Nov. 2013 To-Do List: Upper South

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birds This is the season of Thanksgiving, a time to appreciate the bounty of flowers and foods we harvest from our gardens. The first frost usually arrives by mid-month. If you haven’t already done so, start draining and storing garden hoses and sprinklers, and drain the lines of irrigation systems.  Use up the gas in power tools and have them serviced, so you’ll be ahead of the crowd next spring. Inventory seeds and seed-starting supplies, and make a list of anything you need to purchase. Store chemicals and liquid fertilizers in a location that will stay above 40 degrees F. this winter. Clean garden furniture so mold won’t form, and store it away or cover it. Think about what worked or didn’t work this year: should you try a different variety of tomatoes next spring, or plant some shrubs?

  • Continue planting and transplanting trees, putting out mulch, and pulling up plants that have finished. Remove and discard old mulch that shows signs of pests or disease.
  • We hope you’re following our series on stretch gardening, so you dried and preserved some flowers and foliage from your yard to make into holiday gifts and decor. If you didn’t, no worries. You can substitute commercially dried or silk flowers. Look through our projects and start soon to get a jump on the season.
  • Wait till frost to harvest collards, mustard, kale, and turnips; you’ll find they taste sweeter then. Harvest Brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnips, late potatoes, and cabbage.
  • As chlorophyll disappears from the leaves of trees, their yellow, gold, and orange colors are revealed. Red and purple pigments also appear when the nights are cool and the days are warm and sunny. Look for late-season tree sales when you’re ready to add to your landscape.
  • Reseed bare spots in the lawn. Seeding now will also help keep down weeds. Don’t use a pre-emergent until after the grass seeds germinate.
  • Tie up berry canes so they won’t break under the weight of snow or winter rains.
  • Bring in cuttings of coleus or geraniums to root. Dip the cut stems in rooting hormone, and put them in fresh potting mix. Keep the cuttings in a sunny window, but don’t let them get burned.
  • Strawberries planted in autumn typically produce better than those planted in spring. After you prepare a bed for the plants, layer it with newspapers. Wet the paper, cut slits in it, and insert the plants, leaving the crowns above the paper. Mulch with 3 to 5″ of loose straw to help protect the plants from freezes and reduce competition from weeds.
  • Dig dahlias and caladiums now. Store them in peat for the winter.
  • Cut most perennials back to a couple of inches above the ground. Dig up and divide overcrowded clumps.
  • Clean garden tools before you put them away for the season. Scrape or wash off any dirt and let them dry thoroughly. Then fill a bucket with sand and add some mineral oil, letting it seep through. Plunge the blades or tines into the oily sand to help prevent rust.
  • Protect hybrid roses with mulch after the ground freezes and temperatures drop into the 20s at night. Put about 12” of shredded bark around the base of the plants; add an inch or so of leaves or straw if desired.
  • Enjoy the blooms of Thanksgiving cacti, being careful not to overwater. Avoid moving your plants from room to room; temperature changes can cause the buds to drop.
  • To protect rhododendrons, azaleas, and other broad-leaved evergreen shrubs or trees, spray them with an antidessicant when the temperatures are above 40 degrees F. This will help prevent winter winds from robbing the moisture from their leaves. Spray again in mid-winter on a warm, mild day.
  • Clean bird feeders with a solution of one part household bleach to nine parts water, rinse, and let them dry thoroughly. Check them often to refill with seeds. Most birds will eat black oil sunflower seeds. Hang a thistle feeder for goldfinches, and suet cakes for woodpeckers and other tree-clingers.
  • Sow the seeds of hardy annuals, such as larkspurs, cornflowers and wildflowers. Look for a wildflower mix blended especially for this region.
  • Plant English daises, snapdragons, violas, and pansies.

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