Moist soil and brisk days call gardeners out of doors to finish clean-up chores before winter sets in. Those who take the time to pull weeds, shred vegetable garden refuse, and spread mulch now, will be rewarded by having a head start on gardening in the spring. Weeds that have gone to seed should be carefully pulled and discarded to prevent any more seed from dropping to the ground. Vegetable stalks and rotting fruit will harbor insects and encourage fungi growth, which isn't good for the soil, and will make more work later on. Looking out over a tidily tended, mowed, and weeded landscape in the winter months, gives a gardener a sense of satisfaction as well as less to do to prepare for the spring growing season to come.
Bob Hartley, a longtime member of the Rim Country Gardeners, is busily preparing his Graham Ranch property for winter. Hartley is enamored of native plants which flourish on his five-acre plot, and appreciative of other low water-use plants which can be used to fill in and add interest to his landscape plan. He has followed the natural contour of his property to build beds and walkways, and divided plants by groups for textural interest and watering efficiency. A flowering perennial bed is planted nearest the house so it can be viewed from the windows on both levels. Planted between oaks and piñon pine trees are clumps of lavender, hollyhocks, snapdragons, delphinium and several varieties of salvia. Climbing up through the branches of a native piñon pine, a Virginia creeper is ablaze with magenta and orange autumn coloration.
Another area sports a prolific vegetable garden, where Hartley has trained squash vines with 15" leaves to climb over a trellis to save space. A bulb bed a little farther away from the house will flush forth color in the spring, sporting several types of spring flowering bulbs and iris along with native plants. Interspersed throughout the fenced rear landscaped section of the property are various fruit trees, mostly watered with captured runoff from the house. The Hartley's live lightly on the land, using solar power for heating water, warming the greenhouse, and using recycled materials where possible.
To prepare for winter, Bob Hartley is digging up native plants that have sprung up in places he would prefer not to have them, transplanting them into other areas or into pots for giving to friends. Tending the compost pile is another autumn ritual, which Hartley follows, shredding horse manure from a neighbor's stable and fallen deciduous leaves gathered from another property. The compost is allowed to sit for a year, used when needed for planting new plants or side dressing existing ones.
Garden chores for November
Plant! Container grown shrubs and trees will appreciate being transplanted during cooler days when the stress from heat is less. Now that there has been a hard frost, dry-land mix grass seed can be sown, as well as any wildflower seed not yet broadcast. There's still time to plant spring flowering bulbs, and winter annuals are now available at nurseries to replace faded summer and fall color.
Potted chrysanthemums can be planted in good garden soil now. Trim off spent blooms, but not tender stems. Mulch heavily with spoiled straw or pine needles. Water when the soil dries out. Feed heavily in the spring.
Protect! Mulch! Pine needles, oak leaves, chipped bark, or any other available organic material will help protect plants during cold dry spells. Spread a three- to four-inch layer around the base of all plants from an inch or so from the trunk to the drip line. Apply protective Fertilome borer spray according to package directions as a soil drench to protect against peach tree borer and other fruit tree pests Apply "Winterizer" to entire landscape now to help plants fight diseases and cold stress. Drain and cover decorative fountains and drip systems within the next week or two. Birds need water when there is no rain, so pour hot water on top of ice if birdbaths freeze over. Keep pumps running in biologically balanced ponds so fish will continue to receive oxygen, even when dormant. Do not hammer on ice that forms on top of the pond as the concussion could kill the fish. Pour a small amount of boiling water on the ice at the location of the water return so water will circulate continuously.
Water! Check soil moisture regularly, and continue to deep-water trees and shrubs if we receive less than 7 inches of snow or 1 inch of rain per month.