Kvetching is nonstop even though the storm has passed.
By Chris Cohan
Kvetching is nonstop even though the storm has passed. When folks moan about our plight, I say it could be worse, “What if we all woke up and found ourselves in Syria.” OK, now that we got that straight, there is still a lot to accomplish in the garden before calling it a season.
Time is tight, Thanksgiving is close. The pressure is on. Relatives are coming and will comment about everything from dry turkey to shoddy gardening. Let’s man up and show them a thing or two in spite of the disastrous storm. Lace up your boots and pull on your gloves. We got work to do.
Fertilizer still sitting in your garage? Don’t fib, of course it is. Use it all. Roots continue to grow all winter, even though top growth has stopped. It is important to feed your plants in order to develop a good, deep root system. A plant is only as strong as the roots that support it.
There is still time to plant bulbs. Buy and plant many. You can still plant large trees and shrubs. Cool weather and long nights have forced them into their dormant state. Water is key. Most gardeners figure if they fill the mounded circle around the plant, which is good enough. I had a Russian émigré for a boss many years ago. He never smiled, looked like a James Bond villain, and would say, “Good is not good enough.”
Comrade, listen to me now. Dig the hole wider and deeper than the root ball, return loose top soil back to bottom of hole, place root ball, water, add soil halfway up, add more water and finish backfilling and establish a nice mound around base, fill with water.
The fall colors were intense before the massive winds. Now we have leaves everywhere. Raking and bagging leaves is great exercise. Just do it. Otherwise, leaves left will smother lawns and many small plants. They may cause rotting as well. If you have enough space, make compost. Turn your pile at least three times a year.
If the leaf drop is not too heavy, recycle them back into the turf by cross-cutting your lawn with several passes until the pieces are small enough to decompose. Most gardeners will blow the leaves, and in the process blow away most of the mulch from your garden beds. It is important to replace this mulch after the final clean up, before the harsh winter weather sets in. Mulch prevents the alternating freezing and thawing and conserves moisture in the ground. It helps prevent winter injury to the garden.
After your prune the perennials low, clean up all the dead debris. If you have a compost pile, use it around all perennials, and finish with mulch. Do not cut the grasses, let them turn gray and sway in the winter wind.
Prune hedges, evergreens, and summer-blooming plants. Once most leaves have fallen, it is easier to understand the plant architecture and clear it of all dead, dying, and weak branches. Follow by removing any branches that are out of the natural shape of the plant. Spring-blooming plants should
Clean your rose beds! Rake all fallen leaves, as they are breeding grounds for insects and diseases. Prune roses back, way back. Use up some of that leftover fertilizer and cultivate in.
If your veggie patch is looking sad, ignored, and fallow, consider kale and Swiss chard. They handle cold well and provide great greens. Small plants can still be purchased at better garden centers.
I’ll leave you with this garden tip: No more Bradford pears.
They are lovely in bloom. Unfortunately, they develop multiple weak leaders, split, and get infected. Or, as we saw all around town after Sandy, they just split and need to be removed.