November still busy time for gardeners
November is a fairly miserable month, redeemed only for me by my birthday and Thanksgiving, but for the gardener it is a busier time than we may think. I was outside all morning today, cutting back some very overgrown Knockout roses and trimming up hydrangeas and other worn-out perennials to give them room for a fresh start in the spring.
Anything that reminds me of spring is welcome, and I have a list already of things to do, and of course things not to do, in 2018.
Winter dormancy is coming upon us, and so this is the ideal time to transplant shrubs, small trees and perennials without fear of damage to active roots. It is important to dig out a large root ball with the plant you are moving to minimize shock to the plant, and preparing the new home with a large hole and soil amendment if needed will ensure the roots are not exposed to cold, dry air any longer than necessary.
Then, of course, if you have trees, there is the problem of leaves. One school of thought tells us to leave them in place, that they eventually will decompose just as they do in the woods and provide compost free of charge. The other recommendation begins with a rake or a mower and lawn sweeper and, after a lot of work, leaves you with a large heap of crunchy leaves or a pile of neatly filled bags. In any case, this is the time to give the lawn a raking to lift the debris that has accumulated at ground level and to aerate the grassy areas of the garden.
Drain your hoses and put them away for the winter to prevent freezing and consequent bursting. That is the voice of experience!
As you plant spring bulbs or give an early start to some new perennials, it is a good idea to use some sticks, stones or regular plant markers to remind yourself of their location in the spring, before you use all that enthusiasm to rip up anything unfamiliar that pokes up in the flower beds.
Another process that is well worth the short time it takes is to clean your tools and have them ready for a new beginning. The simplest way for me is to fill a bucket with sand and pour in some motor oil. Then, slide your mud- and rust-free tools in and out of the sand a few times to keep them in good condition for a few months.
The last mowing of the year is coming up, if it has not already been accomplished. Be sure to run the mower until the fuel is used up. Leftover gas can turn into a varnish-like sticky substance that can damage the motor.
And use up any leftover bags of mulch to protect perennials from extreme cold. The best time to mulch is just as the ground begins to freeze. If you do it too early, you are inviting rodents to take up residence. In winter mulching you do not need to be as concerned with the appearance as you do in the spring, and the rather unsightly straw is a good choice for the best insulation for your perennials and shrubs.
When the serious cold temperatures arrive, take a walk around the garden with bins or bags in hand and collect up all the stuff that you have been ignoring. Sticks, stakes, rotting vines, plastic of all types, leftover rotting plants and vegetables all need to find a home. Probably in the trash bin.
None of these jobs are very enjoyable, but when those first green shoots show up in April, you will be happy that you left a tidy, clean and welcoming place for them to grow. At least, that is what I am telling myself.
Janet DelTurco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener program.
Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org