by Hortense E. Toity (a.k.a. Horti Toity)
With fall comes napping weather (or should I be doing something in my garden?).
You are missing glorious hours of cool November gardening!
If you haven’t already finished planting your spring bulbs, do it now! Some garden stores have last-minute bargains. Tulips can be planted later than most bulbs. Mind you, plant them deep to thwart the dinner plans of squirrels and chipmunks. And think about your spring strategy to deter deer. Those of us in our later years know that beauty requires labor.
Are your perennial gardens clean? Remove and compost (as long as it’s disease-free) dead material from flower beds and vegetable gardens. Stakes, frames, and peony rings should be cleaned and stored in the garage. Collect seeds! Or leave the seed-heads for winter interest and winter bird feeding.
Dig up your dahlia, caladium, begonia and other cold-sensitive tubers, clean and dry them, and store them in a cool place until spring.
After the ground freezes hard, you may want to cover your flower beds with 2 inches of compost, or of mulch. Nowadays many gardeners choose to leave thin leaves or chipped leaves as a winter mulch instead, clearing off and composting any that have not begun to break down in spring. Compost and mulch should never cover the center stalks of perennials and hardy plants! Compost can alternatively be used as early spring top dressing, if you prefer. Bearded Iris rhizomes should never be mulched or top dressed; the rhizome always wants to be partially exposed to the sun.
Trees and shrubs appreciate a woody mulch, but not near their trunks. Slowly adding organic matter to the soil near trees is best done by this method. Be sure to keep watering your woody plants until the soil freezes. Dead wood should be pruned now. Do not prune live wood, as that will encourage new growth which will not easily withstand winter temperatures.
You still have time to plant trees and shrubs – as long as you allow one month for their roots to adapt before the first hard freeze. Consider planting red, purple and yellow shrubs to your landscape for next year’s fall interest. And berries! Viburnums, Deciduous Hollies and Dogwoods can punctuate your fall landscape with red, purple, pink and yellow berries and fruit. Birds and wildlife will thank you. But remember – dogwoods need to be planted in spring; they require a long season to get their roots growing before bold weather.
Assess which of your shrubs need protection from winter’s fierce winds, especially those newly planted.
Clean out the plant detritus in your containers, and dump the soil into a compost heap or garden bed. If you have containers that are not winter-proof, such as ceramic and terra cotta pots, clean and dry them before storing them. Winter-proof containers can be revived with a display of small evergreens, hardy bulbs, or seasonal decoration.
When your garden is put to bed for the winter, put on some cheery music to enhance your tool cleaning ritual. Gather your tools, remove the dirt, and scrub them with warm water. Rinse and wipe them down thoroughly with a towel. With a wire brush or sandpaper, remove any rust. You may want to sharpen your tools before you store them. Because this process can lead to Emergency room visits, I recommend Kevin Noon, at noonsharpening.com. Periodically he sets up at Heinen’s for ‘sharpening while you shop’. Finally, oil your garden tools, preferably with “Boiled Linseed Oil,” a natural product made from flax seeds. Apply the oil liberally over the metal and wooden parts of your tools and let the oil soak in for 15 minutes before wiping off the excess.
Once you breeze through these last vestiges of 2018 gardening, you deserve that long, luxurious nap. Be sure to have some good gardening magazines nearby to drink with your tea (wine?) afterward!