Outdoor Garden Tips and Tasks
Indoor Plant and Insect Tips
- Prune dormant shade trees that need to be pruned. Begin by removing all dead, diseased branches, and making any necessary cosmetic cuts. Do not cut branches flush with the trunk. Leave the branch collar (swollen area on the trunk of a tree or a larger branch) but do not leave a stub.
- Topping is the not the correct pruning technique to help control the size of a tree. Crown reduction, pruning entire branches at their point of origin, is recommended if a tree must be reduced in size.
- Mulch your perennials after the first hard freeze. This helps to protect them from frost heaving caused by the freezing and thawing of soil. Mulch helps moderate temperature fluctuations, reducing this problem.
- Dig up summer bulbous and tuberous plants, such as cannas, dahlias, gladiolus, caladium, or tuberous begonia and store them indoors for the winter. After digging, remove loose soil from the roots, cut the foliage back to just above the bulb and spread them out to cure in a dry area for one to three weeks. Allow a 4-6” stem to remain above cannas and dahlia tubers. Store bulbs in paper or mesh bags, cardboard boxes, or nylon stockings. Cover or layer the bulbs with peat moss, perlite, vermiculite or shredded newspaper. Store in a cool (40- 50 degrees), dry place and check periodically for shriveling or decay.
- Protect plants vulnerable to winter injury like azalea, rhododendron, holly, cherry laurel, boxwood, mountain laurel, or those at their northern limit for winter hardiness like newly planted Southern magnolia, aucuba, or Camellia spp. Hammer stakes placed about 12-18 inches away from the plant to support a barrier made from materials such as burlap or plastic to buffer the wind.
- Save the time and effort of raking, blowing, and picking up leaves. Leaves are a valuable source of organic matter to improve the soil in a lawn and garden. Leaves that fall onto the lawn can be shredded with a lawnmower and left to decompose naturally in place. Fallen leaves also make an excellent mulch for garden beds. Shred them first by running over them with a mulching mower or a leaf shredder.
- Leaves are an excellent addition to a compost bin. Do not add branches and other woody materials unless they are chipped into small pieces.
- It is too late to broadcast lawn seed and expect it to survive the winter. Consider waiting until early spring.
- Remove leaves that have fallen into uncovered ponds. Decomposing leaves will produce gasses that can sicken or kill fish when trapped under a layer of ice. Then cover the pond with screening to prevent additional leaves from falling in.
- Protect garden and landscape plants from deer damage. Apply deer repellents to vulnerable plants according to the label directions. Reapply as necessary. If deer pressure is heavy, try rotating repellents. Deer netting and fencing may also be necessary.
- Incorporate organic matter into your garden beds. Composted animal manure (horse, cow, sheep, chicken) is excellent for improving garden soil. Keep garden beds covered with shredded leaves to minimize the risk of soil erosion and nutrient run-off. They can be tilled into the garden in spring or left in place as a mulch between rows of vegetables.
- Protect fig trees from freezing temperatures. Any exposed wood is vulnerable to winter damage (temperature under 20 degrees F).
Indoor Plant and Insect Tips
- During periods of slow houseplant growth allow most of the soil to dry out. Not bone dry, but not too moist. Wet soil causes root rot.
- Miscellaneous beetles, like long-horned beetles and bark beetles may emerge from firewood stored inside the home. These are nuisance pests; they are not a threat to the wood in your home. You can also prevent many pests from coming into the house by storing firewood outside the house.