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November 2019       Volume 9, No. 10
Dear Friends,
 
We're approaching the end of the garden year, and we want to start by thanking you for allowing us to enter your fine gardens and help you make them even more beautiful during 2019! 
 
What are we still doing out there now, you may wonder? Isn't everything dead and gone?
 
That may be true for flowers, but fall is the time when the roots of woody plants are putting on their yearly growth. We have been enhancing this with our fall soil amending program, implementing recommendations from your recent soil test results.
 
This issue will be devoted to the myriad of other tasks involved in "putting the garden to bed" for winter. As usual, please let us know how we can help you at this busy time of year. Contact Kimberly Kuliesis, our Operations Manager, < kimberly@pumpkinbrookorganicgardening.com > to get on our schedule.

Putting the Garden to Bed


Vole
If you've noticed any tunneling or perhaps a missing plant or two this fall, voles may be the culprits. They enjoy tunneling in soft, moist soil and can eat plant roots that are in their way. Lawns and beds are favored habitat, particularly if surrounded by lush vegetation. Sometimes voles are a problem around drip irrigation lines that keep surrounding soil moist. Moles run in the same tunnels dug by voles.
 
We recommend a complete fall clean up to remove potential winter habitat for voles and moles. Ornamental grasses, tall perennials and the like need to be cut down now. Then we apply a product containing dried castor oil to the areas in question. When ingested, the voles move on, so we often make a repeat visit to treat adjoining areas. This product can even be applied over a light snow covering.
 
Recently we met a vole moving through a garden and noted that one peony and one aster had already been consumed at the root level!

If you are not troubled by voles, we want to encourage you to leave a light layer of leaves as a free winter mulch on your garden beds. A full cleanup can be completed in spring. It does no good to have all or most of the spring-applied bark mulch plus leaves blown off now, leaving nearly bare soil right at the time when plants need this layer of winter protection.


Dormant pruning  can occur from November through April, so we will be completing some of these tasks on plants that have lost their leaves (deciduous) when weather conditions permit. This is the prime time to prune apple orchards or any fruit tree, dogwoods, Japanese maples, and viburnums with densly structured branches. Below 20 degrees, we do not prune, as branches and twigs are brittle when handled.
 
Deer browsing  on evergreens can be counteracted with our deer repellent spray and deer fencing options in high traffic areas. Remember that the enzymes in a deer's stomach change with the seasons, and they are able to digest woody plants in winter. We also attach garlic clips to the tips of tender deciduous twigs of witch hazel and hydrangeas such as oak leaf and lacecap types that bloom on old wood, as these can also serve as winter browse for deer.
 
Anti-desiccant spray consisting mainly of pine sap, is a good protectant for broadleaf evergreens that are prone to burn in late winter sun and harsh winter winds. This is applied now on a clear day without wind. Reese and Roy will be making their rounds to spray in the near future.
 
Once the ground has frozen for good, and not before, we will do the following:

Boughs on heathers
  • Lay down evergreen boughs and/or pine needles over lavender, heaths, heathers and strawberry plants to provide a layer of winter protection
  • Mound fresh compost over the root systems of marginally hardy roses, including David Austin and hybrid tea types
  • Spread salt marsh hay to protect exposed perennial beds and strawberry patches
  • Wrap exposed broadleaf evergreens such as boxwoods in burlap
  • Set up cedar shrub protectors to protect foundation plantings from falling ice and snow
Many years, we have extended periods of extreme cold and lack snow cover to provide a protective layer. These strategies help the vulnerable plants listed above to survive these potentially difficult times. Should we luck out with complete snow cover all winter, your protected plants will still be fine under the additional layers. We wait for frozen ground to apply the extra layers in order to prevent voles, moles and mice from setting up winter habitations in the plants!



Installing protection for
foundation shrubs


Rose garden with winter protection on Austin roses




Plant Pick:  Picea omorika, Serbian Spruce

Evergreens star at this time of year, and nothing beats a tough, hardy Serbian spruce. Deer do not seem to browse them! You can choose from Picea omorika 'Pendula' with graceful swooping branches or the straight species. Both have a narrow framework, adaptable to a range of growing conditions, and max out at 30' to 50' tall. Plant them en masse or combined with other evergreens for screening purposes. Or use Serbian spruce as a specimen plant in smaller landscapes.



Priscilla's To-Do List for Late November/Early December
  • Drain hoses and store indoors for winter to prolong life
  • Store garden tools
  • Service any power equipment
  • Walk through the checklist above for putting the garden to bed
  • Clean up any remaining spent vegetable crops completely
  • Set out shrub protectors for vulnerable foundation plants to protect against falling snow and ice
     
    Winter Container
  • Create containers of winter greens, colored twigs and berries
  • Dormant pruning of deciduous trees and shrubs on days when temperature is above 20 degrees
  • Avoid pulling branches out of snow and ice due to brittleness
  • Stock up on Safe Paws ice melt for your walkways to protect your plants and your pets from excessive salts

It has been a real pleasure to work with you this year, and we look forward to regrouping for spring 2020.

In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!
 
Priscilla and the PBOG Crew


© Copyright 2011-2019 Pumpkin Brook Organic Gardening, Inc. 
All rights reserved.
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