Gardening Calendar for the Triangle
Put the garden to bed for the winter. A fall cleanup will prevent many of next year’s insect and disease problems, and give you a head start on planting next spring! Pull out all annuals that have completed their life cycle, and cut back perennials. Remove debris from under plants and shrubs. If any disease was present, do not compost that debris. Till the vegetable garden to expose harmful insect larvae and disease organisms to cold and predators. Take soil samples — soil tests are free from April through November and the lab is not busy this time of year — and incorporate organic matter and lime if needed. You’ll be ready to plant next spring while your neighbors are waiting for the soil to dry out enough for tilling.
Agronomic Services – Soil Testing North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services
Submitting samples for soil testing prepared by the Durham County Master Gardener Volunteer Program durham.ces.ncsu.edu/files/library/32/UNH%205.PDF
Understanding the soil test report prepared by the Durham County Master Gardener Volunteer Program
Durham’s soil prepared by the Durham County Master Gardener Volunteer Program
Amending clay soils prepared by the Durham County Master Gardener Volunteer Program
Fertilize fescue lawns for winter. The November fertilization (near Thanksgiving) is the most important one of the year for cool-season grasses. The soil is still warm enough to permit the growth of strong roots that will enable the grass to withstand next summer’s baking heat. Use a slow-release fertilizer formulated for turf, and apply according to soil test results. If you haven’t limed in the past three years, you probably need to do that also. Submit a soil sample to find out how much lime to apply. Soil test materials are available at your Cooperative Extension Center (see information above).
Carolina lawns: a guide to maintaining quality turf in the landscape published by North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service
Lawn maintenance calendar: tall fescue published by North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service
Trees, shrubs & ornamentals
Fall is for planting! November through early February is an ideal time to plant trees, shrubs, and perennials. The cool weather permits establishment of a root system before next year’s hot weather. It is also an ideal time to move shrubs from one place to another.
Plant a tree! Successful tree-planting begins with a wide planting hole. Trees will have a large root span at maturity, so it’s better not to amend the soil in the planting area. Simply loosen the soil (by forking or tilling) in an area several times the diameter of the rootball, to relieve soil compaction. Spread the roots of the tree when planting. Mulch the area after planting, but keep mulch away from the trunk to discourage chewing rodents and rot. Staking may be necessary at first, but tie the tree loosely enough that it can move a little in the wind. Remove the ties after a few months.
Mulch shrubs, trees, perennials, and herbs after the first killing frost for winter protection. Apply a layer 2-3” deep. This is an excellent time to mulch, since most perennials are dormant and it’s easy to get a wheelbarrow into the garden.
Plant spring-flowering bulbs as the weather turns cold. For best landscape effect, plant groups of bulbs in between shrubs, or scatter bulbs in wooded areas; avoid planting bulbs in straight lines. When you dig your holds, incorporate a bulb fertilizer or one rounded tablespoon of 10-10-10 fertilizer per square foot, mixed into the soil at the bottom of the hold. Always plant quality bulbs. Larger bulbs produce larger flowers. Pansy plants set among the bulbs will produce a fine effect, and won’t harm the bulbs a bit.
Successful planting of trees and shrubs prepared by the Durham County Master Gardener Volunteer Program
Planting techniques for trees and shrubs by North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service
Hints for fall-planted spring and early summer flowering bulbs published by North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service www.ces.ncsu.edu/hil/pdf/hil-611.pdf
Landscape with a plan. A well-thought-out landscape plan will produce a more “finished” effect than randomly-scattered plantings. Analyze your property and draw a simple map, noting which areas are sunny or shady, moist or dry. Think about where you need tall evergreens for screening, and where you need shorter plants to maintain a view.
Select plants that meet your requirements. Your Cooperative Extension Center can provide many publications describing plants that are well-adapted for Durham County’s challenging weather and soil. Extension Master Gardener volunteers and nursery professionals are also excellent resources. There are also many outstanding gardening books in the library and bookstores.
Allow space for plants to grow to their mature size. A common mistake is placing a large or fast-growing plant where there is not enough room for full height and spread. The error results in continuous pruning in an attempt to keep the plant within a size that nature never intended it to be. Builders and beginning landscapers often place shrubs too close together, because the plants look so small when they come from the nursery. Find out how large your plants can be expected to grow, and place them where they can fulfill their potential.
Growing annual and perennial flowers in Durham County prepared by the Durham County Master Gardener Volunteer Program
Residential landscaping published by North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service
Retyped with slight modifications and URL’s checked, September 2014 ~ N. Len