A You Do, Honey Do, We Do List That Heaps Rewards

As promised in my last column, I will continue to suggest fun, energetic and satisfying projects, small and large, that will enhance your property, your health, and your enjoyment of both.

A reminder for your winter pruning calendar: The best time to thin crowns of mature trees and remove dead or storm or drought damaged limbs is after several hard freezes. That is to say when the trees are truly dormant. If the work is especially difficult for you or you suspect a serious tree problem, for the safety of both call a certified arborist. Everybody wins.

The productivity of most vegetable gardens this season is all over the map. I grew the best tomatoes ever this year. Others complained of excessive rain, which was certainly the case for most weekends and most of June and well into July. It's about drainage. If you were successful this season, it's probably because you have fairly well drained soils. If that's the case, don't be hasty to harvest all your root crops. Hard frosts will sweeten them considerably. You can continue to harvest them well into winter. The cold ground benefits them.

As long as the ground isn't frozen, you will be able to harvest parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes, carrots, beets, leeks, turnips, onions, potatoes, salsify and sweet potatoes. This recognizes Mother Nature's full value, and saves room and storage fears.

Any part of your vegetable garden not in production will benefit from a cover crop of winter rye or hairy vetch. It's a perfect time to transplant runner strawberries. Weeds are not germinating. Just clean up the beds and like any other perennial herb, mulch after the ground is frozen.

Dig and store tender bulbs and tubers (dahlias, glads, tuberous begonias, cannas) before the ground freezes. Dry off and store in barely moist peat moss, or wrapped in newspaper in temperatures between 40 and 50 degrees F.

I'm often asked the best way to germinate fruit and nut seeds. Apple, cherry, peach, plum, pear, oak, hickory, filbert etc. can all be prepared now for next year's germination. I like to use a strong wood box filled with a mix of sand and a little peat. Plant an inch deep and wrap the box with hardware cloth to keep out squirrels and chipmunks. Bury the box within easy regular observation in a sunny spot where it can be kept moist. Freezing is beneficial. They should germinate next spring. You can almost count on it. Be patient and you'll be glad.

Bird lovers, clean out nesting boxes, feeders and drinking apparatus with a 10% bleach and water solution. Once you begin to provide the birds with food and water, the birds become dependent on you throughout the winter. The reward system must be mutual.

Want to hasten your green tomatoes to ripen and turn red? Place them in a closed container with a ripe apple. Ethylene gas from the apple does it. I like a large zip-lock bag.

Compacted wet leaves left on a lawn area deprive the turf of light and air, and can even create excessively high temps when it's warm. If you don't want to rake them, mow them. If you don't have a mulching mower, it will require a second pass. The benefits are a great savings in labor and solid waste disposal. The organic addition is purported to reduce thatch, too. An added benefit.

If you are a seed saver, you know a cool dry place is recommended. I save the silica gel from vitamins and medicine containers. I place one in each air tight container with the flower and vegetable seeds I want to use next season. I like to use film containers. Works great for me.

Be on the lookout for house invaders. Ladybird beetles, Western conifer seed bugs, box elder bugs and field mice. Tighten up the house; calk and replace worn weather stripping. They'll all be fine outside. If you can, exclude them. Inside, most will die from lack of water and food. You will do them and yourself a solid (favor). A mutual reward.

Do a 360-degree color survey of your landscape from several vantage points. Is there a fall color "gap"? Is there a color you'd like to see here or there? Be bold and feel challenged. Do a little research. Then, prepare to add an appropriate plant or two. The color palette is yours to create. Reward yourself!

Keep a landscape diary, and you can paint your surroundings a la Monet or ? Again. Reward yourself!


From The Garden of Ed. Submitted for publication in The Towne Crier on October 22, 2003

© 2003 Ed Mues. All Rights Reserved.