University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Fall News Article

Charlie Nardozzi, Horticulturist and
Leonard Perry, UVM Extension Horticulturist
Helping evergreen trees and shrubs prepare for winter, wrapping trunks of young trees, and getting tools ready for winter are some of the gardening activities for this month.

Evergreens continue to respire (that is, lose moisture albeit slowly) during the winter, so make sure they have a good deep watering before the ground freezes.  It’s best to water them well for several weeks, if there aren’t deep and long rains. Protect young plants from wind damage during winter by wrapping them in burlap or with wooden protectors on the windward side.

Wrap the trunks with tree wrap or use white plastic protectors to prevent sunscald and frost cracking on young, thin-barked trees, such as maples. These materials will reflect the warming rays of the sun so the tree bark doesn't heat up on winter days, only to be suddenly cooled when the sun sets and the temperatures plummet. The plastic protectors also prevent rodents from gnawing on the trunks.  Or, you can wrap the trunks with wire mesh.

Take some time this fall to get your mower and other power equipment ready for storage. Wipe off any dirt and debris, especially loose wet grass that may have accumulated on the deck or caked underneath it.  This can rust the deck over winter, shortening the life of the mower body.  If reaching under the deck, make sure to disconnect the spark plug first so the engine has no chance of starting.  Then you can store with the fuel tank empty or full. If storing with fuel, add a stabilizer, then run the machine for about 10 minutes. Store mowers in a dry location, or if outdoors, wrap in a waterproof tarp.

After their dry summer rest period, watch for signs of shoot growth on amaryllis. That signals it's time to pot them up, or if already potted to resume watering. Use a pot only slightly larger than the bulb diameter. Set a bulb into moistened potting mix so one-half to one-third of the bulb protrudes above the soil. Place the pot in a warm well-lit spot, and don't water it again until the first leaf or flower shoot starts to grow.

Protect the soil of your empty vegetable bed and keep out wayward weed seeds by covering the beds with leaves or straw.  Avoid weedy hay as this only introduces millions of weed seeds.  This surface organic matter also can encourage beneficial earthworm activity.

There's a window of opportunity for mulching because you want to wait until the ground freezes so you don't give rodents a hiding place too soon, but if you don't mulch before the snow accumulates, it won't get done. If we could rely on constant snow cover, mulching would be less necessary, but in the absence of that protection, we need to provide a winter blanket. Some plants such as coral bells, delphiniums, oriental poppies, iris, violas, and sedum are better off without any mulch, especially in winter, when it can compact and encourage crown rot.

Before snow flies and the ground freezes, November is your last chance to plant garlic bulbs, to dig gladiolus to store indoors over winter, and to plant fall bulbs.  If you don’t get your spring-blooming bulbs planted, pot them, then store indoors in a cool place (40 degrees is ideal, as in a spare refrigerator or cold root cellar), just don’t let them freeze.  Then, anytime after 12 weeks you can bring into warmth indoors to force into bloom.

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