» Archive for November, 2012

Transplanting Time

Saturday, November 17th, 2012 by Jenny Watts
    • Bulbs, bulbs, bulbs! It’s time to plant tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus and many other flower bulbs for beautiful blooms next spring.
    • Plant Paperwhite Narcissus in pots for sweet-smelling Christmas gifts.
    • Dress up your interior landscape with some new houseplants for the holidays ahead.
    • Rake and destroy leaves from fruit trees that were diseased this year.
    • Clean up dead foliage on perennials like peonies, daylilies and balloon flower and cut back dead flower stems on Echinacea, blanket flower and penstemon.

It’s Transplanting Time

November is the best month of the year for rearranging plants in your garden. Sometimes, as the landscape becomes more shaded over time, a plant may fail to thrive and need to be moved to a sunnier spot. Or perhaps it has outgrown its designated space but you have a better location where you would like to have it.

If you need to dig up a plant and move it, this is the time to do that, before all of the leaves have fallen from deciduous trees. When a plant is dug up, it loses most of its roots and must replace them. Fall is a good time for it to grow new roots without needing to support new top growth as well. This is also the best time to transplant native shrubs and small trees.

To move a plant, first dig the new hole before you dig up the tree or shrub. Once you dig up the plant, the longer its roots go without a home, the lower your chances for a successful transplanting. The new hole should be twice as wide as the rootball but the same depth.

When you dig up the tree or shrub, start digging at least a foot away from the trunk, and dig a little trench in a circle around the plant. Then dig underneath it and loosen the plant’s grip on the soil below. Spread a tarp on the ground nearby, and gently move the plant onto the tarp keeping as much of the rootball intact as possible.

Drag the plant over to the new location and gently slide it into the hole. Make sure that it is no deeper than it was planted before. Straighten the plant and shovel the native soil back into the hole. Tamp this soil down firmly and water it as you go to eliminate air pockets.

We are frequently asked about amending soil when planting. In the case of a tree or shrub planted alone, use no more than 25% amendment added to the native soil as backfill. That means one scoop of compost to three scoops of native soil. The plant will need to grow into the native soil in order to survive, and putting too much amendment into a relatively small hole will only encourage it to remain in the amended soil and not grow out into the native soil.

Stake trees to give them support while their roots are developing. Use two stakes, placing each one 6 inches from the trunk, and loop soft ties around the stakes and trunk so it can move a little. A tree that sways somewhat in the wind will establish more anchor roots and add more trunk girth than one that is tied firmly to a stake.

Don’t stop thinking about the garden just because the leaves are falling. Instead, use the wonderful autumn season to rearrange plants and add new specimens to your garden.

Backyard Composting

Saturday, November 17th, 2012 by Jenny Watts
    • Japanese maples and snowball bushes are some of the most colorful shrubs in the fall. Plant them now and give them a head start on spring.
    • Check houseplants for insects. Spray leaves with insecticidal soap and wipe them off to leave them clean and insect-free.
    • King Alfred daffodils, those big, showy, golden, trumpet-flowered daffodils, can be planted now from bulbs for glorious spring flowers.
    • Broadcast wildflower seeds and annual ryegrass on hillsides to stop erosion and give you lots of flowers next spring.
    • Transplant shrubs that need to be moved this month. It’s also a good time to transplant natives.

Backyard Composting

Composting is a process that takes place naturally on the forest floor, in your own backyard, or in your refrigerator. When you walk through a lush forest, stop and examine the forest floor. You’ll see that the top layers are recognizable as leaves, twigs and needles. But below these are last season’s leaves, which have been transformed into rich crumbly soil. This is the process of decomposition.

When we pile up vegetation so that it can decompose all in one spot, we call it composting. Leaves, grass, manures, food scraps, paper towels and other organic materials are digested by worms, insects and bacteria to create rich compost. All they need is air, water and plant materials to do their work. The end product is a natural fertilizer which will make your plants lush and healthy.

With cool autumn days and leaves filling your yard, it’s a perfect time to begin composting. Composting provides a useful and environmentally conscious alternative to bagging up your leaves and sending them away as waste.

There are as many different ways to build a compost pile as there are gardeners. And they all make usable, soil-enriching compost.

You can compost in any kind of a bin, which keeps things neat and tidy, or you can make a heap directly on the ground. Either way, the pile will start shrinking immediately, and will be about half its original size a week after you build it.

Leaves, grass, weeds, herbs and flowers are all ideal for your compost bin and will break down rapidly. Fruit and vegetable food scraps are also ideal. Leftovers from canning or making fresh juice are a great addition to your pile.

A good compost pile contains a balance between green materials and brown ones. The green ones provide nitrogen and heat up the pile, while the brown ones provide necessary carbon. Green materials include fresh plant material, grass clippings and food scraps. The browns include dry leaves and straw or wood shavings. Using up to one-half green material and the rest brown material will create a good hot pile that will decompose quickly.

You can also just make a pile out of the leaves you rake off the lawn. Your leaf pile should be four to 10 feet around and three to five feet high. A correct pile size ensures proper temperature and air flow needed for composting. Keep your pile moist and by next spring you should have some dark and crumbly, earthy-smelling compost to dig into your soil.

Composting is Nature’s way of recycling. No matter what you do, you can’t stop compost from happening.

November Gardening

Thursday, November 1st, 2012 by Jenny Watts
    • Bulbs, bulbs, bulbs! It’s time to plant tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus and many other flower bulbs for beautiful blooms next spring.
    • Clean up the garden by raking leaves and old flower blossoms out from under your shrubs. Roses and camellias especially appreciate this.
    • Spray citrus and other tender plants with Cloud Cover to give them some protection from frosts.
    • Enjoy birds in your garden by hanging bird feeders around the yard. You’ll see many different kinds as they migrate through this fall.
    • Cut asparagus down to about two inches above the ground once all of the foliage has died. Mulch asparagus beds with three inches of well-rotted manure.

November Gardening

These beautiful fall days are a wonderful time to get out in the garden, plant some bulbs and flowers, and put your garden to bed before the cooler days arrive.

November is a good month to plant many evergreen shrubs and trees. Hollies, rhododendrons and camellias, as well as junipers, pines, firs and redwoods, all do well when given the winter to get established. Some natives and Mediterranean shrubs like Ceanothus, fremontias, rock roses and manzanita will need little or no water next summer if planted now.

When planting trees, remove any stake that is next to the trunk. Restake only if the tree cannot support itself. Use two stakes, placing one on either side of the rootball and connect them to the tree with rubber ties so that the tree can move some in the wind. This will strengthen the trunk so the stakes can be removed in a year or two.

Set out winter bedding plants this month. Snapdragons, pansies, violas, calendulas, primroses and Iceland poppies will all go through the winter nicely. Spring-blooming perennials to plant now include foxglove, columbine, and lupine.

You can plant spring-flowering bulbs up through Thanksgiving. Bright colored tulips, proud daffodils and fragrant hyacinths will reward you next spring for your efforts now. Crocus, Glory-of-the-snow, anemones and ranunculus will also give you lovely spring flowers.

Check your rose garden. Bushes that are old and no longer give you bowers of flowers should come out to make room for new varieties. Also make sure that tree roses are firmly staked to handle winter storms. Don’t prune roses yet, but you can cut off faded flowers and remove dead branches.

Clean up fallen leaves from planted areas and lawns. Turn them into rich leaf-mold by piling them up in an unused corner, where they will decompose slowly but surely. This is a cold process and takes a year or two before it’s ready to use. You can speed up the operation by shredding the leaves before you pile them up. Be careful not to include leaves from black walnut trees, which are toxic, or from evergreen magnolias or live oaks, which break-down very slowly.

Prune berry bushes by removing canes that fruited in early summer. Train new canes onto trellises. Do not prune trees when the leaves are falling. It is better to wait until January or February so that the cuts will not be exposed to the cold, wet weather which invites rot and disease problems.

Spruce up the garden with plants that produce colorful red berries during the winter. Cotoneaster, holly, Heavenly Bamboo and pyracantha do well in our area.

Spray your peach and nectarine trees this month for peach leaf curl, after the leaves have fallen. Use a form of copper-sulfate for the best protection.

Finally, collect pine cones, autumn leaves and branches of bright red berries to use as table decorations. Enjoy November in your garden.