Dig It! Preventing your Garden from Wildlife and Winter
Sage & Snow Garden Club newsletter - November, 2011
by Sage & Snow Garden Club
October 27, 2011
This time of year is beautiful, with its muted colors and glistening mornings. Our gardening psyches might be muted, too, but never fear, spring will reappear. In preparation for the next few months, Flora has provided some activities to pursue in the garden.
Dear Flora: What do I need to do to prepare my garden beds for winter? Signed: Clean-as-a-Whistle
Dear CAW: It is important to pull old plants and weeds and dispose of them (do not till them back into the soil). Leftover plants and weeds harbor diseases and pests that will overwinter in the garden. If the plants had insect pests or were diseased in any way, do not add them to the compost bin. Mature weeds with seeds should not be added to the compost bin. Do not pull the roots of pea and bean plants since the nitrogen nodules add valuable nutrients to the soil. Fall is a good time to add well-rotted manure to the garden beds.
Dear Flora: Do I need to mulch strawberry and asparagus plants for the winter? Signed: Mulching Mary
Dear MM: Yes, add a layer of straw, leaves, or evergreen branches to cover the plants. Be sure to remove the mulch in the spring.
Dear Flora: How can I deter deer from eating my plants? Signed: Sedum Lover
Dear SS: Some Sublette County gardeners have had success by sprinkling blood meal around the plants. This has to be repeated throughout the season. Another method is to spray plants throughout the growing season with diluted hot sauce that contains cayenne pepper. There are many home remedies that can be used, however the best answer is to fence.
Dear Flora: How long should I continue to water my plants? Signed: Burnie
Dear Burnie: Fall and winter watering is important for all plants, but especially evergreens that continue to lose water through their leaves during the winter causing winter burn. Remember that even in winter, sun and wind cause leaves to dry out rapidly. Roots will replace the lost moisture if there is water in the soil and the soil is not completely frozen. The best water management strategy for evergreens is to have the soil evenly moist through fall and as wet as possible (short of standing water) prior to the soil freezing. Continue to water until there is constant snow cover and when air and soil temperatures are at least 40 degrees. Water mid-day so water can have a chance to soak in before possible freezing temperatures at night. Winter drought can harm root systems of plants and soil dries out faster in windy sites, so plants will need more supplemental water in these locations. Make sure to deep-water trees out to the drip line. Drain hoses, but keep them out for now. If natural rainfall or melting snow is limited, water during temporary warm spells when the soil thaws.
Dear Flora: Do I need to prepare my garden tools for winter? Signed, Uncertain
Dear Uncertain: If you want your tools to last, you should take care of them. Some simple things to do are put tools away clean, get rid of rust spots (store in sand to keep rust off), coat cleaned metal tools with oil and wooden handles with oil or wax, and drain and carefully coil water hoses.
Dear Flora: I have a ton of leaves. How can I use them in the garden? Signed, Leif
Dear Leif: There are several easy ways to get rid of those leaves quickly, such as simply piling them in a wire cage to later use as compost or mulch (remember that shredded leaves decompose much faster than whole leaves, so run over them with a mower first). If you want to start a new garden on a portion of your lawn, mow the grass very low, cover the grass with several layers of newspaper or cardboard, cover the first layer with at least two inches of compost or manure and add at least 4 inches of shredded leaves on top. Use up to 12 inches of shredded leaves around winter-hardy vegetables as mulch, dig shredded leaves into your vegetable or flower garden to increase organic matter and drainage. Finally, leaves can benefit a lawn if they are finely shredded (mowed over several times) and left where they fall - just be sure there is not a mat of leaves or the grass will die.
Dear Flora: I love bunnies, but hate what they do to my trees and shrubs in winter. Help! Signed, Elmer
Dear Elmer: You might try wrapping the bottom 30 inches of your plants with a protective wrap that you can get at garden centers or aluminum foil. A wire cage around the plant might also work.
Dear Flora: I hate to give up my vegetable garden in winter. Can I ski in the morning and harvest vegetables in the afternoon? Signed, Ski Bum
Dear SB: If you want to continue harvesting vegetables in winter, try putting straw bales on either side of your crop and windows atop the bales (you are building a coldframe). Now you have to do your part and get a snow blower so you can keep a trail open from your house to the vegetable garden. On second thought, maybe you better just grow herbs on an inside windowsill!
Dear Flora: How can I keep track of the plants that I've added to my flower garden this year so I don't dig them up next year? Signed, Can't Find My XXX
Dear CFM: If you like to take pictures of your garden anyway, you could record the location of new plants this way. Secondly, you could circle your special plants with rocks or wood craft sticks (Popsicle sticks) - these work well in our area, especially if your garden receives snow that slides off a roof and turns into ice.
Dear Flora: What herbs will overwinter in my garden? Signed, Rosemary
Dear Rosemary (is that really your name?): Even though oregano, chives, mint, parsley, lemon balm, hardy lavenders, culinary sages, thyme and savory are hardy, you should still mulch them. Wait until late winter or early spring to prune them and promote new growth.
Dear Flora: Some of the online garden sites are having sales at this time of the year. Is there anything I can BUY that will not freeze and die or is there some other way of keeping plants alive over the winter? Signed, Frozen Out
Dear FO: Now is a great time to purchase wildflower seeds and perennials. If you plant the wildflower seeds in the fall, they will flower earlier than seed planted in the spring. Some seeds will not flower until they have experienced a winter freeze. Purchase perennials suitable for zone 3-4, which is like our climate in Sublette County - they should arrive with about 1-2" of stem and usually a bare root. Plant directly into soil enriched with compost. You can also cover plants with straw to protect them over the winter and then pull back the straw in the spring and add the straw to your compost pile. If you are unable to get your seeds into the ground now, make sure they are well labeled and keep them in the refrigerator. If you are unable to plant your small plants, remove from the plastic wrapping and carefully place into a cardboard box filled with dry material (newspaper strips or sawdust), store in a cool environment that does not freeze, and plant in the spring as soon as the soil is workable.
Dear Flora: How should I get my trees ready for the cold winter? Signed, Dreading the Cold
Dear DC: Don't forget to water your trees as we go into winter (they still need water even though they don't have leaves). During this dry fall be sure to give young trees an inch of water per week and water out to the trees drip line. Protect evergreens from the drying wind by wrapping them with burlap.
Dear Flora: This year I planted small trees. How do I keep rodents and rabbits from girdling my trees in winter? Signed, Rabbit Scared
Dear RS: You can protect trees from rabbits and rodents by putting a cylinder of wire mesh hardware cloth around the tree trunk. The cylinder should extend 2-3 inches below the ground line for mice and 18-24 inches above the anticipated snow line for rabbit protection. Hardware cloth can be left on year-round, but it must be larger than the trunk to allow for growth. For small trees, plastic tree guards can also work.
Dear Flora: How can I get you to answer my gardening questions? Signed, Yearning for Knowledge
Dear YK: Send any gardening questions to the Sage & Snow Garden Club, Box 2280, Pinedale, WY, 82941; to firstname.lastname@example.org; or call 307-367-4380 to speak to a Master Gardener.
Dear Flora: How can I meet other gardeners in the Pinedale area? Signed, Gregarious Gardener
Dear GG: The Garden Club meets the third Tuesday in the month, so the next meeting will be November 15. We get together at the Sublette County Weed & Pest Office at 12 South Bench Road, Pinedale (307-367-4728). Social time starts at 4:30 P.M., followed by a short business session at 5:00 P.M. To find out more about the Garden Club, go to our website at https://sites.google.com/site/sageandsnowgardenclub/.