Wednesday, November 23, 2011

November Garden To Do's

Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM.

Paul recently sent out a post titled "It's Mid-November; Time to Put the Garden to Bed". He brings up many helpful points for this month.:

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 as needed.

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 good.

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 temperatures.

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 will die.

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?

Thanks to Paul Parent!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
November 23, 2011

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