Well, I’m going to get straight to the point about this weather. What the heck is going on!? I know most of us think this is somewhat unusual, but researching past data, it isn’t. I agree that climate change has contributed to some of the extremes, but our Mother Earth has experienced many such anomalies over its existence. But let’s keep us current and note that we had our first freeze last year on October 19. We broke a record set in both 1948 and 1976. So, consider us on par with the past. Oh, wait, what about all that heat for so long? Yuppers, we had several months of record-breaking heat and drought conditions. Per NOAA, 34 consecutive days of temps 95* and above broke a 2015 record. 73 days of a dry streak this year broke a record set in 1924. Not sure if this makes you feel any better. I’m ready for a break. By the time you read this, a cold front has graced us. Were you ready?
Speaking of plant protection
Okay, I wasn’t speaking yet, but let’s talk about how you can protect your plants and extend your growing season. I mentioned row covers, cold frames and hoop tunnels in my September issue. Cold frames can be made from old windows and a constructed wood frame. Hoop tunnels are my favorite for a larger garden, but I have made a small one for my little patch of ornamental greenery in front of my porch. They can be opened at either or both ends for air flow or pulled back on days the weather is sunny and warm. You can use 6 mil plastic sheeting or polypropylene fabric as a cover over your hoops. Check out how-to videos online and see what’s best for your garden. The same polypropylene fabric can also be used as a floating row cover or frost blanket (never use plastic). Just lightly lay it over your plants and secure the edges with rocks, bricks, or fabric pins. These are excellent ways to not only protect from frost (some can add an extra 4-6 degrees of heat) but also keep those pesky Cabbage Worms, Beetles, Squash Bugs or Caterpillars from devouring your crops. Any potted plants can be moved to your garage or to a south facing wall for some protection. Wrap shrubs in burlap and add lots of mulch around the base and root system. Don’t forget to water and fertilize throughout the winter.
Is that a DEER in my garden?
As some of us want to live in the country, the deer will be happy to welcome you because you plant some very tasty delicacies for them. Oh! You didn’t plant them for the deer? Well then you must figure out a way to co-exist and keep those delicacies to yourself. How? Revell has a couple of great products such as Liquid Fence Deer and Rabbit Repellant or Bonide Repells-All. You could build an 8-foot solid fence around your plot (very costly and not attractive) or purchase motion-activated sprinklers.
There are also Herbs and Shrubs that deter deer and rabbits. Herbs that have a strong scent like Oregano, Sage or Cilantro, and Shrubs like Boxwood and Butterfly Bush will make them turn up their noses. Plant some around your Roses, Hostas, and Pansies. Add potted Herbs or deer-resistant plants along the edges of your plot of greens (a favorite of deer) or interplant Marigolds. Deer are attracted to Fruit trees, Roses, Hawthornes Pansies, or Rhododendrons. Good luck.
Time to prune?
Getting to know when your Trees and Shrubs bloom is the key to pruning times. Any plant that blooms in the Springtime should not be pruned unless it is totally unsightly or has dead or crossing branches. As we know that pruning encourages new growth, especially during that warm spurt just before a sudden freeze, that new growth will be killed by the freeze. In turn, the plant will try to repair the damage and waste energy it will need to get through the Winter. Some Trees and Shrubs may even bud out during that warm stint. Those buds are future flowers or fruit. Before the ground freezes, apply a good amount of mulch around the base for insulation. Also water the plant during the warmer time to keep the plant cool and to trick them into resuming their normal Winter growth pattern, hopefully preserving their fruit production.
You don’t need to prune or remove your Cannas, Callas, or Elephant Ears. Leave them to die back naturally as the left-over stems help protect the roots from freeze. If you want to divide them and replant in the Spring, go ahead and carefully dig them up, cut the tubers to 6 inches, let them dry, and store in a box or paper bag of peat and sand or vermiculite, in a cool dry place.
Keep your raked leaves!
Don’t bag them-mow them. As the leaves fall from our trees, rake them out of the flower beds and lawns. Make a nice pile and get your mower out and mow over the pile, thus creating a mulch. Then put them back in your flower beds. Not only is it free, but the Earthworms will use it as food (Earthworms are great for your soil health). As it decomposes quickly, it is adding needed micro-nutrients to your plants while keeping the weeds at bay. Free mulch, moisture and weed control, keeps soil from compacting, controls soil temperature, and it looks good! That’s a lot of productivity for just a pile of leaves.
Enjoy the Holidays. Peace y’all.
Kari ‘Lady ACE’ Thomas
Contact me with your experiences, suggestions, and questions or just stop in to Revell ACE Hardware and get expert advice from one of our associates. Looking forward to hearing from you. To reach out to Kari, send her an email at email@example.com, call or stop by Clinton Revell ACE Hardware.