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Monday, November 28, 2011

Mild Temps Equal Garden Reprieve

Another mild week in store plus wrapping up the second warmest November on record - a blessing in disguise for those last minute garden chores. Here’s your quick list before the ugly head of winter roars!

1) Clean up all leaf litter. Maple trees specifically have experienced high levels of disease this season. Leaving unattended leaf litter in the plant beds or on your lawn means diseased spores reemerge next spring.
2) Cut back and remove this past year’s growth on your perennials. By doing so you remove the source of diseases and insects potentially present on the foliage plus you deter those furry rodents from living in the comfortable underbrush. Rodents should not be taking refuge in your plant beds or you’ll see winter damage for sure.
3) Don’t apply winter mulch on the plant beds quite yet. Keep the ground bare until it freezes. A protective winter mulch spread too soon creates that comfy habitat for rodents.
4) Remove any damaged limbs from the surprise October snowstorm or any other weather pattern that shook your trees a bit. Do this before the season closes in and please don’t put the broken limbs and brush in the streets. Major scratches on the car finish don’t come out easily and putting the butt end of the branches sticking into the roadway is a hazard for everyone, including our plows should we get hit with another surprise storm. Speaking of trees, inspect all for weak crotches that may require support cables prior to the long and ferocious winter months. If the plant has a stress crack, support it structurally or remove the branch in question. Best to seek an expert opinion from an arborist for any dangerous, hazard trees.
5) It is still not too late to plant your bulbs including your garlic. But do it soon!
6) Make sure your irrigation system has been properly winterized. Don’t forget to remove the backflow preventer from the house and store it. A little bit of water in this gadget can freeze and break mid-winter. It’s a bit pricey to replace so this little extra step is a given.
7) It’s not too late with the no-freeze ground to still edge your plant beds. It may look like the lawn is somewhat dormant but there is a lot of root growth that occurs during this time of the year. It’s a good time to remove the encroaching lawn, which makes for an easier spring start-up.
8) So there’s just one more tip - protect any young fruit trees with rodent guards. Rodents love fruit trees. It’s like Skittles for them. These buggers can girdle the bark right off the tree below the snow line and you won’t see the damage until it’s too late.

So take this reprieve and use it wisely. Sorry if the checklist lacks Shakespearean style and finesse but there’s no time to waste. But I’ll use a Shakespearean quote to wrap this post up. “To climb steep hills requires slow pace at first.” If you paced yourself slowly with your garden clean-up list, we need to reach the summit soon or else…winter suddenly comes in its place!
Image by Ann Bilowz

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© 2009 Ann St. Jean-Bilowz/Bilowz Associates Inc. (including all photographs, unless otherwise noted in Annie's Gardening Corner are the property of Bilowz Associates Inc. and shall not be reproduced in any manner nor are they to be assigned to any third party without the expressed written permission and consent of Bilowz Associates Inc.)