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K.A. BEATTIE HORTICULTURAL CONSULTANTS

"In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous" Aristotle

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Fall, The Final Chapter

Posted on January 3, 2017 at 5:50 PM

Rather a sad time of the season for many gardeners, then again, rather joyous for others. The bright colours and interesting textures that you have worked so hard on to perfect, the exact placement of that wonderful new perennial and those sultry summer days sniffing the fruits of your labours all ends now. Myself, I tend to support the joyous constituency; the work is (almost) completed, the garden is somewhat put to bed for the next several months of winter and I actually may have some time to plan next year’s adventures. No matter how you approach the gardens’ final curtain call, there are a few important tasks that should be considered, not the least what the overall condition of your estate should be left in. So often I see frenetic garden types snipping, cultivating, ripping and tearing their gardens down to their very roots in order to leave a “tidy” appearance. In my opinion that is the worst thing that a gardener can do! Indeed there are some scruffy perennials that might enjoy a haircut for winter along with some of the overzealous plants that performed better than expected. In general, just leave everything to Mother Nature, she has been at this much longer than you, and does an excellent job. Consider raking the leaves from your yard or mulching them if you have a lawnmower that does such things, and spread the remains all over your perennial gardens. The organic material of course will be sodden as a result of the autumnal rains and then packed down with snow for the entire winter. These are both very positive conditions for not only the plants but the tiny creatures who call your garden home. These wee souls that have worked so diligently all summer long in our gardens and their habitat, helping to make it the best home for themselves and resulting in a very favorable construct for us. The very least that we could do is to provide them with shelter and food for the winter. This simple act of apparent lethargy will house a tremendous population of ladybugs in particular. Ladybugs are extremely beneficial insects in a Canadian garden for the simple facts relating to their diet, aphids. The aphid, as you are most likely aware, have the seeming ability to reproduce almost in front of your eyes; in truth it takes about 14 days from egg to pregnant female. These insects are voracious feeders, sucking the very liquid life from plants in short order. Their massive numbers also produce a considerable amount of waste, referred to delicately as “honey dew”. This sticky, residual waste provides the perfect conditions for many molds and fungi, typically a sooty black powder. Perhaps you park a vehicle under a tree during the summer months and wonder why the windshield is relentlessly spotted with sticky “goo”…thank the aphids above in the overhanging tree. The solution is very simple, provide a home for ladybugs and they will do the cleanup. One ladybug can consume hundreds of aphids in one sitting and as well, the larval stage or teenager, consumes even more, just like human teenagers do.

Consider cleaning up your gardens in the spring when things are coming back to life and the weather is warming. Face it, you are going to be out there anyway, picking, prodding and observing on a regular basis just to see what survived and is poking its nose through. Clean then, compost the already partially decayed material and observe the ladybugs skittering away to find a new spring season home among the new leaves and emerging plants.

Some literature would suggest that pruning is a good task for the late autumn and early winter. To be clear, it is always better to prune when the plants are dormant or inactive. Winter pruning of fruit trees usually happens in late winter and always before the buds break. Pruning too early in the fall can be dangerous in the event that an open fall warms the soil and plants start to be active, pushing out new growth. Naturally this growth will not have time to mature and “harden off” before the onslaught of winter. The result is that this new growth succumbs to winter kill.

Wrapping evergreen shrubs such as Thuja (Cedar) is a common practice in colder regions of the country. Remember this is not a winter coat, but a sunblock. Water these shrubs heavily in the late fall so as to have the soil freeze with lots of moisture for the first thaws in the spring.

Good night gardens, sleep well, I’ll set the alarm for early spring and we can start all over again.

 

 

Categories: Doc Smarty Plants

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