November 19, 2008  
Around the Corner, or Not   (continuation of last article)..

The witch hazel has been flowering across the way for the past few weeks. There is still much to do in preparation for winter, as well as for next spring, if you don't want to be overwhelmed as the snow and ice melt and new green growth begins to appear. That being said, this is a continuation of my last column.  

To discourage spring lawn fungus diseases, make the final cut of the season shorter than usual, about 1 and 1/2 inches. Also, to restore some vigor, if your lawn was not fertilized this year, do so this month. The roots will appreciate it, while the demand for top growth gives the plant a winter's rest. 

By now, all leaves, branches and fruit should have been removed from beneath trees and producing shrubs and bushes. This is important to reduce the incidence of insect and disease spread in the spring. 

If you have the time, prepare a bed for frost seeding some favorite hardy flowers. These might include annuals that enjoy cool temperatures such as sweet pea, calendula, and sweet alyssum. Don't forget annual poppies, snapdragons, coreopsis, larkspur, and some biennials, too, like foxglove, evening primrose, black-eyed Susan, sweet William and others. Perennials, too, enjoy the cold of winter to stimulate germination in early spring. Try coneflower, Shasta daisy, feverfew and some rudbeckias to name a few. Borrowing from this agricultural practice yields wonderful results as the snow will carry the seeds down into the soil and "ready" them for spring germination as the temperatures warm the soil. 


The most recent scientific studies debunk winter weather forecasting based on the middle band or the black bands of the wooly bear. It is now known it's an indicator of age and diet.

If you've determined that lime is needed in vegetable, flower or lawn areas, now is a good time to apply it, as it takes four to six months to work its way down into the earth and sweeten the soil. Same is true for soil that's too sweet. Add that sulfur now, so by next growing season it'll be just right. The best pH for most plants is around 6.5. 

Be prepared for deicing well trafficked areas. Use sand, wood ashes, cat litter, sawdust, or urea fertilizer instead of salt in plant sensitive areas. 

Garden tools are probably ready to be put away for the winter. Paint thinner removes sticky pitch and sap. Wire brush them, sharpen them, and provide a thin coat of oil. 

If you have some favorite ornamental trees and shrubs that you fear might suffer from sunscald, wind damage or snow or ice load, plan their protection now and be proactive. Tree wrap, furring strip structures, and white latex paint can all come to the rescue before winter sets in. 

After the ground freezes, (did I mention, we don't yet know when this will occur?), this is the best time to mulch roses, asparagus, perennials etc. to lock in the cold and prevent frost heaving. 

Clean and lubricate snow removal equipment, shovels, too, with wax or silicone spray. 

Above, I mentioned protecting plants from winter damage. Don't forget to protect vulnerable plants from deer and rabbit browsing and rodent girdling. A hardware cloth wrap as high as practical around the trunk of young thin-barked trees will usually safeguard them from the meadow and pine voles. For the best deer protection, three or four sturdy poles wrapped with burlap around the perimeter to the full height of the plant is usually a successful barrier. 

If you are contemplating having a live Christmas tree for later planting, dig the hole now, store the soil in a container in a cool place above freezing, fill the hole with leaves in a tarp and cover with another tarp. 

If you have roses to protect, hill up ten to twelve inches of soil over the base of the plants covering the graft union. You might have the soil set aside. Do this when the ground freezes solid, not before. 

Broad leaf evergreens can be sprayed with anti-dessicants now. 

Harvest horseradish roots, or don't. It's up to you. The plant won't suffer. If you like this stimulating herb member of the mustard family for its savory relish, now is the ideal time to get some and prepare it. 

Pot up paperwhite narcissus and other bulbs for indoor winter bloom and fragrance. 

Turn houseplants regularly for even growth. 

Stake newly planted trees to steady them from strong winter winds. 

Mulching after the ground is frozen is a very beneficial practice. Two to four inches is best. Be sure to leave the trunk area free of mulch to at least a three-inch radius from the trunk. Don't give the voles the chance to nibble at the trunk bark. Under the mulch they would, free from predators eyes. 

Clean and repair garden fences and trellises, and store lawn furniture and other winter vulnerable landscape accessories. 

All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today.
- Indian Proverb            

From The Garden of Ed. Submitted for publication in The Towne Crier on November 19, 2008
Postponed and considered for publication on November 26, 2008

© 2008 Ed Mues. All Rights Reserved.