Late fall jobs can prevent spring problems

This isn’t my favorite topic because it means that winter is on its way.  I don’t have anything against winter, well not much, anyway.  However, for gardeners who spend every spare minute in the garden, it’s hard to see the season end.  On a positive note, there are some things we can still do that may prevent some real problems next spring.

I realize that being told once again to keep your trees and shrubs watered until the ground freezes is like hearing another political ad.  I have written before that there is no way that I am able to water everything that needs watering, so I must be selective.  Knowing that blueberries set their buds in the fall, I am continuing to water them hoping that it may prevent the buds from falling off in spring.  Since snow is the best insulation for blueberries, it is very important to cover them with snow if and when we get some.  If you have young plants, use Styrofoam cones to cover them and weigh them down so they don’t blow off the plants.  Put some De-Con inside the cones and keep it dry, as this is an excellent winter home for mice.

If you have time, you could still cut out the old dead canes from summer bearing raspberries or leave them until spring.  Forever bearing raspberries like Heritage need to be cut back to about three inches from the ground.  Wait until the ground freezes so you don’t loosen the roots.

I have already written about fall being a good time to plant or transplant trees, shrubs and perennials.  However, your work is not done.  Protect young fruit trees from rodent and rabbit damage by placing plastic white tubes around the base or cylinders of chicken wire, or better yet, hardware cloth.  If you find cracked or broken limbs on your fruit trees, mark them and wait until February or March to prune them out.

Remember that when covering perennials for winter, gardeners are trying to keep the ground frozen, not warm it up.  This prevents ground heaving as temperatures fluctuate over the winter.  Heaving can cause plant crowns to rise above soil level, causing drying out, which leads to decline and even death.  So wait to apply winter mulch until after the ground is frozen.


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