The November garden: some timely tips from readers (Land Steward Article)

The Plant Man column for publication week of 11/07/04 - 11/13/04 (762 words) ###
The Plant Man by Steve Jones www.landsteward.org
The days are getting shorter, the clocks have been turned back (except in certain parts of Indiana!) and spring is just around the corner. At least it is for all of us optimistic landscapers and gardeners. We just have to get through winter first!
So, as fall turns to winter, let’s take a quick look at some of our last “outdoor activities.” Some of these are mine and some are suggestions and ideas from readers of this column. Remember, your comments and questions are always welcome and can be very helpful to your fellow readers. Contact me at snipped-for-privacy@landsteward.org and I’ll try to get a personal response back right away.
Here’s a tip from a reader who simply signed him (or her) self as Gerry, who picked up this idea while surfing the ‘Net.
Too wet to mow? Gerry says that if you need to give the lawn one last mow, but the grass is wet from a recent rainfall, don’t give up too soon! Get a length of rope or garden hose and stretch it across one end of the lawn. (It would help to have someone hold the other end.) Simply drag the hose or rope across the lawn to displace the water droplets that will sprinkle down to the soil below. Wait a few minutes (maybe a quarter hour) and the blades of grass should be dry enough for you to mow successfully.
A river runs through it... A river – or even a small stream – can make a mess of your basement. Right now would be a good time to check the grading around your home’s foundation to make sure it drains away from the house.
Check the grading every now and them during the winter because snow or heavy rainfall can erode soil or cause it to settle (particularly in flower beds close to the foundation). Water can then build up in these indentations and is likely to seep through to your basement or crawl space. Refilling or regrading these depressions will direct water runoff away from your home’s foundation.
Fruit tree clean-up If you have fruit trees as part of your landscape, take a few minutes to remove any debris that you might find under and around them. Look for twigs and leaves, as well as the last remaining fallen fruit (particularly under late-fruiting trees) which should not be left to rot on the ground.
Insects and diseases can spend the winter months snoozing in the debris and emerge in the spring to attack your fruit trees. Remove these potential “bug motels” now and your fruit trees could have a healthier head start next year.
The “Deadwood Stage” Winter storms can cause serious damage to age-weakened trees... and they, in turn, can cause VERY serious damage to your home! A lightning strike or a heavy coating of ice can easily snap off a dead or dying tree limb weighing a ton or more. And that can make a big hole in your roof.
Unless the suspect limbs are easily accessible, this is a job for a reputable tree surgeon who can tell you which branches need to be removed and which could be trimmed back or “strapped” to give them extra support. A sleigh on the roof on Christmas morning is one thing; a huge tree branch poking through your bedroom ceiling is not so much fun!
“Doctor, it’s time for the transplant!” Shrubs, plants and trees are entering their dormant cycle right about now, so if you need to move one to a new location, this is the right time. First, pick your new location and dig a hole big enough to comfortably hold the root ball.
Then carefully dig out the root ball, being sure to retain as much of the root system as you can. Before the root ball can dry out, place it in the prepared hole, adding back some of the soil, along with some compost, peat moss or manure. You can also add some fertilizer specifically developed to encourage growth in transplants. Tall plants might need staking until their roots take hold.
If you would like some advice about your specific situation before you attempt a transplant, drop me an e-mail and I’ll try to help. Keep those tips and ideas coming, and I’ll pass along the best in future columns.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to snipped-for-privacy@landsteward.org and for resources and additional information, including archived columns, visit www.landsteward.org
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