First Frost/Freeze of Season Due this Weekend in D.C. Area

DSC_0007

Right on time, the first frost/freeze of the season is due this weekend, here in the Magical Mid-Atlantic, specifically Friday night.

With the turning of the seasons comes a list of things to do to put your garden to bed for the winter season so it can rest:

  • Without delay, bring your tender houseplants and tropicals inside. Check for insects and spray accordingly, if you believe in spraying. Once inside, I give them as much light as possible and only water enough to keep them alive. I could care less if they grow over the winter…the only reason I have them inside is to decorate the rooms and keep them alive until I can put them out again the following April. By then, they are beyond ready to go back outside.
  • ***Continue watering, as needed, until you put the hoses away for the winter. Fall can be sunny with very low humidity, and very dry. Please be sure to lay the hose down at the base of the plant—water on a slow trickle—and allow the water to seep in slowly. Larger plants have big, deep rootballs and the water must get into the ground deeply so the plants don’t die. DO NOT depend solely on irrigation systems during the first couple of years—monitor your plants for water. Remember that newly-planted items do not have the means to absorb water from surrounding soil, until they root. The bigger the new plant/transplant, the more water it’s going to need. I cannot stress this enough.
  • Once the hard freezes arrive regularly, be sure to turn off your outdoor spigots from the inside and store your hoses for the winter, out of the harsh weather.
  • Check the batteries in your smoke alarms (the twice yearly time changes are good seasonal reminders). And check your dryer vents, too. You’d be surprised how many people forget to check their dryer vents—they can get clogged and become a very big fire hazard. There are companies out there to clean the vents for you, if you are not into doing it yourself. And don’t forget to clean out your gutters, too.

Woodland.Cottage.Fall.2014.11.12.14 2014-11-12 001

Other Fall Gardening Notes:

  • It’s a great time to plant new plants and to transplant shrubs that might be in the wrong place. They will spend the winter rooting while the tops of the plants go dormant, and they will be ready to grow in the spring. I think that fall planting is the best-kept secret in the gardening world. There are exceptions: certain plants don’t establish themselves in the fall, for whatever strange reason; and things that are marginally hardy—at the northern limit of their hardiness range where you live–should not be planted in the fall because they might not have time to root well before the cold weather sets in. They have a better chance of surviving the first couple of winters if they are well-rooted.
  • I don’t like to fertilize shrubs in the fall—especially broadleaf evergreens–because it promotes new growth during the remaining warm days of fall—only to be frozen off when the hard freezes come in. It’s best to let your plants go dormant naturally so they can withstand the winter cold more easily, especially if the winter turns out to be severe. It’s a great time to fertilize deciduous (leaf-losing) trees, however, as they go dormant.
  • No major pruning should occur now; new growth should not be promoted due to the coming hard freezes. Plants should be allowed to go dormant. Minor trimming and shaping are fine; just no major pruning unless you absolutely have to do it. A great time to trim evergreens is during the holidays, when you might want to bring in some greens to decorate.
  • Get the weeds out now! They are all setting seeds and those seeds mean many more weeds next year. Save some time, in advance, by weeding now when the weather is nice.
  • Seasonal color—pansies, etc.,—can still go in now. Pansies should make it until spring and should revive after any winter dormancy.

Woodland.Cottage.Fall.2014.11.12.14 2014-11-12 011

  • Bulbs—this is the time to plant, now until the ground freezes hard. Remember to buy the best quality tulips and hyacinths you can afford…they decline after a few years in our hot, summer soil. Think of tulips as a present to yourself and buy them fresh every year to get the best show. If you love tulips, it’s worth the money. And remember: deer love tulips, but won’t touch daffodils.

Let me know if I can help you with anything this fall. We are winding down our planting season soon, except deciduous and evergreen (not broadleaf) trees. Maintenance, clean-ups, stone work, fencing, lighting, etc., can continue until the weather shuts down the work.

Happy Fall and I’ll have more in my Holiday Newsletter right before Thanksgiving. Hope all of you are well and happy.

All the best,

Jeff

Posted under Garden maintenance, Houseplants, The Fall Garden, Tropical Plants, Weather vagaries

First Frost/Freeze of the Season Due this Weekend in the Magical Mid-Atlantic

DSC_0057

Right on time, the first frost/freeze of the season is due this weekend, here in the Magical Mid-Atlantic.

Most of you have brought in the houseplants; if not, it’s time to wrap it up. Bring in those tender things: any tropical plants (such as your Summering houseplants), or any tender plants you might want to save that would be susceptible to the effects of a frost/freeze. I just finished getting everything in the door a couple days ago.

Soon: turn off your outdoor spigots for the season; put hoses away when you get the chance. Change the batteries in your smoke alarms (the twice yearly time changes are good seasonal reminders). And check your dryer vents, too. You’d be surprised how many people forget to check their dryer vents—they can get clogged and become a serious fire hazard. There are companies out there to clean the vents for you, if you are not into doing it yourself.

Happy Fall and I’ll have more in my Holiday Newsletter in late November. Hope all of you are well and happy.

__________

Photo by the blogger. If you copy, please link back.

Posted under Houseplants, The Fall Garden, Tropical Plants

Ice on the Pond

Here in the Mid-Atlantic, it’s been a mild Winter.  Before I left for the New Year in Wilmington, I turned off my waterfall here at Woodland Cottage since I heard a freeze was on the way.  When I got home yesterday, there was a thin coating of ice on the pond–first of the season.

What a difference a year (or two) makes!  Here’s the pond and waterfall after the just-before-Christmas snow of 2009:

And here’s how the waterfall looks, normally, in January:

Today, it’s warming up again, so I’ll probably turn the waterfall back on.  The night temperatures over the next few days are supposed to be just below freezing, if that.  I like to keep the water moving, if at all possible…keeps it from getting stagnant and stinky.  It was warm enough late last Fall that I could give the pond a good cleaning.  Some years, like the last two, it gets cold suddenly, and the fallen leaves and brush get frozen before I can get them out of the water.  Makes for a very unpleasant clean-up when I return North in March!!

Elsewhere in my garden, the usually late-Winter bloomers are showing up much earlier this year (maybe the earliest I’ve ever seen them appear, in my garden).  One of my favorite shrubs, Mahonia bealei, the Leatherleaf Mahonia, is showing its lemon-yellow buds.  The bumblebees love these…I hope the flowers hang in suspended animation until late Winter, when the bumblebees are active again and can enjoy the flowers.  To me, this is just another example of how climate change has things out-of-whack in the natural world.  Gardeners know how interconnected it all is, and if you know your own piece of land, you notice details like this.

Mahonia bealei

Mahonia bealei

Late last Winter, while in Wilmington, NC, where I spend a good part of my Winter with my partner, we were driving home from visiting friends in Carolina Beach and spotted loads of tropical plants for sale at a small nursery.  Turns out they had been used as props for filming a movie–not sure which one.  (Did you know Wilmington has the largest film studio East of Los Angeles?)  We stopped and I picked up a Bird of Paradise and a few other items.  I planted the Bird of Paradise in a large pot in front of my house here in Arlington.  It got so big (and was so inexpensive) that I decided not to bring it into the utility room for the Winter, like I do with so many of the smaller tropicals I use in pots in the Summer.  Believe it or not, it looked great until we had our first hard freeze this weekend.  Leaving it out to see how long it would last has been an interesting experiment.  Here it is today:

Notice the Sprengeri Asparagus Ferns?  They’ve withstood the freeze so far.  Here are some more of them today in windowboxes on the front of my house:

Hellebores are starting up:

Helleborus foetidus, the Stinking Hellebore

Helleborus foetidus, the Stinking Hellebore

Helleborus argustifolius, the Corsican Hellebore

Helleborus argustifolius, the Corsican Hellebore

The Lenten Roses, Helleborus x orientalis, haven’t really started to push their buds yet, but I do see some activity when I look at their crowns.

Snapdragons have become good Winter annuals in the South in the last several years, as Pansies have been for years.  I have some pretty red ones in pots by my front door.  They are looking good right now, if a little wilted–from the cold or lack of water?  Not sure, so I gave them a drink this morning.

And, of course, Snowdrops, and yes, these are blooming earlier than normal, too.  My neighbor, Mr. Jimmy, has them blooming in a sunny spot in his front yard.

Thank goodness the Winter Daphne has not yet burst into bloom.  It would be a major bummer if I lost that glorious harbinger of Spring–absolutely the most heady, powerful scent in my garden.  I’ve got lots of fragrant flowers, yet this one tops them all here, in my opinion.

What’s blooming in your garden this early January of 2012?

Wishing you and yours a joyful, healthy, creative, and prosperous 2012.  I’m optimistic (like most gardeners–it runs in our DNA).  Are you?

Photos by the author.  If you copy, please link back.

Posted under Climate Change, The Winter Garden, Tropical Plants, Water in the Garden

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on January 5, 2012

Tags: , , ,