Tuesday, November 20, 2012

November Gardening Tips

--by historical interpreter and Master Gardener Pat Kriener

Did you enjoy our cold snap? Did you have your plants prepared for it? It came a little early this year but most of us who follow old plant lore started preparing at least 3 weeks ago: that’s when the Mexican Mint Marigold started blooming. According to plant lore, the Mexican Mint Marigold blooms within a few weeks of our first light frost. Usually this is in mid to late October, but seeing the Mexican Mint Marigold bloom jump-starts me into winterizing my garden. This is a wonderful culinary herb that has a licorice scent & taste and blooms in the spring & fall with small yellow marigold-like flowers.

  • Annuals for fall & winter - the hardiest are the pansies, violas, ornamental cabbage & kale.  Don’t overlook allysum, cyclamens, dianthus, English daisy, mums, primrose and stock even though they may die back if temperatures get below 25 degrees. Water well and cover if the temps drop. Check your garden center regularly for new arrivals. Plant in front of existing perennials where you can, so they will hide & shelter them as they die back.
  • Bulbs – Forcing Paperwhite Narcissus for blooming at Christmas takes 4 to 6 weeks from the time you plant until full bloom, depending on conditions. You can buy Forcing Bulbs Kits or plant bulbs in a glass bowl or container filled with rocks and water. Keep in dim light until first green shows, then put in bright light. Keep planting those spring bulbs.
  • Compost Bin – Throw all clippings, leaves, vegetable and garden waste in compost.  Top-dressing beds with compost is a wonderful slow release fertilizer.  For large composts, use a broom handle, piece of rebar, stick or shovel handle to make ventilation holes in the pile. Turning a compost pile is recommended by many experts, but there are also several who state ventilation works just as well. I would love to hear what you think.
  •  Container Plants – move tender plants inside this month or at least make space so they can be moved in quickly. Pots always come with visitors:  toads, ants or other bugs. Water heavily with the hose to get the toads out and then use orange oil solutions for the bugs:  follow the directions on the bottle. Winter pots--use winter annuals and hardy plants. When freezing temperatures are predicted, water and cover if needed. Make sure your pots have plenty of mulch.
  • Fruits & Nuts- plant B&B, bare root and container grown fruits peaches, apples, pears, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. Strawberries need to be planted as early as possible to develop a good root system before it freezes (mulch heavily). Pecans & walnut trees can be planted this month. Existing plants:  mulch & top dress and remember to make sure they get watered.
  • Greenhouse – If you haven’t wrapped your greenhouse in plastic or cleaned out your glass green house, do it now! Take cuttings of any tender plants you want for spring. Make room for cold tender plants already in pots and plants you potted up last month.  This is the time to take cuttings of many of our woody plants such as rosemary. Winter annuals and vegetables – continue to propagate by seed and transplant all plants with true leaves but first harden them off a few hours every day  for 3 to 5 days outside before planting . Try an eco friendly way to heat your greenhouse using black buckets with water in them. They can have lids on them or not. I have hooked mine up to my sink so when I run water it goes into the bucket and I have the hose hooked up to the last barrel so I can use it for watering if need be.
  • Herbs - All of the evergreen herbs such as rosemary, thyme, parsley, oregano and others can be harvested all winter; if you do not have them in your garden plant them now. Grow tender herbs such as basil indoors or in the greenhouse. Use lavender cuttings in vases for a fresh scent, hang to let dry to create dried arrangements and wreaths or hang in closets for moth repellant.
  • Lawn –Don’t bag those leaves--mulch them for fertilizer, use them for mulch in your beds or create a compost pile. Overseed bare areas with rye-grass seed to avoid erosion.
  • Mulch – Check your mulch to see if you have at least 3 inches on your beds. This is a great time to get out there and mulch everything from your beds to your trees. Mulch will help protect them from our extremes in temperatures during this winter.
  • Plant for Fall Color – Trees – Shumard Oak & Texas Smoke Tree.  Shrubs – American Beautyberry & Holy, Possum haw.  Perennials – Mexican Bush Sage, Mexican Mint Marigold & Sedum, Autumn Joy.  Roses – Belinda’s Dream & Knock Out. Vines - Trumpet Vine & Virginia Creeper.  Fall Blooming Bulbs such as Autumn Crocus are planted in the spring.
  •  Perennials – Plant NOW! Get ready for the winter by mulching at least 2 to 3 inches. Deadhead but do not cut back until we have had at least 2 hard frosts.  Pot up tender ones to be easily moved into the house or greenhouse when the weather turns bad.
  • Rainwater -. Don’t forget to put out buckets to catch rainwater.  For more information on using rainwater wisely go to: http://twri.tamu.edu/newsletters/TexasWaterSavers/tws-v3n2.pdf
  • Roses – New stock of EarthKind Roses are showing up in the garden centers. Top dress and mulch existing roses. Stop deadheading to get rose hips for teas and jams for the upcoming winter. Climbers can be pruned back as soon as they stop blooming.
  • Vegetable Garden –. It’s time to plant Garlic! Other Vegetables to Plant: Beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, collards, cucumbers, garlic, kohlrabi, lettuce, kale, mustard greens, radish, shallots, snap beans, spinach and Swiss chard. Always check “Days to harvest” on the package and usually our first hard frost is in Mid-Nov. Plant your broccoli, cabbage, collards and lettuce you started from seed last month. Cleanup beds, add compost, and cover with mulch. If you are not replanting plant a “green manure”--Vetch, crimson clover and oats are good choices.
  • Watering – If we do not get rain, a 7-day cycle is best for your plants but you may want to water earlier when we are going to have a sudden temperature drop and your plants are on the dry side. Watering will help insulate the plants from the cold. Make sure you keep the water off the plants by ground watering or if you have to use a sprinkler system that you water when there is no danger of your plants freezing. I know I have driven down streets and seen icicles hanging off plants just because the system is on a timer.
  • Wildflowers - Hurry!  Time is getting short to get those wildflowers planted for spring blooms

If you haven’t already winterized your gardens, do it now.