Volume 6, October 2017

What a beautiful Fall so far!  I might wish for a bit more rain to come in the evenings, though, to settle in all the planting and transplanting that has been going on.  Our crews have been busy with this activity and will finish up by the end of October.  Fall is for planting!  Have we come to you yet?  Please let me know soon if you have something in mind.  Remember that we can also design and plan this winter for your early spring 2018 planting.

Warm temperatures have us all lulled into thinking that winter will be delayed this year.  However, I am planning ahead, just in case.  See my to-do list for a sampling of what to do this month in the garden to be ready.
Plant Pick - Callicarpa dichotoma or Beautyberry
This small Asian shrub (2'-4') of the open forest floor is happy in a garden border that receives dappled light or full afternoon sun.  Coming into its glory in October, it is a vision of
Callicarpa americana
the most lovely purple berries you've ever seen!  Not edible, however, but may attract birds.  The berries are fleeting and are generally gone before winter weather sets in.

Callicarpa americana, our native beautyberry, is hardy from zones 6-9, so those of you in our eastern region nearer Boston can probably grow this one.

We prune the Callicarpa in May when small buds appear.  To maintain compactness, prune down to 6" height.  It blooms with small flowers and bears fruit on new wood.  That's it for maintenance, although I learned during the drought that this shrub does appreciate water when flowering in August.  That's when it sets its fall fruit.
It's Almost Time for ... Mad Stash!
Those of us who love tender plants know what I mean.  The begonias, succulents and scented geraniums have been outdoors since mid May at my house.  But they don't like many nights in the 40s, and certainly not the 30s.  

The time to decide what to bring in and what to toss is here.  I call it "Mad Stash" because as the days grow shorter, daylight and the time to bring plants indoors is also fleeing!  It's easy to find yourself running around in the dark grabbing plants (the ones you nearly forgot you had) to save for next year.

I begin with a good cutback of vegetation on the scented geraniums.  They will only drop most of those leaves in the house, anyway.  Begonias can benefit from some of this action, too, depending on the type.  I usually let the long cane type stay long as these will rebloom in February.  

Then our Plant Health Care team comes along with backpack sprayers of insecticidal soap spray to douse each plant.  After a brief drying off period, it's up to me to bring everything indoors and stage it in winter quarters.  Limited sun space in the bay window goes

first, with some larger or less fussy plants ending up in the basement where an occasional ray of light through a casement window will be all they see until late spring.  Lily of the Nile, geraniums, and brugmansias do well down here.  I am careful now to protect the soil and trunks with netting from the explorations of my cat, Mr. Stripey, who patrols the basement and is always curious.

Watering is very minimal for these plants indoors.  Remember, they need their winter rest!  And certainly no fertilizer until February when new growth begins again.

We store dahlia tubers in labelled boxes of sawdust on metal shelving.  Temperatures in this area do not rise much above 50 degrees in winter, which is ideal.  With all these plants, we just need to keep a heartbeat going until the signal sometime in May that it's time to see the outdoor light again.
Tips on Nuisance Wildlife Deterrence
We have been using a new granular repellent whenever we encounter those broomstick-sized holes in the lawn or garden.  This is a sure sign of vole activity.  Voles can undermine perennials by eating their roots.  Suddenly, the plant is dead!  I also encourage a thorough fall cutback of perennials to eradicate vole habitat.

The main ingredient in the repellent is Castor Oil.  It does not kill the voles but makes the vegetation and roots taste unpleasant, so they move on.  Ideally, we start applying repellent at the area with the holes and fan out over a period of weeks to cover the entire yard.  Watering in the repellent or applying before a rain is ideal to help it dissolve more quickly.  

We will also do some applications over a light snow in known problem areas to deter this pest in its winter habitat!  It will also repel moles
Let us know if you would like to
discuss your deer problems
who tunnel in lawns.

Deer protection time is right around the corner.  We put plastic mesh guards on thin barked tree species, including fruit trees, to prevent buck rub.  This time comes in fall after antlers drop off, and the animal rubs its head against a tree to ease the pain of the new rack of antlers that is emerging.

Deer may also nip canes of hydrangeas and roses at this season as leaves drop.  We attach small pins that we call "garlic clips" infused with a strong garlic scent to discourage browsing through the winter.  Finally, we spray vulnerable broadleaf evergreens such as yews, arborvitae and rhododendrons with deer repellent in November.  In some cases, we put up a layer of netting or fencing as a secondary guard that is removed in spring once the fields green up again.

Rabbits and woodchucks are the trickiest nuisance animals to live with.  Their feeding habits are very similar in that they are herbivores who love to nip flowers and vegetables just coming into their prime.  Wire fencing that is set a foot into the soil is the only sure deterrent for the vegetable garden.  Fall is a good time to check for any gaps in the fencing that may have been forged this season.

As for flowers, I am working on a list of perennials these two pests won't eat!  Here it is so far.  I'm testing this list with the voracious rabbits of Lexington Center and will welcome your additions (or deletions).
Winter Moth
Female winter moth
Winter moth is still a problem in some of our communities like Lincoln, Concord, Carlisle, Lexington, Wayland, and surrounding towns.  We offer a banding service for susceptible trees such as maples, oaks and dogwoods.  The best time to put the bands on the trees is between Halloween and Thanksgiving, preparing for the nuptial flights of the male moths who emerge to seek females crawling up the tree trunks.

For more information about the life cycle of this pest and its breeding cycle, visit UMass Extension's web site.

Please let Doris know if you would like the banding service this year, as we need to order the product now.
Priscilla's To-Do List for October
  • Clean up the garden in stages as cooler temperatures descend, beginning with hostas, peonies, flopping daylilies and irises, browned out ferns, spent annuals
  • Divide and transplant spring and summer blooming perennials
    Time to take soil tests
  • Transplant shrubs and small trees as leaves prepare to drop
  • Make notes about plants to add in 2018
  • Test soil and plan amending later in month to boost any deficient nutrients
  • Plant spring blooming bulbs as soil temperatures cool
  • Plan to prune trees such as birch and stewartia that bleed sap in spring
  • Clean up spent crops in the vegetable garden
  • Use row covers to protect leafy greens on cool nights; remove during warm days
  • Continue to refresh and replant containers as summer annuals droop
  • Water woody plants and anything newly transplanted (see our fall watering guidelines) along with newly seeded lawns
  • Dig and store dahlias after tops have been frosted
  • Spray houseplants with insecticidal soap spray before bringing back indoors
  • Remove fallen leaves promptly from newly seeded lawn areas so the new grass shoots develop properly
  • Shred leaves to reuse as added organic matter or winter protection
  • Ticks are very active, so check yourself, pets and children after outdoor activities and wear repellent
I hope you can get outside this month for a fall foliage foray and to admire the gently decaying beauty of your autumn garden!

© Copyright 2011 Pumpkin Brook Organic Gardening, Inc. 
All rights reserved.