By Steve Smith
Here’s an all-in-one-place list of chores for the month.
LAWNS: While it’s too late to do hardcore overhauling, it’s an ideal time to apply lime and a slow-release organic fertilizer. Our lawns greened up early this fall with the rains, but to keep them looking good through winter, fertilizing is critical. Normally, trying to control weeds (like buttercup and clover) would be a waste of time in November, but Weed Beater Ultra by Bonide will work in temperatures as low as 45 degrees. With any kind of herbicide, always “target the pest and save the rest”. In other words, spot spray where needed and avoid “weed and feed” products that broadcast herbicides over the entire landscape.
FRUIT TREES: Don’t do any pruning, but practice sanitation by raking all the leaves under your fruit trees and applying a dormant spray to control insects and diseases. Copper combined with horticultural oil is easy to use and is relatively nontoxic. An application this month, and again in February, can work wonders.
VEGETABLES: Last chance to plant garlic. Some gardeners like to plant a “cover crop” this time of year and then plow it under come spring, but I prefer to broadcast some lime and then cover the soil with an inch of fresh compost. This will keep the weeds down and improve the soil by spring.
BERRIES: For raspberries and blackberries, it is most important to remove the canes that produced fruit this year (except for everbearing varieties). The remaining canes can be shortened up a bit and secured to a wire/trellis system. Blueberries only need a light pruning to remove any dead wood and to shape them. If you had issues with “mummy berry” last season, it is essential that you clean under your plants and apply fresh compost.
ROSES: Remember to prune “Hip high in the fall, knee high in the spring”. Climbing roses need to be secured to their trellis, and long canes shortened up a bit. Then, at the base of the rose, apply lime and pile up some mulch about 10 inches high to protect the graft union from an ugly winter.
PERENNIALS: Tidying up the perennial border is a process. It’s always best to let plants die back naturally, but I will often cut back my Hostas before they become slimy. I generally leave the rest of my perennials (and ornamental grasses) to their own demise and tackle them in February when I do my major
cleanup. Just make sure the ground is covered with either leaves or mulch, or you will have a major weed problem.
CONTAINERS: Container gardening can be so much more than a collection of summer blooming annuals. While I will admit that I empty out and put away a whole bunch of pots for the winter, I always make sure I have a half dozen or so of attractive plantings to lift my spirits during the dark days of winter. Cluster them near your entrance where you will see them every day.
This list should give you plenty of reasons to get out of the easy chair and get your heart rate up. Take this month and next to finish up these tasks and you will be richly rewarded come spring.