The small amount of rain we received this morning was pitiful. I mean c'mon! Is it too much to ask for just one day of soaking rain? Apparently so. Week five without any significant precipitation. If you are one of the few who have already had their irrigation lines winterized you are in trouble. No sign of rain for the next seven days means dry conditions will persist. I know it is hard to remember when the weather is cool but keeping plants hydrated now gives them a better chance of surviving a nasty, cold, desiccating winter. You should keep your sprinklers running as long as the temperatures remain above freezing. I have been known to have the hose out watering in December. Drastic times call for drastic measures.
Boy, was it warm yesterday? The high was 85 warm ones and I was surprised by how humid it felt. I am enjoying the warmer days but 85 in late October? It looks as if we will be back to frosty temps in the mornings and milder temps in the afternoons for the next seven days. Still no hard freeze here. We had a hard frost but I've still got annuals hanging around that look pretty good. I have a rhododendron that has a beautiful bloom on it. I think that these warmer days have it confused. We will continue to ride the cold, warm roller coaster for awhile longer until Mother Nature puts a stop to it. Winter will be here soon enough. Hard to believe after days like yesterday.
Late Season Seeding...
Last week we talked about the fact that it's too late to put down grass seed. If you didn't get seed down but need new grass you currently have two options:
- Dormant seeding can be successful in areas not susceptible to erosion. Anytime after Thanksgiving and through March you can lay grass seed with the expectation that it will germinate and grow when spring arrives. Wintertime precipitation coupled with the soil's freeze/thaw cycles will aid in proper setting of seeds.
- Sod can be used successfully during almost any time of the year that the ground isn't frozen. The trick is getting it established. The secret is water.
- Keep it soaked the first week. It should be so wet that you cannot walk on it.
- Keep it wet the second week. It should be very squishy under foot.
- Keep it moist the third week. Water lightly every day.
- Make sure it gets about an inch of water per week thereafter until it's established.
Christmas Tree B&B...
It may seem a little early to be thinking about Christmas trees but if you are considering a live, balled & burlapped tree that will be planted after the holiday you should start planning now. It's time now to choose the planting spot and, more importantly, dig the hole for it. If you wait too long the ground may be frozen by the time you think about it again.
After you dig the hole (preferably twice as wide as the tree's root ball) fill it with leaves or straw to protect against any early freezing. You might also cover it with plywood if the hole presents an injury or accident risk. Keep the dirt from the hole in a garage or shed so you have some loose soil to use during planting.
Time For Trees...
And speaking of trees.. now is a great time to plant one (or more). While the visible part of the tree will be dormant, the roots will remain active and growing through the winter. This assures that the tree will be well established and ready for spring and summer next year. Need help? Just read our feature article, Planting Trees...
Belated Bulb Burial...
Generally, we like to plant hardy bulbs in October to give them enough time to root before winter. But it is certainly not too late to plant them now. As long as the soil temperatures are above 40°F bulbs should continue root development. Soil temperatures across our area last week averaged in the upper 50s to lower 60s.
Although many of the best bulbs have probably already been purchased, garden centers may still have a good selection. Be sure to select large, firm bulbs that have not begun to sprout.
Seed Saving Savvy...
After you have collected seeds from your favorite flowers and vegetables be careful how you store them. The two words that best sum up the right conditions are cool and dry. A seed is actually a living infant plant with a limited amount of food to sustain it until it germinates. Warm storage temperatures may let it consume too much food and damp temperatures may encourage mold or bacteria to use some of the food and kill the plant. Dry seeds in a paper envelope will not trap moisture, and kept in a cool and dry place, will survive well so you may plant them next year.
Long Live Geraniums...
If you want to keep your garden geraniums over the winter you would do well to treat them as houseplants. Before they get damaged by frost cut them back to about half their original size. Using only the healthy, insect-free plants individually pot them up using dry potting soil. Water them thoroughly and as needed to keep them somewhat moist (not wet) through winter. Pinch back the tips of shoots once or twice to promote branching and prevent weak growth.
Mow/Mulch Those Leaves...
The trees are rapidly dropping their leaves and it is important to prevent a heavy layer of leaves from building-up on your turf before winter. Heavy layers of tree leaves will shade the grass and can actually smother and kill grass before fall is over. Also, tree leaf cover favors a damaging winter turf disease called snow mold.
The easiest way to dispose of leaves is to simply mow them into the turf. Regular mowing during the fall will chop the leaves into small pieces and allow them to filter into the turf. Research at Purdue University Extension and other universities shows that tree leaves can be mulched without any detrimental effects on the soil or turf. In fact, leaf mulching may helpimprove the soil. Mulching leaves with a mower is much easier than raking, blowing, and/or vacuuming the leaves like so many of us do. Plus it disposes of the leaves without filling up our landfills and saves our cities thousands of dollars in disposal costs. What's not to like?
"A solitary maple on a woodside flames in single scarlet, recalls nothing so much as the daughter of a noble house dressed for a fancy ball, with the whole family gathered round to admire her before she goes."
~ Henry James
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