Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Garden Clock is Ticking....

"The days dwindle down to a precious few" is so true for the October garden. As temperatures drop and you face the reality of rain becoming snow, the urgency to complete fall garden tasks becomes almost manic.

You've probably already made the decision whether to cut your perennials now or let them stand as snowy winter sentinels. You've ripped the tired annuals out by their fuzzy little roots. What else could there possibly be to do? Want a few reminders?

1) Don't let fall pass without planting bulbs. The soil temps are finally cool enough to put all the spring flowering beauties in. Who said, 'Spring is disappointing without at least a hundred bulbs in your garden?' Probably a Dutch bulb salesman, but true nonetheless. Applying a balanced fertilizer over established bulb plantings now will pay big bloomin' dividends next spring.

2) Spring flowering bulbs and garlic are planted at the same time- NOW! Cultivate the bed thoroughly, plant 4-6" apart with the clove tips 2-3"below the soil surface. Water as needed, mulch with an insulating layer of straw. You'll be harvesting your own garlic next summer. Baba ganoush, anyone?

3)  Don't forget that second application of lawn fertilizer around Halloween or later. Cold soil temperatures don't matter. Organic or synthetic, your call. Just don't omit this last pass over your turf.

4) Houseplants been outside for the summer? Round 'em up and get them inside before they freeze. Check carefully for varmint infestations, respond accordingly. If you find livestock consider the use of Systemic Insecticide granules. Even then I like to quarantine "vacationers" in an otherwise plant-less room for at least 3 weeks before moving them into the general houseplant population.

5) Treat those acid-loving blueberries, rhodies, azaleas, etc. to a sulfur application applied directly to the soil. If you apply it to mulch the organic matter binds it and the acidifying reaction doesn't occur.

6) Apply several inches of leaf mulch, compost or dehydrated manure to annual, vegetable and perennial beds. Rain and snow, freezing and thawing will break it down and you'll notice positive differences in your plants' performance next growing season.

7) If you're going to overwinter summer bulbs, corms and tubers you'd best be thinking about the harvest. Dig dahlias, begonias, cannas, glads and elephant ears as the first frost blackens the foliage and "cure". Make sure the they're firm and skins are dry, with no surface moisture before storing. Investigate each species particular packing peculiarities. Forgive the Peter Piper picked alliteration.

8) Going to try and keep hardy trees and shrubs outdoors in pots over the winter? Be sure to use the largest container possible, 18" in all dimensions, even larger is better for survival. Do water throughout the winter. Spray evergreen foliage with Wilt-Pruf to reduce dehydration. Expect them to be "annuals" and then it's a wonderful bonus if they prove to be winter hardy.    

9)  When to put the roses to bed for the winter? Apply the 8-10" beaver dam mounds of leaf mulch or compost when the leaves are brown and hanging limp, the soil surface is frozen solid or they've been exposed to 3 or more nights of 20 degree F.

10) Use evergreen branches (buy the bundles or cut from your used Christmas tree) for mulching perennials and to protect unshaded beds of English and pachysandra from winter burn. That's textbook re-purposing.

Tick, tick, tick....