Saturday, December 13, 2014

November Notes

Mulch clematis vines with rotted manure.

Check rose climbers for insecure ties.

Rake gardens clear of all debris. 

Prepare beds for next spring by tilling the soil lightly.  

You may still find a few interesting offerings for sale this time of year. 

To boost your inventory of house plants look for oxalis.  O. rengnelii sprouts from underground corms.  White flowers grow in clouds several times during the year, accompanied by green, clover-shaped leaves.  When they become leggy, cut them down to soil level, and they will start all over again.


If you have been storing amaryllis, keep an eye on them.  As soon as they send up new shoots bring them back into the light.  They should be blooming by late December.

The clocks have been turned back, and the weather is grey and finally cold.  Squirrels are racing around collecting all the nuts and berries they can find to store away for the months ahead.  They have made a mess in the Rhinebeck garden, shaking black walnuts from the trees, selecting the nuts for storage and leaving the rest behind.

Raking is the major November work here and, although I advocate  leaving the task until all the leaves have fallen, we have too many to handle.  Raking is ongoing throughout the fall. 

Rake all garden beds clear of debris.  Any leaves the winds haven’t carried away are tucked around the acid-loving plants.  Cut back all perennials to four inches above the ground, leaving anything that’s still green.  Don’t forget to mulch the perennial beds with an inch or more of compost.  After the holidays, use evergreen boughs to weight down the compost and keep the soil from heaving. 

The main danger to flower borders is the alternate freezing and thawing of the ground during winter.  If the winter is mild this may occur many times during the season.  Some times the soil movement is so strong it will break the roots of the plant and push it out of the soil.  We’ve certainly found this true with fall panting

Alternate freezing and thawing does not happen in areas where there is a guaranteed blanket of snow all winter.  But in more temperate areas you can prevent this heaving by mulching heavily.  Almost any mulch will do -– straw, salt hay, evergreen boughs, compost or buck wheat hulls are all fine.  It’s best to wait until the ground freezes before mulching, so this task may stretch into December. 

If you have a vegetable garden, work the soil lightly with a tiller to get a head start on spring planting.

Paperwhite Narcissus

I’m already dreading the winter, and so have potted up the first bowls of paperwhite narcissus to see me through.  I’ve experimented with forcing tulips, but the cold treatment required for success is too fussy for me.  A spectacular failure in which I stocked a spare refrigerator with a winter’s worth of potted tulips produced nothing more than a refrigerator full of frozen bulbs.

Amaryllis are worth the effort of keeping them over from year to year if you have the space for it.  If you are a first-time buyer, now is the time to start.  Buy them from a florist, a nursery or a catalog.   Enjoy their bloom.  After they have finished blooming remove the flower stalk and fertilize monthly with Miracle-Gro or another water-soluble fertilizer.  By mid-summer, cut back on your watering schedule by one-half.  Once the foliage yellows, cut the leaves back to an inch above the bulb and store in a dark cool location for about six weeks.  Then bring them into a sunny window and start all over again.

Amaryllis 'Minerva'

If you are keeping orchids from year to year, feed them with orchid food once a month if not more often.  Southern filtered light is best, and give them relatively little water.  Ventilation is critical.

By the end of November you should have potted up your bulbs, completed putting the garden to bed for the winter, turned off all outdoor water faucets, coiled your hoses and brought them indoors.  Make sure your garden equipment and tools are clean; you can oil them over the winter.  When everything is cut down, put away, tidied up, mulched, wrapped and swept clean you can review your gardening year from a comfortable chair indoors and plan for spring.