But I’m Not Ready for Winter!

October 6, 2009 6 Comments
One of the advantages to being a meteorologist is that I see into the future.  Sometimes it’s right and sometimes it is way off.  Unfortunately, it looks like this time it may be on track for cold temperatures for the weekend.  Highs will only be in the low to mid 40s on Saturday and that means that it won’t take much to get into the upper 20s for overnight lows Saturday night.  That would put an end to the growing season.  While that sounds good to allergy sufferers, I am not ready to give up my garden.  Even with the cooler temperatures there are still many things that you can do in the yard and garden. 

 

Harvest your winter squash before a hard frost.  In this case that would be by this weekend. 

Pick a gourd, any gourd.

Pick a gourd, any gourd.

Plant your spring flowering bulbs during October.  I have tulips, daffodils, crocus and hyacinths to get working on.  Although, they can wait until next week.  Or the week after.  As long as it is before the ground freezes.

The larger the bulb, the deeper it goes

The larger the bulb, the deeper it goes

Dig up dahlias,

Dahlias

gladiolus

and cannas

for indoor storage.  This should be done after a damaging frost turns the tops black or yellow.  Cut the tops of the tender bulbs to 2 to 3 inches above the soil and dig out the bulbs and tubers before the ground freezes.  Wash, cure and store as follows (from the Linn County Master Gardner’s Germinator):

For Dahlias: cut the tops, dig, wash gently with a hose and cure for 3 days in high humidity to avoid dessication (drying out too much).  Store the tubers in shallow boxes in a moist medium such as vermiculite or sphagnum peat.

Dahlia tuber

Dahlia tuber

For Cannas: cut, dig the rhizomes, wash gently with a garden hose, cure 1 to 3 days in a shady, well-ventialated area and then store in shallow boxes with vermiculite or sphagnum peat.

Canna bulbs

Canna bulbs

For Tubergous begonias: dig when the foliage starts to yellow.  Cut the stems to about 5 inches.  Allow tubers to cure indoors at room temperature, out of direct sunlight until the stems are dry and loose.  Pull off stems and any roots or soil.  Do not wash the tubers.  Store in a perforated plastic bag filled with peat moss or vermiculite.  Store in a cool, dark place.

Begonia tubers

Begonia tubers

For Gladioli: cut the tops back, remove excess soil, but do not wash them.  Spread the corms out in a dry, well ventilated place for 2 to 3 weeks.  Once dried thoroughly, remove and discard the old corms and stems.

Gladiolus bulbs

Gladiolus bulbs

If you would like, before you store the bulbs you can dist with an insecticide-fungicide mixture labeled for the specific plant.  The ideal storage temperature range is 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, much cooler than most modern basements, so a spare refrigerator can be an ideal place to store tender bulbs.  Just remember to periodically check your bulbs during the storage season.

 

Back outside, you should remove dead garden debris and add to the compost pile.  Do not add any diseased plant debris to the compost pile since it will only spread to other plants when you spread the compost out.  You can also compost tree leaves.

I would love to have one of these but at the moment we don't have a good place for it.

I would love to have one of these but at the moment we don't have a good place for it.

Leave ornamental grass foliage over the winter.  This provides winter interest in your garden and may even provide a bit of cover for some of the birds visiting your yard.  You can also leave asparagus foliage for the winter and cut it back in the spring.

Fall is a great time to plant deciduous trees and shrubs.  It isn’t too hot and there is still some time for the roots to grow before the ground freezes completely.  Talk to your local garden center about what is best for your yard.

Water those newly planted trees, shrubs and any perennials you managed to pick up late this season.

 

Clean flower pots and other containers before storms for the winter.  Most flower pots will need to be emptied.  Any water left in the dirt will expand as it freezes which will, in turn, shatter the pot.  In some instances the angle of the pot may allow the pressure to push upward out of the pot, but most of the pots I have need to be emptied.  Which will make it interesting for a couple of them!

This one may be able to take a freeze.  The angle of the bowl will force the ice upward.

This one may be able to take a freeze. The angle of the bowl will force the ice upward.

This one will be a little more challenging.

This one will be a little more challenging.

Store leftover garden seeds in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

 

Continue to mow the grass until the grass stops growing.  I know, I know.  You are sick of the mowing, but it needs to be down so the grass isn’t too compacted by the snow over the winter.

 

Now is the time to stop fertilizing your houseplants.  They will need a period of dormancy to keep themselves producing during the warm months.

 

My main problem in the garden for the winter is keeping my roses safe.  I decided to get some cheap roses this year and if they make it through the winter, great.  If they don’t I only spent six dollars on it.

 

If you don’t want to see your rose die you need to winterize your rose when it becomes dormant.  They are usually dormant by late October to early November in northern Iowa and mid-November in central and southern areas of the state.  The following information comes from Linda Naeve, the Extension Coordinator at Reiman Gardens in Ames.  If you want to see the entire article she wrote, click here.

Many gardeners use those plastic foam rose cones to protect roses, but they are often improperly used and don’t provide adequate protection for the plants.  Roses covered by cones need to be pruned back to fit under the cone.  To further insulate the plant, mound one foot of soil over the base of the plant, puncture the top of the cone with holes for ventilation and check the plants under the cones in early spring because the warm spring days will stimulate early growth on the plnts.  New growth produced under the cones will be weak and vulnerable to damage by cold spring weather.

 

Rose cones

Rose cones

An alternative method is to simply tie the rose canes together with twint to prevent strong winds from whipping and possibly damagin the canes.  Rake aside any existing mulch and mound about a foot of soil around the base of each plant.  Install a two-foot high chicken wire fence around the orse plants.  If roses are grouped together in a bed, install a fence around the entire bed.  Fill the caged area with a two-foot layer of clean weed-free straw or dried leaves.  Avoid oak leaves because they tend to pack down and reduce air movement.  We’ll deal with what to do in the spring in a later blog.  One closer to spring.  When we are really anxious to get into the garden!

 

Better protection than the foam cones.

Better protection than the foam cones.

Another thing you want to do before winter sets in is to clean your garden tools.  This information comes from Alison Rogers at Mother Earth News.  Make sure that you remove all dried or caked-on dirt with a wire brush, rinse and dry thoroughly. 

Clean the dirt off the tools.

Clean the dirt off the tools.

Soak them if you need to in water first.  Sharpen dull tools using a whetstone or file.  Work at a 45-dgree angle, start at the outer edge and move toward the center.  Sand off any rust spots with fine sandpaper or steel wool and coat the metal with vegetable oil.  Wipe a light coating of linseed oil or paste wax on wooden handles to preserve them and prevent cracking or splitting. 

Wipe handles to keep from cracking.

Wipe handles to keep from cracking.

Store hand trowels and other small tools in a bucket of sand soaked in oil to further deter rust,

Store the tools in oiled sand to keep them from rusting.

Store the tools in oiled sand to keep them from rusting.

and hang rakes and shovels in an easy to access spot.  Bring water hoses in out of the weather an densure that they are properly drained and coiled correctly (not kinked).  Repair leaks with a hose repair kit which you can get at your local home or garden store.  For the mower, make sure to clean and sharpen the blades to avoid getting rust on them.  Avoid storing gasoline in your mower over the winter.

 

 

That covers a lot.  If you want to know about winterizing anything in your garden, let me know and I will track down the information for you!

Dig it!

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  1. Mimi says:

    Thank-you for all the great tips Eileen! I have several ornamental grasses and I usually cut them back for fall, your tips gave a great idea however, wish I wouldn’t have worked so hard on Monday cutting so many of them!

  2. Kathryn L. Manfull says:

    Thanks for Winter Tips, helpful. Our Dysart Garden Club is meeting in AM & sharing Bulbs & Plants. I did dig my glads although it seemed so early but not /c the weather we received over the week-end, esp. today. Burrrr! Will be able to share some of them /c members. Hope to recieve some good ones from them to plant.
    Have enjoyed your blogs (mentions of Dwayne too, always enjoyed his Open Line)
    I also took pictures of the Monarch caterpillars, chrysalis but missed the break out & was disappointed to just get a picture of the empty chrysalis. Maybe next year.
    Will we have Indian Summer? Always so beautiful to see but, it seems the “Weather’s a changin’!” Keep Digging it!

  3. Kathryn L. Manfull says:

    Enjoyed your Winter Tips. Sorry my previous email was lenghty. Write as I talk. Dug my glads & hope to share /c others @ Dysart Garden Club in AM.

  4. Phyllis says:

    I forgot when is the best time to transplant a poppy plant.

    by the way you look great, been on a diet with Tara? Both look great. You have such neat cloth’s now. keep it up.

  5. eloan says:

    I have never tried to transplant a poppy. I usually just take the seeds and sprinkle them somewhere else. It appears that you can move Oriental poppies in the fall, but other articles I have read make it sound like poppies are very hard to move. They may be the non-Oriental varieties. If you decide to move them (the non-Oriental), take plenty of the soil with it to it’s new location and give them plenty of water. They transplante better if they are small and young, but if they are older, you may lose some of them. Definitely grab as many of the seeds you can and sprinkle those around, too. Good luck!

    (And thanks for the compliments. Tara is on an actual diet. I just stopped eating junk food. Now I have to actually exercise!)

  6. I see a lot of interesting posts here. I have bookmarked for future referrence.

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