Jan’s online garden hints

Jan’s November Tips

-Cut peonies to the ground and remove the stems and leaves.  Also remove the foliage of any disease-prone perennials, such as garden phlox, irises and asters.  If disease has not been a problem, allow the dead tops of other perennials to remain for winter interest and to attract birds to the garden to feed on seeds.  Resist the urge to remove the dead tops of chrysanthemums, which are more likely to survive the winter if left in place.

-Finish planting spring-blooming bulbs such as daffodils, tulips and hyacinths before the ground freezes.  Protect bulbs (except those that are pest-resistant, such as daffodils and alliums) from voles by surrounding them with a one-inch layer of fine gravel or crushed oyster shell.  Also plant some bulbs in pots for blooms in late winter.  Water the soil, then put each pot in a bag.  Refrigerate hyacinths 12 weeks (unless you buy pre-chilled bulbs), daffodils  12 to 14 weeks, and tulips 15 weeks.

-Start narcissus bulbs indoors for December blooms.  Fill a shallow bowl two-thirds full of stones, then cover the surface with bulbs.  Add more stones but leave the top halves of the bulbs exposed.  Add enough water to barely touch the base of the bulbs.  Set the bowl in a cool, bright spot.

-Skim autumn leaves from the surface of the water garden before they sink to the bottom.

-If you’d like to add a new flower bed next spring, use this easy method to prepare the soil now: Kill the sod by covering it with a layer of newspapers several sections deep, topped with a layer of bark chips or other mulch to keep the papers from blowing away.

-Dig and divide crowded lily bulbs.

-After temperatures fall below 20 degrees, protect grafted roses with a 10-inch-deep soil mound.  Ignore this step if you have hardy shrub roses.

-If you have any spare time, get a jump on spring by cleaning minerals off emptied clay pots this easy way: Soak pots overnight in a solution of 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1 gallon water.  After soaking, scrape the pots with a wire brush or knife.  If you lack the space to store large clay or plastic pots in a garage or shed, turn them upside down so they won’t collect water.

-Put any leftover seeds in an air-tight container and store in a cool place.

-Clean and drain sprayers, and loosen fittings.  Move any liquid fertilizers or pesticides indoors, where they won’t freeze.  Store them out of children’s reach.

Vegetables, fruits, and herbs:

-Clean up plant debris in the vegetable garden to reduce problems next year with pests and diseases such as squash bugs and tomato blight.  Spread a 1- to 2-inch layer of compost or manure on the bare soil and spade or till it in, leaving the surface rough.  Pull up stakes and remove tomato cages.  Before you store cages, remove any trace of fungus disease by cleaning with a solution of one part chlorine bleach to nine parts water

-Cut and remove the above-ground growth of rhubarb and asparagus after it is completely dead.  Spread a 1- to 2–inch layer of compost around the plants.

-Combat black rot in grapes by cleaning up leaves and fruit mummies.

-Wait until the ground freezes to apply winter mulch over strawberry plants.

-Store green tomatoes in a single layer in shallow boxes in a cool but frost-free spot, such as the garage or unheated basement.  Check often and throw out any that start to rot.  Bring a few firm tomatoes at a time to the kitchen counter, where they can ripen at room temperature.

-Dig leeks before the ground freezes.  Store them in a bucket of sand in a cool spot, such as a basement. Or cover them right in the garden with a mulch heavy enough to keep the ground from freezing.

-Harvest horseradish and store whole roots in the refrigerator.  Make small batches of sauce as needed.

Around the yard:

-Clean autumn leaves from gutters.  On the lawn, use a mulching mower to “erase” the last of the leaves, or use a bagging mower to collect shredded leaves mixed with grass clippings.  Use the bag’s contents to mulch around strawberries or perennials, or add the contents to the compost pile.

-Stockpile autumn leaves for use as mulch or soil conditioner.  Avoid walnut leaves which can harm many garden plants.

-Renew faded names on perennial plant labels and replace any brittle plastic markers with metal labels.

-Use warm autumn days to rid perennial beds of weeds such as henbit and chickweed, which bloom and set seed in early spring.

-Fill any low spots in the lawn so water won’t collect and freeze.  After you put your lawnmower away for the season, fertilize cool-season grasses such as bluegrass with a slow-release fertilizer.  Avoid fertilizing warm-season grasses such as zoysia.

-Clean up brush piles near the garden where rabbits could hide.  Protect young trees and shrubs by installing a cage of chicken-wire fence fabric around vulnerable plants.  Stop winter deer damage before it starts by spraying woody plants with a repellent now.

-Enjoy ornamental grasses such as feather reed grass, little bluestem and switchgrass.  Wait until March to cut ornamental grasses to the ground.

-If the weather is dry, give perennials, shrubs, and trees an extra drink, paying particular attention to evergreens or any recently planted specimens.  Also add water to the compost pile along with new layers of dry leaves and spent plants.  After you’re through watering, remove hoses and turn off the water supply to outdoor faucets if they aren’t freeze-proof.

-Spread a big circle of bark chips or other mulch 2 or 3 inches deep around any fall-planted perennials to give the roots more time to get established before the ground freezes.

-If you have young trees with tender bark, such as beech, maple or fruit trees, shade the bark for the winter by erecting a burlap screen or installing a white spiral vinyl cover.

-Postpone spraying an anti-transpirant such as Wilt-Pruf on boxwoods, hollies and other broadleaf evergreens until after Thanksgiving.

-Clean and remove rust from tools, then lightly coat metal parts with Jig-a-Loo or WD-40.  Sand rough wood handles and give all wood surfaces a coat of linseed oil.

-Before the first hard freeze, drain the sprinkler system (unless it is a self-draining type).  Unhook, drain and put away garden hoses.

-While the memories of this year’s garden successes and failures are still fresh in your mind, make a list of plans and plants to make next year’s garden the best yet.