Just when my big red garden mum and the ornamental grasses were looking spectacular, along came an early season snowstorm. So in addition to planting the last few spring-blooming bulbs, my garden to-do list now includes cutting back smashed ornamental grasses and perennials. Granted I would be doing that anyway, but this year the timing is moved up.
Often ornamental grasses are left standing in the landscape to provide structure and winter interest. without our recent heavy blanket of snow, they could stand until spring. many perennials with interesting seed heads, such as Echinacea, sedum, sunflowers and even moon carrot (Seseli), are often in gardens until long after frost. This year, they are hitting the compost pile early, along with other flattened foliage, withered annuals and tree limbs.
This plant material can be joined in the compost pile by peony leaves, leftovers from the vegetable patch, tree leaves and other garden debris. Autumn clean-up is so important in helping prevent diseases in next year’s crops. Critters, such as insects and their eggs, also ride along on the organic waste to the compost heap.
The clean-up process is a great time to take note of what plants worked and what didn’t produce the desired display, what needs to be moved and what perennials need to be divided.
Can one plant too many spring-flowering bulbs? What better way to banish the winter blahs than with crocus, daffodils and puschkinia in the spring. As long as the ground is not frozen, there is still time to plant a few more bulbs. After the soil freezes, a layer of mulch will protect the bulbs and shallowly rooted plants by reducing temperature fluctuations during the winter.
Wrapping new trees
The autumn ritual of wrapping newly planted trees is also on the to-do list. Sunny winter days warm the trunks of newly planted trees. the outer cells, especially on the southwest side of the tree, can come out of dormancy. As soon as the sun sets, frigid temperatures return and the cells die. These temperature fluctuations can result in cracks in the bark, sunscald and damage to the tree. Late October or early November is the best time to wrap the trunks with a commercial crepe paper tree wrap to help mitigate the damage. the wrap should be removed by mid-April to avoid damage from insects that might snuggle in under the wrapping. for information on how to wrap a tree trunk, refer to ext.colostate.edu/ptlk/2111.html.
Even though it’s November, it’s not yet time to put away the gardening tools. between snows, I’ll be checking things off the to-do list.
Colorado State University Extension in the City and County of Broomfield provides unbiased, research-based information about 4-H youth development, family and consumer issues, gardening, horticulture and natural resources. As part of a nationwide system, Extension brings the research and resources of the university to the community. the Broomfield County Extension office is at 1 DesCombes Drive, Broomfield, 80020. for information, call 720-887-2286.