by Gary Crispell, EMGV
It appears to be November, not that we could have missed that fact this year.
The accidental cottage garden is a mixed bag this time of year. The driveway border planting has only a few hardy ageratums (Conoclinium coelestinum) and flat-topped white asters (Aster umbellatus) keeping it from looking like a totally neglected weed patch. The kitchen garden looks slightly less morose. The Chrysanthemum ‘Spreads Like Crazy’ is nearly done. There are some black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia fuglida) and three sunflower plants (Helianthus annuus) from seeds donated by wildlife. The other end of the house has Galardia (Galardia puchella) and Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata) gracing us with their brightly painted blooms.
If you have a warm season grass lawn (Bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, centipedegrass, St. Augustinegrass) all you need to do is keep it relatively free of leaves. If on the other hand you have a cool season grass lawn (tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescues, and perennial ryegrass), you are still cutting it 3.5 to four inches tall AND keeping it relatively leaf-free. Continue the never-ending war with fire ants.
Not much going on here. If your soil pH is low, less than 6.0 (I’m sure you were astute enough to get it tested before NCDOA starts charging for the service later this month), apply the recommended amount of lime. A good way to incorporate it into the soil is to core aerate the lawn before the application. Wood ashes from your fireplace can be spread on your gardens and shrub beds. Be careful to avoid acid-loving plants such as azaleas, camellias, gardenias, etc.
Let me repeat, “Fall is for planting!” There is still lots of time to add and/or transplant plants in your landscape (per your PLAN, naturally). Plant one-year-old asparagus crowns now. Sow a cover crop* over the veggie garden if it is done for the year. A planting of annual rye, wheat, or barley will help prevent erosion and keep weeds to a minimum. Besides you can just till it into the soil in the spring as a bonus.
After Jack Frost has claimed the last of your herbaceous perennials including existing asparagus they can be cut back to the over-wintering rosettes or the ground. Dead and/or diseased wood can be pruned out at any time. Weeds and undesirable trees can now be removed without the three bottles of water per hour, head sweat band, and insect repellent.
Surely by now you have cleaned up and put away the spray equipment. If not, “Just do it.”
Other stuff to do that will keep you outside and prevent eggnog overdose
As mentioned earlier, add lime where recommended. No fertilizer until spring.
Walk around the yard on mild days and, this year anyway, maybe on some not so mild days. Not only are mild days numbered for the rest of the year, but outside seems to be the safe place to be.
Okay, you can go inside now and order those fruit trees* and vines you’ve been talking about. They will be delivered in time for planting in February or March. (Did you know hardy kiwi will grow well in a sunny place and produce a prodigious amount of fruit?)
While you are inside look at your landscape plan and make adjustments based on this year’s experiences. I hope you have a great, though perhaps modified, Thanksgiving. Cook enough to share with someone who wouldn’t otherwise have any.
And, stay safe: Wear your mask. Wait six feet apart. Wash your hands. The life you save may be your own.
*Resources & Further Reading
A list of common plant diseases, pests, and other problems you may encounter in your garden in November
Winter annual cover crops
NC Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox
Growing tree fruits and nuts in NC