To Do in December

By Gary Crispell, EMGV

The holidays
Are upon us.
It’s cold enough
To prune the euonymus.

Most of the leaves
Have fallen down
And into the compost,
Raked and blown.

The door is closed
On the potting shed.
Most of the garden
Has been put to bed.

But before the year
Turns over anew,
There are a few more things
Left to do.

Lawn Care

Mow the fescue
One more time.
Remove the leaves
To keep it fine.

Planting

Landscape plants
Can still be planted
There in that space
Where you’ve always wanted.

Pruning

Prune the nandina
And red-berried holly,
Arrange them on the table
To make it look jolly.

Herbaceous perennials
Can still be cut back.
While weeds and “bad” trees
Can be thoroughly wacked.

Spraying

While some think
Spraying is fun,
In the month of December
There should be none.

Other Stuff That is Mostly Fun

The Christmas tree
Really needs water
And will appreciate
Being away from the heater.

To keep your poinsettias
Cheery and bright
Put them in the room
With the sunniest light.

As to your soil recommendations,
Apply the lime.
Save the fert
For the warmer springtime.

If it’s viticulture
Or an orchard you seek,
Order plants now
To plant by March’s second week.

For your strawberries
A sweet straw bed,
Either wheat or pine
A blanket for their heads.

May your holidays
Be blessed and merry
As bright and cheery
As the holly’s berry.

And may next year’s garden
Be like my Grandmother’s,
A bounty for you
And a bounty for others.

To Do In November

by Gary Crispell, EMGV

November is upon us. The really active gardening season is nearly over. It is time to harvest the last of the tomatoes and peppers. Perhaps there is a winter squash or two still clinging to the vine. I don’t know about you, but I am sooo over pumpkin spice anything and sooo ready for eggnog (any way you like it).  So, let’s wrap up this gardening season and toast the upcoming holiday season.

Lawn Care
All of your neighbors with warm season lawns are smirking at you still mowing your fescue and bluegrass. (Really some of them—the ones chasing leaves with the John Deere—are jealous.) Just keep the cool season grasses mowed to 3.4 to 4 inches and everybody should keep lawns reasonably clear of leaves. Continue the battle with fire ants.

Fertilizing

  • Not much going on here. If your soil pH is low, less than 6.0, 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.

Planting

  • Let me repeat, “Fall is for planting!” There is still lots of time to add/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 finished 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.

Pruning

  • 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.

Spraying

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. It may be awhile before we see any more of them.
  • 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 plan and make adjustments based on this year’s experiences.
  • Oh, yeah. Don’t forget to stuff that bird, mash them taters, and bake that punkin pie. May your Thanksgiving be bountiful.

To Do in October

by Gary Crispell, EMGV

Well, wasn’t September fun?! Dry, wet, dry, OMG wet. Heartfelt sympathies to those who suffered loss by Florence. For those of us whose gardens were only moderately affected (or not at all) here is the October calendar.

Fertilizing
Not much to do here unless you are planting spring flowering bulbs. Should that be the case, incorporate a little balanced fertilizer (10-10-10 or equivalent) into the soil as you plant. Store any leftover fertilizer in a dry place for the winter.

Planting

  • The above-mentioned spring flowering bulbs (e.g. hyacinths, tulips, daffodils, crocuses, etc.).
  • Pansies! Those plucky members of the Viola genus who can brighten up a gray winter day should be on everyone’s list unless, of course, there are deer nearby.  Apparently, the pansies make a great dessert after a meal of azalea branches.  Plant them soon as the more established they are when it gets cold the better able they will be to withstand the cold.
  • “Fall is for planting.” It’s not just a slogan from the nursery industry. It is gospel. The very best time to plant any new landscape plants you have been planning is now.
  • Peonies can be planted or transplanted now.
  • In the vegetable garden consider a nitrogen fixing cover crop like red clover, hairy vetch or winter rye. This will help keep down the weeds and add nitrogen to the soil. In the spring just till it into the soil to add nutrients and organic matter.
  • If you happen to be one of the foresighted people who have a cold frame now is the appropriate time to plant a winter’s worth of salad. Lettuce, green onions, radishes, carrots, spinach and other leafy greens will grace your salad bowl all winter if planted now.

Pruning
Once frost (It’s October. It is going to frost!) has finished the decimation of the perennial garden cut off all the dead tops and throw them on the compost pile. Root prune any trees or plants you plan to move in the spring.

Spraying
Unless you have a lace bug problem, it is time to clean up and winterize the sprayer and store the pesticides in a secured, dry location that will not freeze. As for the lace bugs, they are active whenever the leaf surface temperature is warm enough (i.e. whenever the sun shines on the leaves). A horticultural oil spray can be helpful in controlling both feeding adults and egg stages.

Lawn Care
Maintain adequate moisture levels for any newly seeded or sodded lawns.  Avoid leaf buildup on lawns.

Tall fescue and bluegrass (not the fiddlin’ kind) can still be planted in October.

Propagation
Keep an eye on any new cuttings in the cold frame (the one without the salad greens in it). They should be checked at least twice a month and watered as needed.
If you are a gardener lucky enough to be able to grow rhubarb now is the time to dig and divide it.

Other stuff to do that will keep you outdoors while the leaves turn color:

  • Take soil samples while they are still FREE. NC Department of Agriculture will charge for them from November to April.
  • Put those raked 0r blown leaves into the compost bin or till them into the veggie garden.
  • Clean fill and put out the bird feeders.
  • Dig and store (cool, dark, dry) tender summer flowering bulbs (E.g. gladioli, dahlia, caladium) before frost.
  • Clean up lubricate and otherwise prepare lawn and garden equipment for its long winter’s rest.

A mea culpa. This writer neglected to inform you that it is time to band trees that are susceptible to canker worm invasions. This involves wrapping and securing the trunk with a coarse material like burlap or quilt batting about 4 or 5 feet above the ground. That in turn is wrapped with a corrugated paper wrap that is then covered with the stickiest gooeyest stuff you’ve ever played with. All these materials are available at some nursery/garden centers, one of which is very proximal to the Durham Cooperative Extension office.

For a fun activity now that will yield fresh living flowers in the bleak mid-winter try your hand at forcing spring flowering bulbs. Plant bulbs in pots early in October and place them in the refrigerator. In twelve weeks bring them out into the house and watch them grow and bloom. Kids love it.

 

To Do in September

by Gary Crispell, EMGV

Well, here it is — September. Some of y’all have been waiting for this since last October. For many it is the beginning of your favorite time of the year—warm days, cool nights, lower humidity, winding down the summer garden, and hurricanes. Enough contemplation! There is still much to do in the garden this month. Let’s get to it.

Fertilizing
With the exceptions noted under “Lawn Care” you can take your fertilizer and stick it in an air tight container and put it away until Spring.

Pruning
NOPE! Forgettaboutit! If you must exercise your pruning tools go remove underbrush on unwanted saplings or something. Stay away from your landscape plants.

Spraying
Stuff to look for and where to look for it:  wooly adelgid on hemlock, spider mites on other coniferous evergreens, lace bugs on azalea and pyracantha and tea scale on euonymus and camellia.

  • A note about lace bugs: They will be active all year anytime the leaf surfaces are warm enough (about 40 degrees). Being diligent now will help keep them at bay after you have cleaned and put away your sprayer. Also, azaleas planted in sunny places will have more lace bug issues than those planted in shade.
  • Spray peach trees and nectarine trees for peach tree borers.
  • Maintain your rose program.
  • Be watchful in your fall garden. Many insects and diseases are more active in the autumn; they like this weather, too.
  • Weeds to be controlled this month: trumpet creeper, Bermuda grass and blackberry.

Only spray if necessary. Spray as little as possible. Spray at dusk, when pollinators are inactive.  Always read and follow directions on the label!

Lawn Care
September is the best time to seed and/or reseed a tall fescue lawn. Loosen the soil in bare areas and cover any areas larger than one square foot with wheat straw.

Apply lime and fertilizer as recommended on your free soil test.

Do not fertilize warm season grasses (Bermuda, centipede, zoysia). Fertilizing them now is like giving sugar to your kids at bedtime; They’ll get real active much to their (and your) detriment.

If you missed the August window to treat your lawn for grubs, it is still open until the middle of September. After that the little buggers quit feeding and go to sleep for the winter.

Propagation
You may dig and divide spring flowering bulbs now. Daffodils will be especially appreciative of this activity and will show it in the spring.


Other Stuff to Keep You Outdoors on Gorgeous Autumn Days

  • Mulch shrub and flower beds.
  • Clean up and put away sprayers and other gardening equipment that won’t be used again until Spring.
  • Get your houseplants ready to come back inside. Break it to them gently by bringing them in for a little while each day. Be sure to rid them of insect pests before they come in for good.
  • If you do not have a fall garden (What do you mean you don’t have a fall garden?!?), then it is time to chop, burn or toss dead vegetable plants. Burn or toss especially if they had disease or insect issues.
  • Check out the local garden center for spring flowering bulbs you can’t live without (or just covet a whole lot). October and November will be the time to plant them. You know, “Shop early for the best selection.”
  • Find a good trail and take a hike. Take your kids or grandkids to the park. Read a book on the deck or patio. Get out of the house with any excuse you can come up with.

See ya’ in October for leaf season.

 

To Do in August

by Gary Crispell, EMGV

Just in case you were napping when it happened, IT’S AUGUST! The dog days are here. That means at our house that the dog is permanently camped on an AC vent.  Who knows? Maybe she’s got the right idea. However, if you are one of those people who insist on torturing yourself in the garden, here are some hints to get you in and out of it quickly.

Fertilizing
About the only things that will benefit from fertilizing in August are strawberries. If you don’t have strawberries don’t even think about fertilizer.

Planting
Plant pansy seeds in flats for transplanting into the landscape in mid-September. (You can do it in the cool kitchen!)

Bulbs to plant in August include Lycoris (spider lily), Colchicum (autumn crocus) and Sternbergia (autumn daffodil).

Sow seeds for Delphinium (larkspur), Stokesia laevis (Stoke’s aster) and Alcea rosea (hollyhock) now for a dazzling display next spring.

Go all in for a fall veggie garden by planting beets, Chinese cabbage, cucumbers, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, radish, spinach, winter squash and turnips.

Pruning
NO!! DO NOT! Sharpen and oil the shears and hang them back up where you can find them in January.

Spraying
Watch for spider mites in coniferous evergreens and potted annuals especially if the plants are water stressed. Spray if you must.

Keep up with your rose program.

Peach and nectarine trees need their trunks sprayed for borers at the end of August.

Watch the cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, etc.) for worms and spray squash (except butternut) for squash vine borers.

Maintain the weekly program for bunch grapes and fruit trees.

August is an effective time to apply broadleaf herbicide on Similax (greenbrier), kudzu, Campsis (trumpet creeper), and Wisteria sinensis (Chinese wisteria).

Lawn Care
If you think of grubs as, well, grubby now is the time to apply an appropriate pesticide.

It is time to prep bluegrass and fescue lawns for fall overseeding. Sorry, but if you want Yard-of-the-Month next spring ya gotta overseed in the fall. The other option is a really big natural area (with HOA approval, of course). Or you could look into sustainable landscaping which is really cool stuff.

Other Activities to Make You Hot and Sweaty
Take your landscape plan out (You DO have a landscape plan, right?!?) and see what you might be ready to add to the yard in the fall. Fall is for planting.

Water stuff when Mother Nature is slack in that department.

Build a compost bin.

Dig your Irish potatoes. This time of the year I dig them in a sour cream potato salad.

August is also your last chance to chill out and rest up before fall planting and harvesting season.