November in the Garden
Fall has finally arrived, and it has been lovely! Temperatures are nice, trees and shrubs are donning their fall colors, and gardeners can work in their yards without having a heat stroke.
There is a lot to be done, so let’s get started.
» Stop pruning unless we have had a hard freeze. I have probably told 50 people during the past couple of weeks that they shouldn’t prune yet, and it breaks their hearts every time. I know that when leaves start dropping it triggers this urge to start chopping, but please resist. A hard freeze will tell the plant it is time to go dormant, and wouldn’t you prefer to be asleep if someone is cutting on you?
Once we have had a hard frost, please call us or research before you start whacking. Don’t prune spring flowering plants or they won’t flower. Don’t prune Hydrangea macrophylla. Don’t commit Crepe Murder! We have handouts on pruning, or you can go to utextension.tennessee.edu and print off an info sheet. An informed pruner means happier, healthier, and prettier plants.
» Many of you are still planting, and you can keep that up. Trees and shrubs can be planted if the ground isn’t frozen. You have probably heard to “dig a $20 hole for a $5 plant,” so let’s talk about correct planting.
1. Dig your hole twice as wide as your root ball but no deeper. Put the soil on a tarp or wheelbarrow.
2. Mix the soil that comes out of the hole 50/50 with a good planting mix or soil conditioner. Why the mix? If you dig a hole in the clay and just fill with the planting mix, you have made a big clay bowl. It will hold water and the roots will hit that clay wall and turn around. A mix prevents that.
3. Use your fingers or a claw to loosen up the roots on your plant, and I do mean loosen them up! Once a root is the size of a pencil, the direction of growth has been set. If the plant is horribly rootbound, use a saw to remove the outer 1/2″ or so. For ball and burlap plants, we now suggest you remove the burlap, because some growers are using synthetics that do not decompose. You can leave the wire cage, but keep in mind that if you ever have that stump ground, the cage will destroy the grinder.
4. Place your plant into its hole and backfill with the soil mixture. Press the soil firmly around the root ball. Don’t plant too deep! It is best for the root ball to be at or slightly above the level of the surrounding soil.
5. Water your plant well and use a root stimulator to help feeder roots establish. Mycorrhizae can also help with root growth.
6. Continue watering any week that we do not get 1″ of rainfall. Rain has been abundant this year, but you cannot depend on that continuing. We have no idea what Mother Nature will send next!
7. Apply mulch no more than 3″ deep. Donuts, not volcanoes! Don’t pile mulch around the trunk or you will encourage disease, critters, and air roots.
» If you didn’t do a good cleanup of your beds last month, do that now. Clear out debris and cut back dead or dying foliage on perennials. Remove annuals that are still in place and replace them with pansies or violas. Pull up weeds and apply Preen or another pre-emergent. Make sure you are getting up any leaves that had disease or insect problems so they don’t overwinter in the soil.
» Replace annuals in containers with pansies or evergreen foliage to get ready for the holidays. There are countless good ideas in magazines, on TV, and on Pinterest for you to follow, or let us help you make good choices.
» Some of you are dealing with lots of leaves. If possible, chop them up with your mower and put the chopped leaves around your plants. It is a wonderful natural fertilizer. If it isn’t possible, get the leaves off your grass. If you can’t see the blades, your lawn is suffocating.
» Fall is a good time to gently fertilize trees and shrubs. It is best to use an organic product so you don’t shock them or simply add root stimulator. Most root growth (up to 85%) occurs during fall and winter, so a little boost is helpful.
I will finish with a reminder that we are a great source for Christmas décor. Our cut trees and greenery come from a family-owned farm in North Carolina, and our poinsettias are grown on my family’s farm in Pall Mall, TN. We have a wonderful selection of ornaments and gifts as well, so stop in and do some Christmas shopping with less traffic and fewer crowds!