| Sep 13, 2007

Feature Article - September 13, 2007

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Feature Article - September 13, 2007

Master Gardener: Cleaning Up the Gardenby Judy Wall Lanark County Master Gardener

Rake leaves. Some uses for leaves are: add to compost, or use as a winter mulch protector for tender perennials, or make leaf-mold. Failing to rake leaves can result in a dying or diseased lawn. Discard any leaves which show signs of disease.

Perennials that are overcrowded or are growing in a ring shape with the center portion missing should be divided now. Find new spots in your garden or give them away to friends/neighbours or place in a temporary spot, then give to your Horticultural Society for their spring plant sale.

Cut back perennial plants whose foliage you know will turn to mush with the first hard frost: i.e. Hostas. Leave till spring those whose seed heads and dried foliage add interest as well as food for the birds during the winter months: grasses, Echinacea, Rudbeckia.


Apply a winter mulch to tender perennials. Simply lay a lightweight organic mulch, such as shredded autumn leaves, pine needles or straw, over beds to protect plants from winter’s extremes. Avoid more compact mulches and whole leaves (which can mat), since they can suffocate plants.

Harvest any vegetables left on the plants. Green tomatoes can be put into brown paper bags and stored in a cool, dry place and will ripen slowly. Pull out all of your crops and clean up any fruit and vegetables that have fallen and also any leaves and stems. Debris that is left in the garden over the winter can cause diseases to enter the soil and re-appear the following spring.

Pull up any annual flowers felled by frost. Dispose of these in the compost heap; if you suspect disease, do not compost.

Save your favorite plants before frost hits. Small annuals and herbs are wonderful for digging up and planting in pots to spend the winter in a sunny window inside.

Houseplants that were growing outside should be prepared to be brought back inside. Gather them all and place them in a shady area. Look them over for any signs of insects and prune and repot any that may need it. Leave them in the shade a few days to get them used to low light conditions that will be similar to the conditions once they are back indoors. Browning leaves and leaf drop can happen in some species because of the change in light conditions and the lower humidity that is found in most homes.

Make a note of any plants that you want to move in the spring.

Mark/label any plant you are less familiar with or want to keep track of so you don’t mistakenly pull it out when doing spring weeding.

Dig up tender bulbs. Cannas, tuberous begonias, gladiolus, dahlias and most other summer-blooming bulbs don’t survive the winter.

Weed. Fall action prevents weeds from getting a head start next spring, saving you work in the long run.

Turn your garden soil and perform a soil test. Check the pH too. Make any adjustments needed.

You can add manure/compost in the fall, which is the best time, as it gives it plenty of time to breakdown. Work the manure and compost in and leave the garden messy. This will expose any insects and weed seeds to the winter elements.

Prepare rose bushes for winter. Prune dead or damaged branches and cut off any old flowers. Using topsoil or mulch, mound the bush and cut canes back to six to twelve inches. To completely protect the bush, you can then cover it using a bushel basket.

Newly planted trees need to be watered right up till the ground freezes, then stop. If you have evergreen shrubs, you really want to make sure they get plenty of water right now, to hold them over during our cold season. Evergreen plants will die over the winter if you haven't given them enough water as their foliage looses a lot of moisture in our harsh, cold, windy winters.

Wrap the trunks of young trees, or tie a plank of wood upright on south side. This will prevent sunscald. This happens when the sun is very warm and the heat reflects off the snow onto the tree trunks. They heat up, but when night comes, the temperature once again goes below freezing and the trees suffer. Two signs of sunscald is a split in the bark, or if where the bark has totally pulled away from the tree. Whichever one happens, it will usually kill the tree. Wrapping the trunk with foil (shiny side out), will reflect the heat and possibly save your tree. The foil is also good for keeping mice and rabbits from chewing on the bark

For more gardening information call Judy Wall 613-267-6684

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