Friday, November 04, 2011

Final Frost

Friday, November 4, 2011

30.9° with light winds here on the mountain this morning. A thick bank of gray clouds is prominent in the east with a band of open, gray-blue sky and then a swirl of fast moving clouds above. It appears that the fronts are changing and last night's sprinkles should turn to this morning's sunshine.

The Vermont Gardener has been absent from his writing desk since the 21st of October as fall chores create more than tired fingers. Here at the house and at the nursery too it's fall clean up time and we had tons of potted plants to line up and cover for winter.

Fall clean up is very important to maintain healthy gardens and a bountiful harvest of flowers and vegetables next season. We try to clean up all the dead foliage each fall to prevent the spread of fungus next spring and also minimize places for bad bugs to winter over. In recent years we have seen more and more "new" bugs and for whatever reason they have ended up in Vermont, we don't want them to stay in our gardens. We have a few different compost piles and good , clean refuse is mixed with leaves while infected or questionable refuse is bagged and headed to the landfill. Since we are diligent about minimal use of any chemicals, this format works well for us.

With the advent of container gardening, we are often asked how to overwinter containers. The biggest mistake gardeners seem to make is not keeping the water out. Freeze-thaw cycles are common through the course of winter and pots that are left upright and uncovered serve as catch basins for rains or melting snow or ice. The top of the plant roots thaw ever so slightly and the water, when it freezes tight again, kills the plants. Another mistake is thinking that placing containers in an unheated garage makes sense. That may work in northern climates but if garages heat to above freezing for even a day and then tumble back below freezing, some loses will occur.

In the old days we always turned each potted plant on its side and then raked some leaves around for insulation. With the advent of good insulating microfilms and insulations, we made the investment and now cover all our pots each year. The insulation cloth is 3/8" thick and is easy to roll out. Some products are available with a 4-6 mil plastic cover bonded to the fabric but we prefer to purchase the plain fabric and then cover with 6 mil plastic. Although clear plastic is often recommended, we have found that black construction grade plastic does not break down as quickly via ultraviolet rays and we can get 4 years out of a roll if we fold it and store it out of the sun over the summer. Box store type lumber yards sell the 6 mil grade for about $70 for a 100 foot roll 20 feet wide and sometimes you can get small rolls or find a friend to split a roll.

As small critters scurry about hiding seeds for winter buffets, spend a little time this fall cleaning up your gardens and covering your container plantings. Take a few black and white photos of your gardens now so you have reference for winter planning/replanting projects. Review your garden magazine subscriptions and prepare to be a winter gardener too. You'll be pleased with yourself knowing you put clean gardens to sleep.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where a flock of noisy Canada geese just flew over. A fresh cup of coffee and I'm out the door to split wood.

Fall gardening wishes;

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens and also as George Africa
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
We'll always help you grow your green thumb! Write us, call us, ask us!

No comments: