Gardening: Winterizing the Home Garden part 1of 4
This is a working list for southern Ontario which is a zone 6 on the gardening scene. Depending on your location you might still be able to accomplish some of Octobers items...
October:Fall symphony is in full swing. The Maples are every shade of red and orange. The birches are dressed in flamey hues of amber, not to be outdone by the many compositions of tan on the oaks. For the most part, the days are still nice, but nights are getting colder. Any day now we'll wake up to the frost. The neighborhood home gardens are still sporting some color, but most of the flowers are done for the year, except for a few of the more stubborn 'late bloomers' and of course the awesome many colored and toned chrysanthemums. October is clean-the-garden month.
- dig-up and remove the straggler annuals
- transplant bushes, shrubs or trees (some nurseries are clearing out, it's possible to get good deals)
- plant bulbs such as crocus and snowdrops etc.
- take in dahlias, gladioli bulb and tubers, air dry then store in paper-bags in cool dry place
- pull up last of the tomatoes, peppers and herbs before first frost
- leave carrots, beet, parsnip etc till the last possible moments (parsnips only get sweeter when hit by a bit of frost)
- dig-up vegetable patch (you'll be glad you did in the spring)
- using raked-up leaves mulch flower beds & compost remainders of leafs
- cover strawberries plants with a 3-4 inch layer of straw
- pot & take in geraniums, fuchsias and all tenders
- for Christmas blooms plant amaryllis indoors now
NOVEMBER:The winds are getting strong, cutting and cold, ground frost seems to be an every-day occurrence. Most of the leaves have fallen. The crab apple and berried shrubs, bushes and trees are the only color streaks in our late fall scenes.
- fertilize, hill-up & mulch roses, a dormant rose bush can still be planted as long as its well soaked, hill-ed and mulched (beginning of November)
- last chance to plant daffodil, tulip and other early blooming bulbs but remember to deep mulch
- soak evergreens fertilize and mulch roots
- add supports for new trees as the winter winds can be hard on them
- clean garden shed, winterize lawnmower and whipper-snipers, clean & sharpen mower blades and garden tools, spray a fine coat of PAM (cooking oil) to prevent tools from rusting
- at the end of November bring out the Christmas cacti into the sun, water well and feed with a liquid fertilizer. They like a 70-72 degree location without draft etc.
- plant hyacinth for indoor blooming (if carefully mulched and protected from wind hyacinth will survive outside and be one of the early garden bloomers in the spring) [ in southern Ontario, my neck of the woods]
- turn off outside taps & drain and carefully coil water-hoses and move into shed
DECEMBER:is the time when a garden looks it's bleakest, no flowers etc. very little color just a little splash here and there. The holly's berries should have turned a bright paprika red by now. To pull your garden out of its depression decorate now for Christmas. (Aren't we lucky that this is the time of year Christmas falls in ? ) Cheerful lights, bows and decorations are available in just about every color possible. This is when I lose my fall melancholy and get into the Christmas mood.
- if not lit-up for Christmas wrap the tender evergreens with burlap this is done so they don't get malformed from the heavy snows ( try to remove snow and ice from shrubs etc throughout the winter to ensure the branches don't break from the weight)
- fill bird feeders, there is still plenty of food out there for our feathered friends but this will give them time to get used to the locations of their 'soup-kitchens' later on in the season. You need to decide now, what type of birds you want to attract to your winter feeders, each type of bird has a seed preference. Sunflower seed, peanuts and cracked corn for Jays and Cardinals. Safflower, niger seed and fine cracked corn for the smaller type birds like sparrows and chickadees etc.
- if possible and the ground is not 'hard frozen' rotor-till the veggie garden. This will bring the cutworms etc. to the surface where the birds can do their 'hired for jobs' and clean them up and make next years garden that much more bug free.
- the time has come to spread manure, to increase the humus content of the garden soil and also to infuse the three main nutrients; nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. You'll need to spread a thicker layer if your using fresh, then if you're using well-rotted manure. Horse, sheep and cow manure are equally good with slight variations in their element values (the three numbers that are prominently displayed on sacks such as 5.5-2.2-1.1) Poultry manure is also available but it is stronger and could burn the root-matter so it should be used sparingly. If 'manuring' rotor-till the garden leave "open for a few days (4-5) to give the birds a chance then cover the whole area in the chosen fertilizer. Leave on the top until the spring. Then turn the soil really well at least twice in opposite criss-cross patterns.
- pruning of fruit trees should be started now. Also remember to use a insecticide spray (preferable a non-chemical type) on the branches, trunks and ground. These oils will reduce the number of insect hatchings. Only use 'bird friendly' insect-oil so it won't be harmful to the bug-egg-eaters throughout the winter. A helping hand that our many beak-ey neighbors are happy to offer...
- remember to stomp down the snow around fruit trees to keep mice and rabbits from damaging the tree trunks. Once food becomes scarce wildlife will feed on what ever is available
If followed, this list should get your garden ready for the rejuvenating snooze it needs, to be well rested and ready for the new season...I keep a gardening 'diary' (a computer file is okay too) I jot down all the things I need to remember. What kind of manure and when, what type of plants worked out well, which ones were a flop... how long did the geranium seed take to germinate etc. etc. you get the idea...it is a great help especially when you have a sieve in your head instead of memory grey matter like me. I also make a quick sketch of where things were planted so as not to continue using the same site and deplete the soil of one mineral or other etc...I use one of those five year diaries, inexpensive from a dollar-store...
In part two we'll discuss the planning and prepping of next years super garden...