save the ash and spread it over your garden when you clean it for the same results.
NEVER burn pressure-treated lumber inside your home and NEVER use that wood ash
either in your vegetable garden because of the wood preservatives in it. Apply
limestone at the rate of 50 pounds per 500 sq. ft. of garden and wood ash at
one 5-gallon bucket per 500 sq. ft. of garden.
Either of the products should be added to annual, perennial and rose gardens
to help them grow and flower better. If you have flowering shrubs and trees that
are not productive but mature, the acidic soil could be preventing the plant
from flowering. Clematis vines and lilacs love lime and should be treated every
year in the fall. Even rhododendrons, azaleas and hollies can grow better with
an application every 3 to 4 years where acidic soil is common. If you're feeding
them and they still won't flower in your yard, try applying lime or wood ash
around them now. The only exceptions are blueberry plants and if you want to
keep your blue hydrangea blue--keep these products away from them or the blueberries
will have fewer berries and your blue hydrangea will turn pink.
In the perennial garden, cut back to the ground all perennials that turn yellow
and brown and remove the foliage to the compost pile or Compost Tumbler. Rake
the garden clean, apply lime products, and fertilize the garden at half the recommended
rate with organic Flower Tone plant food. If you have the time, add one inch
of compost or bark mulch on the garden to help protect the roots of the plant
during the winter months, it will be one thing less to do in the springtime.
If you have open areas in the perennial garden, how about planting some spring
flowering bulbs for early color in your garden?
In the rose garden, all you have to do in rake it clean and pull all the weeds
growing there. Removing the leaves with black spots on them from around the plant
helps to prevent fungus problems next year because you are remove dormant disease
spores from the old leaves that will infect next year's new foliage. You can
also lime the garden but do not apply fertilizer EVER after September 1, or you
could promote new growth with the nice days we will receive in the next few weeks.
You want your plants to begin to harden off or become tough for the winter and
go dormant, that way the branches become woody and are better able to fight off
the damaging winds of winter.
In addition, DO NOT prune your rose plants at this time of the year; ALWAYS
prune in the spring, NEVER in the fall. Open cuts on the stem will allow moisture
to escape during the winter months and the rose stems will dry up and die. If
your roses are finished flowering, it's also time to build a mound of soil or
bark mulch around the base of the plant to protect the graft of the plant for
the winter. Make your mound 12 to 15 inches high and just as wide and, believe
me, your plants will survive the winter much better if you live in a cold climate.
Around Thanksgiving, spray all exposed branches with Wilt- Pruf or Wilt Stop
to help the plant retain moisture in the stems in windy areas.
If you have fruit trees or flowering crabapples trees, be sure to rake all
the fallen foliage from around them to remove potential disease spores left on
the foliage for next year. When all the foliage is off the trees, spray them
with All Season oil and liquid Copper spray to kill overwintering insect eggs
and disease spores; repeat in late March or early April. These two sprays will
make a big difference in the quality of your plants for next season.
If these trees are new and young, be sure to stake them down for the winter
months with a staking kit available at your local Garden Center. This will prevent
damage to the roots caused by winter winds and heavy snow bending the tree over
and breaking. Also, if you live near a wooded area or an area with much tall
grass, be sure to wrap the trunk of the trees with hardware cloth wire to prevent
mouse, rabbit and porcupine damage over the winter. Push the wire collar into
the ground a couple of inches and have the wire reach the first branches.
If you have new strawberries in your garden, you will not believe the difference
with the plants for next year if you spread an inch or two of garden STRAW, not hay
over your plants for the winter. Great protection for the plants, it will encourage
new runners to develop faster and fruit will form faster and grow larger. For
blueberries use 2 inches of straw, pine needles or bark mulch for root protection
and feed them at half rate with Holly Tone or Dr. Earth evergreen fertilizer.
Because these plants love acid soil, add aluminum sulfate plant food to acidify
the soil to help make them more productive next year. Aluminum sulfate is also
used to keep or intensify the blue color on your hydrangeas, and a fall application
will make those flowers deep blue for next summer.
If you have raspberries or blackberries in your garden, be sure to remove
the canes or branches that made fruit this year, as they will not fruit next
year, just make foliage. By removing the old canes, you will encourage much new
growth for next year that will be productive. Also, add 2 inches of straw, pine
needles or bark mulch to protect the roots and help keep out weeds.
Rhubarb should be cleaned of all old foliage. Add a couple inches of compost
around the plant, that's all. Asparagus should be all cut down to the ground
when the foliage turns yellow to brown. If the fern-like foliage has small BB-shaped
fruit on it, be sure to pull them off and spread them on the ground to start
new plants next spring. Asparagus loves to be fertilized in the fall with cow
or chicken manure fertilizer--use 50 lbs. of composted cow manure for every 10
feet of row or 10 lbs. of dehydrated manure. If you're using chicken manure and
it's fresh. Use 25 lbs. per 10 feet of row or 5 lbs. of dehydrated.
Hydrangeas need special care also and here is what to do this fall. The white-flowering
varieties should be cleaned of all their flowers as soon as they turn brown.
If the flowers stay on the plant during the winter and you get an ice storm or
heavy wet snow, the flower will hold the Ice and snow, causing the branch to
break with the weight. I have seen many beautiful plants, especially the tree
form, destroyed this way. White varieties can be pruned in the spring or fall
to control size and to create a tree shape of the plant. Fertilize in the spring,
not the fall. New hybrids are best pruned in the early spring before the new
growth has developed and again in June to remove dead branches from the plant.
Cutting back existing branches in half will help develop stronger stems with
many side shoots off of them.
The blue or pinks should also be cleaned of flowers for the same reason but
only remove the flower on both types, never cut back the plant during the fall.
Prune only in the spring to prevent winter dieback when the winters have little
to no snow cover. Keep limestone away from the plant or it will turn pink due
to acidity levels in the soil. New varieties do not need winter protection, but
I always spray my plants with Wilt-Pruf around Thanksgiving just in case we have
a cold winter and little snow cover to protect them. If you have new plants,
build a mound of bark mulch around the base of the plant 12 inches high by 12
inches wide for the first year to help give them extra time to get established
in your garden.
If you have any containerized plants such as roses, needle evergreens or perennials,
be sure to move them under cover for winter. An unheated garage, tool shed, or
under a tall deck will do well and help prevent the container from filling with
ice and killing the roots during the winter. If this is not possible, place the
containers up against a solid structure like your house or garage for protection
from the wind and weather. Always avoid placement where water runs off the roof
and never cover the plant with plastic bags--burlap bags will work well as long
as the top is open to the air and a bit of sunlight in. Spray evergreens with
Wilt Pruf around Thanksgiving for added protection. Have
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