Last week with a temperature of 65 degrees I sat on the beach at Rocky Neck for a while. We have been so fortunate here in New England to have a lovely summer not too hot and beautiful weather into November. I am keeping my fingers crossed that this weather foretells a mild winter – we can only hope that we don’t receive a lot of snow like the past few years.

Now in early to mid November, the soil is still soft and warm for digging is the best time to plant spring bulbs adding composted manure around the planting holes. Make sure you plant the bulb at a depth of at least three times the size of the bulb with the pointed end up. Daffodil bulbs need to be at least nine inches down below the frost line for optimum bloom. Wear gloves, as bulbs cause an irritation called a ‘lily rash’.

Dig a trench for the bulbs and scatter an odd number of bulbs in the trench where they can touch; and you will get a dramatic show in spring. Do not plant in straight lines; plants in nature do not grow in straight lines.

Tulip bulbs need to be planted twelve inches down, as they are the caviar of the rodent family. A suggestion is to soak them in an organic deer repellent before planting, allowing them to dry in the sun, this method deters making critters from snacking. Also an added protection for tulips is gravel in the planting hole.

In the spring when the bulb foliage is about four inches tall, sprinkle more composted manure around them. When smaller bulbs show foliage sprinkle composted manure around them also.

I hear you saying okay Maureen I’m ready to plant the bulbs but what else is there to do in the garden”? Folks, there are a number of things to get you out in the garden in this mild fall weather.

The most important is to apply a few inches of composted manure on all planted borders for soil structure and with the soil still way above 40 degrees the manure works to give nutrients to boost the plant roots over the winter.

The plants that will really benefit are evergreens planted in September and any plants transplanted or divided in fall. Manure can be purchased in bags from the garden center.

Another projects, before the snow flies are construction projects.
By construction projects I mean, stonework and carpentry. Building decks, mending fences, building dry laid stonewalls, walkways, patios and digging ponds. Definitely labor-intensive work, but at this time of year you won’t be uncomfortably hot. Make sure to take breaks and drink lots of water.

When the weather is inclement, work under a construction tent when building walls, decks or digging ponds. Or build trellises, pergolas, and arbors and fences in a shed or garage. The added advantage to the hard labor is that it keeps one in shape, especially with those fattening holiday meals around the corner.

If you are not able or do not want to do the work yourself now is the time to call in a professional to do the work so that the project is completed before you plant in spring. Check and if you wish Ian will get in touch with you, listen to your needs and stay within your budget.

Each year, harsh winter wind damages much of the foliage of broadleaf evergreens. Rhododendrons, mountain laurel and azaleas are particularly vulnerable as cold wind drains them of much needed moisture. Broadleaf evergreens with their shallow root system need a good store of water going into the winter. We have had reasonable rain but need more this fall; the rain helps the broadleaves as they continue to lose water vapor through the cold months.

Many of you have said that you notice the harsh winds of the past two winters caused the foliage on rhododendrons turned brown and brittle. This happens when the soil freezes and plant roots, cannot take up water to make up for moisture lost from water vapor. Dehydration is the result causing brown or wind burnt foliage.

I don’t go overboard with wrapping evergreens with burlap in winter. My white pines, Colorado blue spruce and Fraser firs are at least 50 years old and well established so I have no worries on that score. I love the look of the different evergreen hues that make the landscape so attractive in winter.

However, there are exceptions, with plants that require a burlap wrap. Among those are evergreens planted in late summer into September. Among those is the Dwarf Alberta Spruce, so prone to wind burn. The Albertas should be covered with one layer of burlap, loosely wrapped.

Also if the evergreens are close to a road and exposed to salt spray from
The snow trucks and ploughs, burlap may help if the plants are not too large. Of course the best idea is not to plant them close to the road or plant salt-tolerant species like Juniper.

At the base of all evergreens spread a three-inch layer of leaves or fine bark mulch, composted manure and peat around the base of the trunk. Following a heavy snowstorm when evergreen branches are weighed down with snow gently brush the snow off with a broom.

The leaves of the deciduous trees fell fast this fall due to the recent storms. Either you or a nimble person climb a ladder and remove leaves from gutters and drain pipes. Water from clogged gutters and pipes falling onto foundation plantings causes damage to the plants below.

Now in November cut Peonies down to within six inches from the ground, adding just a small amount of composted manure around the base.

I leave up my spent perennials until next April. The soft grays browns and yellows compliment the muted hues of a winter landscape and our feathered friends enjoy the seed heads.

Any leftover vegetables in the vegetable garden should have been turned into the soil. Add one part compost to three parts manure to the vegetable garden and plant a cover crop of buckwheat, alfalfa or white clover, to minimize erosion. In spring turn the cover crop into the soil as green manure.

Take any of your power tools that require repair or sharpening into the shop now. The repair shops are less busy now than in the spring. Clean your tools off in a bucket of sand, the roughness of the sand will help clean off soil and debris, then oil and grease wooden handles to preserve them and prevent splinters. Hang them neatly on hooks in the garage or shed and not just “higgledy piggledy” in a pile

If you have an in ground irrigation system blow out the lines or have this done professionally. Also coil your hoses and store under cover, and shut off out outdoor faucets.

Put a bag of potting soil in the corner of the garage or basement, it will come in handy for repotting houseplants, bulb forcing or starting seeds in the spring. A supply of peat, composted manure, sand and vermiculite is also useful. Also put a bag of topsoil and some mulch under cover so that you can cover the shallow roots of evergreens if they push above soil surface due to frost heave.

Houseplants: The best time to transplant houseplants is during the growing season beginning in April. However, if you need to repot some houseplants that have outgrown their container, transplant to a clean pot only two inches larger than the original as plants like to be compact; add new potting soil and water.

Container geraniums and begonias brought indoors should be placed in a sunny window to be enjoyed. In February, cut the plants down to about six inches from the soil surface and water them.

Water houseplants, early in the day; not in the evening, as plants do not like to have wet feet at night. Water them only when the top four inches of soil is dry to the touch. Once a month stand them in the bathtub or sink and spray the leaves with lukewarm water to remove any dust, dirt, white fly or aphids. Do not get water on the leaves of African violets.

Paper white Narcissus bulbs are great for forcing. I force these bulbs in pebbles but you may use potting soil if you wish and keep the pebbles or soil moist. Put the bulbs in tall containers. I use tall clear glass vases, which help support the stems. I anchor the bulbs with pebbles, keep the pebbles moist and place the containers in a cool dark place. As soon as you see root growth and the beginnings of leaf growth which is in about a month, bring the bowls into medium light, keeping the pebbles or soil moist at all times.

I force about a dozen at a time and the remainder I store in the vegetable keeper in the refrigerator in a brown paper bag away from food. I bring them out and pot them up a few at a time so that I have a succession of fragrant bloom throughout the winter.

Grow pots of parsley, dill, basil and other herbs in a sunny window, delicious fresh herbs for cooking and salads through winter. The Seaweed tea produces a very healthy crop of herbs.

Roses – remove any dead or diseased leaves from Roses and pick up any Rose debris off the ground. If you notice disease like black spot in the debris do not put it in your compost pile; throw it away in the garbage. Mound soil, composted manure and mulch around the base of the Roses. The mounding helps maintain a constant temperature around the Rose.

If the Roses are grown in an exposed area, which makes them vulnerable to drying winter winds, cover the plant with one layer of burlap, not tied tightly or use a rose cone. Make sure all climbers Roses or other Vines are securely fastened to the fence or trellis.

Set up your bird feeders where you are able to enjoy the birds. Preferably place the feeders near to some low shrubs or small trees sheltered from the wind; birds like to flit from these protected spots to the feeder. Offer a varied menu for different birds. Birds enjoy a recipe I received from my stepmother in England; a lump of suet embedded with peanuts or hollowed out pinecones filled with peanut butter.

To prevent squirrels from raiding the feeders, set up a baffle and sprinkle cayenne pepper in the birdseed and on the suet feeders; the heat does not bother the birds and squirrels will stay clear. I am aware that hungry squirrels can jump vertically five feet; but don’t worry if you happen to be a squirrel lover; they always manage to get food from some feeder.

This is the time of year when we gardeners can pause and with the previous season still fresh in your mind, say, “this worked”, and “that I will never try again”. It is really worthwhile to take a leisurely stroll around the garden in the next few weeks, before the snow flies. Look at the garden, squarely and soberly, making notes as you go to plan for next season. Plan as you stroll, writing down your impressions, making sketches and lists and saving them for your winter armchair gardening.

Enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday and I’ll see you in your garden next month.


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