Goodnight, sweet garden…
Except for cool weather veggies, November heralds the end of the gardening season for most folks. The dazzling leaves of orange, yellow, and red that caused us to swoon are now blanketing our yards and looking tatty. Have we had our fill of gardening, ready to kick back with some hot chocolate and a good book? What is left to do to close out the gardening season?
If you still have unplanted bulbs, it is not too late. They are so forgiving! Do you have a planting auger? This is one of the gardener’s best friends! What a wonderful labor-saving tool. Attach this to your power drill and it drills a hole just right for bulbs. Drill multiple holes close together for larger plants. It works in most soils, including clay. One caveat though. Go gently. Use intermittent pressure but do not force. The auger can “grab” and twist the whole drill and with it your wrist.
Clean up fruit and vegetable debris in any garden beds to avoid overwintering pesky diseases. Avoid adding diseased trimmings to the compost pile.
Check the urge to prune or cut back plants as part of a tidy-up until you have confirmed the best time of year to do this for the SPECIFIC plant. Pruning now will encourage new growth which will not have time to harden off prior to frosts, causing more harm than good. You can prune out dead and diseased wood anytime.
If you fertilize, autumn is prime time to fertilize your lawn using one with a lower nitrogen and higher potassium content than would be used during the summer. This will strengthen roots and the lawn will be ready to start good growth in spring.
Drip irrigation, faucets, and hoses need to be drained and protected against frost. Don’t wait until you have broken spigots or worse.
As you attend to winter prep for irrigation, remember that our critter friends still need water. Leave frost-protected easy hose access near your bird baths and fountains. Cover birdbaths and fountains you don’t plan to use to avoid standing/freezing water. Freezing water expands and can crack the concrete.
Breakout birdfeeders if they have been in summer storage and restock seed. If you feed hummingbirds, you might think about purchasing a warmer for your feeders. Old-fashioned Christmas lights can work wrapped around the columnar type feeders. Wild Birds Unlimited carries a very nice warmer for the donut-shaped feeders. These work like a charm. It was so nice not to have to bring the feeders in at night or microwave them in the morning!
Mulch – we talked about types of mulch in last month’s Beet. Now it’s time to mention a few cautions for application. Hydrate the soil before you mulch. Moisten the mulch as well to encourage unobstructed filtration of water into the soil. A layer of mulch 3–4” is desirable. Do not mound up mulch against trees or shrubs because this can smother the plant and is conducive to rot and diseases. Keep a clear ring around tree flares of between 12” to 18”. Most shrubs need a clear ring of about 8” to 12” at the base of the plant. The exception to mounding mulch might be frost-sensitive bulbs. Do cover them with a generous mound of mulch or straw and remove in the spring as the shoots break ground.
By now our houseplants are safely back inside. I recently discovered an interesting podcast, On the Ledge, that is exclusively about houseplants of all varieties and culture needs. It’s timely since our gardening energy needs someplace to go! You might also reach out to Brooke Edmunds for the OSU Master Gardener Houseplant project to see if there is still time to enroll for this course. It looks really interesting!
If you are reading the Garden Beet, please give us some love via your emails. It’s hard to know if we are simply writing for our own entertainment. What topics would you find relevant to your gardening experience?
Sending you autumn wishes for a safe Thanksgiving. It will be different this year. Is anyone doing a Zoom dinner?
References & resources
Check out OSU’s November Garden Calendar
BBC television Gardener’s World (Monty Don, presenter)
On the Ledge A podcast on houseplants with Jane Perrone
The Pruner’s Bible: A Step-by-Step Guide to Pruning Every Plant in Your Garden by Steve Bradley is an excellent book!