The Plant Man column
for publication week of 11/07/04 - 11/13/04
The Plant Man
by Steve Jones
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 email@example.com 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
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
“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
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org and for resources and
additional information, including archived columns, visit