The weather has been mild for most of us but let's use these remaining nice
days to our advantage and close up the garden for the year. The weather has a
way of changing without much of a notice so let's get it done and move our gardening
skills indoors now.
In the vegetable garden let's pick all the roots crops, such as carrots, beets,
turnip, and rutabagas. Remove all the foliage but do not cut into the flesh of
the vegetable, I usually cut the foliage to one inch of the top and toss the
greens into the composter. Store these vegetable in your garage or cold basement
in a box of sandbox sand. All I do is cover the bottom of the box with a thin
layer of washed sand and then place the root crop in the box and cover with the
rest of the sand. This keeps the air off them so they do not dry up while in
storage. Sandbox sand can be purchased in 50 pound bags at your local garden
center and it keeps the vegetables much cleaner than using peat moss. When you're
done eating the vegetables, use the sand on the snow and ice on your walkways
If you have not pulled your onions, shallots, sweet potatoes, or regular white
potatoes, now is the time to do so. Shake off any soil, wash them with the garden
hose, and let them air dry. Remove any dried foliage and place them in your garage
or cold basement in open baskets or mesh bags to create good air circulation
while in storage. . Check often for possible rotten vegetables and dispose of them as needed.
(One rotten potato can and will destroy all your work.)
When everything is removed, rake the garden clean of debris and spread limestone over the garden to keep the soil from getting too acid.
All your winter squash can also be kept in the same storage conditions in
baskets and dry. Butternut, acorn, buttercup, Hubbard and more will keep well
most of the winter. Many places are having specials on winter squash right now
so take advantage of the price and stock up while it is available.
Brussels sprouts can stay outdoors in the garden until you are ready to eat
them; along with kale. Many years I have picked both of them right up until
Christmas; several years I had to dig them out of the snow and they tasted real
Let's not wait any longer--winterize your roses now. First, if you have
potted rose bushes, potted tree roses, or miniature potted roses they must spend
the winter in an unheated building like your garage or tool shed, NOT your house
or basement. Roses must go dormant for the winter and rest. If you keep them
alive they will grow themselves to death. Like you and me, they need downtime
and winter is their time to rest. Once all the foliage has come off or turned
brown, water the planter well and move it indoors. Do not feed them, do not prune
them; just let them rest in the cold building until mid-March. When the weather
changes, move the container outside, water well, and wait until April first before
pruning the plant and feeding it to begin a new season in your garden.
Roses planted in your garden need extra protection for the long winter if
you live in a cold climate like New England. Right now build a mound of soil,
compost or bark mulch on top and around your plant 12 to 18 inches tall and just
as wide. This will help protect the delicate graft on the plant. I also recommend
that you spray the branches or canes of the rose bush with an anti-desiccant
like Wilt-Stop or Wilt-Pruf to prevent the winter winds from drying out the delicate
canes. Do not prune your rose bushes during the fall ever; wait until April to
prune them and at that time start your monthly application of rose fertilizer.
If you have climbing roses, make sure to tie them up to the structure they are
climbing on so the branches are not damaged with the winter wind and snow. In
April, spread the mound of protection material around the plant to help keep
the roots cool during the heat of summer.
Hydrangeas should be cleaned of all dead flowers on the plant to prevent heavy snow or ice damage.
Those large dried flowers will catch the heavy wet snow or ice and the weight will bend, possibly breaking the branch. Just remove the dead flowers; do not cut back the branches until spring. Your summer flowering
blue hydrangeas are the least hardy, and if you live north or west of Boston,
in northern New York State or in western Pennsylvania, they should be protected
much the same way as the roses are. Follow the same steps with the mound of mulch
and a spraying of an anti-desiccant to help protect the delicate flower buds
on the plant for next year.
Newly planted trees over 6 feet tall should be staked to the ground to prevent
the wind from moving the plant around during the winter months. If the tree moves
around during the winter, the root ball in the ground will also move and the
small newly developing roots will snap off, preventing the plant from establishing
itself. If you have a flowering or fruit tree, it should also be wrapped with
tree wrap to prevent the bark from cracking or splitting with the fluctuating
If these trees are planted near open fields or near a wooded area, there
is the possibility of rodents damaging the plant by eating the bark the first
couple of years, until the bark toughens up. Please take the time to build a ring
around the trunk of the tree with hardware cloth wire from the ground to the
first branch. Make the wire collar so it has a 1 inch space from the trunk of
the tree to the wire. If you don't, mice, moles, and rabbits will feed on this
tasty bark when the snow gets deep; if they eat the bark off the plant, the tree
If you have new arborvitaes, look at them closely and see that they are multi-stem
plants; ice and heavy wet snow will split them, breaking them apart. Just take
a piece of rope, like clothesline rope, and tie a piece at the base of the plant
and wrap the branches together like a cork screw around the plant. Go 3/4 of
the way up the plant to prevent damage and leave it on the plant from November
to April. This will need to be done for the first 2 to 3 years until the plant
has begun to mature and the branches harden.
If you have a new or established birch clump it might be a good idea to tie
them together to prevent them from falling over with heavy wet snow. Tie one
tree with the rope and wrap the rope around the others--like the arborvitae--in
a corkscrew pattern. T,here is strength in numbers, so tie all the individual
trunks together. Birches have weak stems and easily bend under heavy snow never
to return to the same position in your yard.
Any newly-planted broadleaf evergreen like azalea, rhododendron, boxwood,
holly or mountain laurel should be sprayed with an anti-desiccant like Wilt-Pruf
or Wilt-Stop NOW and AGAIN in early February to keep them fromdrying out in a
windy location. To me it's worth spending a dollar per plant to prevent damage
on a plant worth $25.00 or more, now, isn't it?
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