The Plant Man column
for publication week of 11/07/04 - 11/13/04
The Plant Man
by Steve Jones
The November garden: some timely tips from readers
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
firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll try to get a personal response back right
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
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
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 email@example.com and for resources and additional
information, including archived columns, visit www.landsteward.org