November 2010

Ask a Specialist: Do You Have Tips for Preparing my Yard for Winter?

Answer by: JayDee Gunnell, Utah State University Extension Horticulturist

By the time the gardening season winds down, many gardeners, like their lackluster plants, are spent. It is all too easy to ignore the work that waits outside. But by accomplishing a few simple chores before winter takes over, you can ensure healthier and happier plants next spring. 
Flowers - Many perennials become crowded and may benefit from being divided every four to five years. As a general rule, perennials that bloom in the spring should be dug and divided in the fall. Perennials that bloom in the fall should be dug and divided in the spring. Dig perennials three to four weeks before the ground freezes. 

Trees - Tree trunks can be damaged by winter sun from both the south and west.  Protect young tree trunks by wrapping them with white tree wrap available at any local nursery or garden center. The white wrap helps reflect the sun from the tender trunks.

  Lawns - Late October to early November is the best time of year to feed your lawn.  Apply a quick-release nitrogen fertilizer after the last mowing. Even though the grass doesn't appear to be growing, energy is being shipped down to the root system for storage. This stored energy will present itself in early greening next spring.

Weed control - Annual weeds begin from seed, grow, then produce seed all in one year's time. These weeds, such as crabgrass and spurge, are best controlled in the early spring (before mid-April) with pre-emergent herbicides. Perennial weeds come back every year from the same root system. Perennial weeds, such as dandelion and field bindweed (also known as morning glory), are best controlled in the fall. After the first light frost, energy within the weed moves downward to the root system. Spraying perennial weeds at this time is effective because those chemicals have a better chance of destroying the roots.

Planting - Fall is one of the best times to plant nursery stock. Cooler weather makes the transition easier for the plants. It also gives the plants a head start for next spring by producing root growth this season.

For more information on preparing your yard for winter, see our fact sheet.
Help for the Houseplants
Over watering is likely the number one killer of house plants. Unfortunately, there is no general watering schedule that can be recommended for all indoor plants. Light, temperature, humidity and size of container all play a role in how fast the potting media dries out. Varying potting media mixes also play a role. Consider these watering tips.
*  A good rule of thumb is to gauge the soil moisture by color and feel. If the media is light colored, cracked and pulled away from the pot, the soil is too dry and roots may be damaged. If the media is dark and slimy, it is too wet, and root-rotting organisms may become a problem. The presence of fungus gnats can also indicate that house plants are being over watered.
*  The best technique to use for monitoring when to water is to probe a few inches into the potting media with your index finger. When watering, soak the entire profile of the pot, or until water comes out the container's drainage hole. After an hour or so, remove and discard the collected water from the catch basin. Flowering plants will generally need more water than foliage plants. Plants that are exposed to sunlight or placed closer to heater vents also tend to dry out more quickly.
            *  Tap or well water is usually satisfactory for watering house plants. The levels of chlorine and fluorine added to culinary water will typically not harm plants. Water that is run through a water softener is not recommended for watering house plants. Soluble salts may build up in the potting media, contributing to poor growth and possible toxicity. A white-crusted appearance on the surface may indicate high salt levels. To remedy this, an occasional deep rinsing with non-softened water will help flush the salts out of the potting media profile.

Featured Photo by Kristy Clark

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A "Friends of the Garden" membership is a holiday gift your friends will use all through the year and it keeps our gardens growing. The $35 annual membership gives your friend discounts on classes like designing with bulbs and creating beautiful container gardens at the Utah Botanical Center and Ogden Botanical Garden, entry to "Friends Only" special events like garden tours and wildflower walks, and 20% off all regularly priced plants.

Especially for holiday giving, gift membership cards will be sent to you in a beautiful holiday card and include $5 off any plant purchase at the gardens next year.

There are two easy ways to give a gift membership. Print and mail the form from our online brochure along with your check. To ensure you receive this special gift card offer in time for Christmas giving we must receive the membership form and payment by December 17.  You can also purchase membership cards at the Ogden Botanical Garden office, 1750 Monroe Blvd., Ogden, Mon  ̶  Fri, 8 am  ̶  5 p.m. 

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