This weekly column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.
It’s been a while since I have given you a concise, all-in-one-place list of chores for the month, so I thought it would be timely to do just that.
There is always something to do in the garden, even if it is just walking around and observing what Mother Nature is up to. As stewards of the green spaces we call our gardens, here are some things to consider as we move into winter…
LAWNS: While it’s too late to do any hardcore overhauling, it’s an ideal time to apply lime and a slow release organic fertilizer. Our lawns greened up early this fall with the September rains, but in order to keep them looking good through the winter, fertilizing now is critical.
Normally, trying to control weeds (like buttercup and clover) would be a waste of time in November, but a product called Weed Beater Ultra by Bonide will actually work in temperatures as low as 45 degrees - keep that in mind if you are overrun with these nasty interlopers. With any kind of herbicide, always “target the pest and save the rest.” In other words, spot spray where needed and avoid “weed and feed” products that broadcast herbicides over the entire landscape.
FRUIT TREES: Don’t do any pruning yet, but rather practice sanitation by raking all the leaves underneath your fruit trees and applying a dormant spray to control insects and diseases. Copper combined with horticultural oil is easy to use and is relatively nontoxic. An application this month, and again in February, can work wonders.
VEGETABLES: Last chance to plant garlic. Some gardeners like to plant a “cover crop” this time of year and then plow it under come spring, but I prefer to broadcast some lime and then cover the soil with an inch of fresh compost. This will keep the weeds down and improve the soil by spring.
BERRIES: For raspberries and blackberries, it is most important to remove the canes that produced fruit this year (except for everbearing varieties). The remaining canes can be shortened up a bit and secured to a wire/trellis system.
Blueberries only need a light pruning to remove any dead wood and to shape them. If you had issues with “mummy berry” this last season, it is absolutely essential that you clean underneath your plants and apply some fresh compost.
ROSES: Remember to prune “Hip high in the fall, knee high in the spring.” Climbing roses need to be secured to their trellis and the long canes shortened up just a little bit. After pruning and thoroughly cleaning around the base of the rose, apply some lime and then pile up some mulch about 10 to 12 inches high to protect the graft union from a really ugly winter.
PERENNIALS: Tidying up the perennial border is a process for me. It’s always best to let plants die back naturally and at their own pace, but I will often cut back my Hostas before they become a slimy mess. I generally leave the rest of my perennials (and ornamental grasses) to their own demise and tackle them in February when I do my major cleanup. Just make sure all the ground is covered with either leaves or mulch, or you will have a major weed problem.
CONTAINERS: Container gardening can be so much more than a collection of summer blooming annuals. While I will admit that I empty out and put away a whole bunch of pots for the winter, I always make sure I have a half dozen or so of attractive plantings to lift my spirits during these dark days of winter. Cluster them near your entrance where you will see them every day.
The above list should give you plenty of reasons to get out of the easy chair and get your heart rate up. Take this month and next to finish up these tasks and you will be richly rewarded come spring!
Sunnyside will be holding our hands-on Wreath Making starting November 16th, 2019, running daily until December 15th. For more information visit www.sunnysidenursery.net/events.
Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville, WA and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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