October 2012 To Do Lists, Zones 1 & 2
Some thoughts as cold weather settles in:
Rather than using salt to thaw pathways near planted beds, consider using urea or other fertilizers. This will be helpful to plants in the spring. Remember that fertilizers do contain salts, so use mindfully. Gravel, sand and other inert material can also be helpful when mixed as an additive with the fertilizer.
Think about building raised beds for next year. Raised beds are more than just a relief to your back. A raised bed also helps to protect crops from invasive weeds and grasses competing for nutrients and space. In a raised bed, there is more control over soil composition and pH. The soil temperature in a raised bed warms up faster, giving your plants a head start.
If you are keeping houseplants between seasons, remember that the use of artificial light will be your best plan. Windowsills will be too cold, and the angle of the sun will be too far away to offer enough light for strong plant growth.
Egg shells, coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable scraps can be added to the compost pile and will be recycled into the garden for later use. Remember not to add dairy, meat or oils to your compost. If composting outside, there may be a need to bear-proof the compost pile.
Think about saving wood ashes from your fireplace and adding them to your compost. They will act much like lime does and counteract some acidity in the soil. Test your soil before and after applications.
Plants can lose water even during dormancy. Insufficient moisture, frozen ground, and winter wind combined can result in drying or winter-kill. Watering prevents winter desiccation, though is ineffective after the ground freezes.
Vegetables and Fruits
Some of the country’s most innovative gardeners live in the northern zones. Imagination is essential for our short growing season. Use the cold months to plan for the spring. Use any time you can be outside to build or install hardscape, such as raised beds or walkways. Build chicken coops in the garage. Imagine the perfect bean trellis for next year and assemble the parts you need over the winter. Consult your notes about what worked and what didn’t during the spring and summer and get started finding sources for seeds or plants to expand on what you learned.
Meanwhile, clean your hoes, rakes and shovels and treat them to a spritz of oil. Sharpen blades where needed. Store hand tools where they will stay dry. Run all the gas out of power tools before you store them for the winter.
Continue browsing the garden center and making plant lists. Referencing plant suggestions from the County Extension Services will give you great ideas for next year’s garden choices and they will already be screened for their ability to survive in the extremes of this climate. The Extension agents can also direct you to native plants.
If you kept a garden journal last season, review your notes as to what worked best and what may need to be relocated or removed.
Study color, shape and size of your next garden choices. Plan a fireside or online visit with other gardeners to swap ideas and designs. Gardeners always meet on common ground. Swap seeds if you’ve saved any from your gardens.
If your garden hoses have not been put away yet, seize the next sunny day. Allow them to drain in the sun on a downward slope before coiling them to bring indoors. Disconnect and drain any spray nozzles.
Pots should be cleaned and brought in.
Trees and Shrubs
Make sure that pruning saws and hand tools are cleaned and sharpened and put away. Pruners can be sharpened to a 20-30 degree angle.
If you have shrubs planted in containers, keep in mind that the soil in them is not dense enough to protect the shrub from extreme freezing temperatures. If possible, bring the pots indoors. If not, wrap the shrubs and pots in blankets secured with ropes or bungee cords. Protect them from wind damage.
Look up and assess any potential danger from falling branches or trees. Prune what you can. If a large tree seems to be ailing, have a professional arborist take a look at it and come up with a plan, either to save it or remove it.
Cross country skiing will replace the exercise you got recently from mowing.
If you plan on redoing your lawn, now is a good time to look forward to it and make a plan for when the soil can be worked again. Consider employing native grasses in your yard. They survive better that commercial turf grasses in this climate. We’ll revisit this section in the spring.