It’s really hard to get motivated to do much of anything outdoors, but there are a few tasks and chores which you should do on those days when the weather is favorable!
Here are a few gardening tasks and projects that you can do this month to help keep your garden looking it’s best for the rest of this season, and prepare for the long cold winter and upcoming spring.
Perennials, annuals, and bulbs
Make sure that the canes of your climbing roses and other vining plants are securely fastened to their supports. Winter winds can whip and severely damage unprotected plants. Don’t tie them so tightly that the string or twist-tie cuts into the stem. I recommend using a length of an old nylon stocking because it will stretch as the plant grows, rather than cutting into the stem, as string will do.
Mound five to six inches of soil around the bases of your hardy fuchsias and roses. Use soil from another part of the garden, rather than risking damage to the roots by digging around the base of the plant.
Cut Chrysanthemum stems to 2-3 inches from the soil once they have begun to die back.
You can continue to transplant your perennials throughout the fall and winter, as long as they remain dormant.
Tulip bulbs may still be planted in the early part of the month.
Tender bulbs should be dug up and stored in a cool, dark area after first frost.
Be sure that your tender plants are protected from frost. Mulching with bark, sawdust or straw will help create a blanket of protection over the root system. Should the weather get suddenly cold, place burlap, cloth or dark plastic over your tender plants to give them some added protection from the cold. Be sure to remove this covering when the weather has stabilized!
Shrubs and trees
One of the most asked questions this time of year is “when can I transplant my shrubs and trees?” This month and throughout the next several months will be good times to transplant trees and shrubs. At this time of the year, most ornamentals have entered into dormancy, and can be safely dug and replanted. The key to transplanting is to dig a large root ball (get as much of the root system as is possible). Equally important, is getting the plant back into the prepared soil as quickly as possible, to keep the roots from drying out. (Only a transplanting fertilizer should be used at this time of the year.) Large trees or shrubs should be staked to protect them from wind whipping during winter storms. Keep them staked until the roots have a chance to develop and anchor them.
As soon as the leaves fall from fruit trees, shade or flowering trees, raspberries and other deciduous plants, they can be sprayed for the first time with a dormant spray. This spraying helps control over-wintering insects and diseases. Apply according to label instructions.
Prune your evergreens to shape.
If you haven’t already applied a fall or winter type of lawn fertilizer (20-9-9), now is the time to do it. This encourages good root development and helps improve the color of the lawn. Lime can also be applied, if needed.
Give your lawn a good raking to lift away accumulations of debris.
Keep leaves raked from the lawn. They should be composted. Alternatively, you can just mow over them, turning them to mulch which adds important nutrients back to the lawn.
Winter heating dries the air out in your home considerably. Help your house plants survive by misting them or placing the pots on a pebble filled tray of water to ensure adequate humidity and moisture.
Pot up some spring flowering bulbs for indoor color during the winter. Store the pots in a cool, dark place, until new growth emerges from the soil, and then move them to a bright window.
Continue to watch for insect or disease damage and take the necessary steps to control the problem.
Odds and ends
Please feed the birds and other small creatures which may not be able to find food due to snow on the ground or other causes. Their natural food sources have pretty much dried up by this time of the year. For only a few dollars you can feed an enormous number of birds.
Drain your hoses and put them away so they don’t freeze and burst.
Continue to watch for insect, slug and snail, or disease damage throughout the garden, and take the necessary steps to control the problem.
Use small stakes or markers where you’ve planted bulbs or late starting spring plants in the perennial garden, to avoid disturbing them when you begin spring soil preparation. If you feel that stakes don’t fit your landscape style…. you might consider marking stones with fingernail polish or paint, and set them on the planting spot (painted side down
When you have finished your last mowing of the year, make sure that the mower is properly stored.
Run it until it is out of fuel…. old gas can turn to varnish, and severely damage the engine.
Clean and oil your garden tools for winter storage. Place some sand and some oil in a large bucket, then slide your garden tools in and out of the sand. This will do an excellent job of cleaning them, as well as applying a light coat of oil to prevent rusting. This is also a good month to restock any tools that have seen better days, while the prices are lower.
A tip from The 1899 Old Farmer’s Almanac “Useful Hints”: “Keep all fruit stones (pits), cooked or uncooked. Dry them slowly in the oven, put in a large jar, and in winter throw a handful on the fire of an evening. They will crackle for a moment, send up a bright flame, and fill the room with a delicious aroma.”