A row of garlic planted on October 10 showed signs of sprouting after a warm spell. With freezing temps weeks later, a light mulch was added. Two weeks later, before the latest freeze, 2 inches of maple leaves were added.
It’s not just the gas that needs to be taken care of. Look under the mower, at the deck, and clean it well removing all mud, caked on grass clippings and other debris. Remove the blades for sharpening and get an extra set. ANDREW MESSINGER
It’s too early for a winter mulch in the garden but this spot was planted with 30 hybrid lily bulbs. The mulch will aid in root development of the bulbs by keeping the soil insulated for several more weeks. An animal repellant should be applied before mulching to keep squirrels and voles away. ANDREW MESSINGER
Only about the size of a quarter, this valve can save you a bundle. It’s the fuel turn-off valve on a Honda lawn mower. In the vertical position it stops the fuel flow, thus burning off all the fuel in the engine so it can’t do damage over the winter. The fuel in the tank is either emptied or treated and the valve left closed until spring start up. ANDREW MESSINGER
This portion of a perennial island bed has been cleaned of debris and is nearly ready for winter. Once the soil is very cold, or even better, frozen, a winter mulch can be added, but not before. ANDREW MESSINGER
Neophyte gardeners added some wire hoops to this raised bed then they ran Reemay over the hoops for frost protection. It works well for that but is much more limited in providing freeze protection. ANDREW MESSINGER
When buying fuel stabilizers you need to know if your engine gasoline is ethanol free (expensive) or from the pump (with 10 percent ethanol). If you pumped the gas, then the product at the left will remove the water from the ethanol gasoline. The product on the right is for ethanol-free gasoline. ANDREW MESSINGER
If you didn’t get your tender plants covered or indoors by last weekend, chances are they’re toast by now.
Most of the East End had a good freeze (21 degrees in Westhampton Beach) and if the frost didn’t toast things then the temperature did. Keep in mind that frost only forms in open areas, not under trees and not close to structures. For most of us, the gardening or growing season has come to an end, but the work hasn’t.
There are a number of ways you can protect from spring and fall freezes and frosts, but keep in mind that in the spring we’re trying to protect tender new growth while in the fall we’re protecting mature growth — subtle but important differences in strategies.
Spun fiber covers like Reemay will protect from frost, are very lightweight and give a little bit of protection from freezing. But if it’s 26 degrees, Reemay will only protect from frost, not freeze.
Mulching, especially with leaves or seedless hay or straw, will give both frost and limited freeze protection, but when applied too thick and too early it can cause problems when it warms up on those few warmer November days.
Don’t confuse these with winter mulches, which are applied once the ground is very cold or frozen, as in mid to late December. Those go on and stay on and they act to regulate soil temperatures and protect against the freezing and thawing cycles that can heave plants and otherwise damage them.
Of course the best protection is a cold frame. Too late to get one of these in, but in the spring I’ll review cold frames and their uses. Good ones are great as they extend the season in both the spring and fall and will allow you to overwinter many marginally tender garden plants.
Now and in the late spring is when we can get heavy, wet snows. Even just a few inches of this weighted, high-moisture-content snow can play havoc on evergreen shrubs like boxwood and azaleas. Even healthy privet can be damaged by early or late ice and snow as this shrub, when properly pruned and managed, will retain its foliage well into the fall and even early winter. Loaded with ice or snow, the pliable stems can bend, often break, and many times not recover. When you see this happen and when the plants haven’t been protected, try to shake off as much of the snow as possible. When it’s ice, though, be very careful as there’s the chance of breaking and cracking the stems.
We’ve already gone over the storage care for hand tools, but what about power tools that rely on gasoline (four-cycle) or gas/oil combinations (two-cycle)?
Store your mower in an unheated shed all winter with a full gas tank, and I can guarantee it won’t start in the spring. The gasoline inevitably lacquers the carburetor, and/or the water in the gas (from the ethanol) freezes and does damage. There are two very easy solutions.
The first is to drain the fuel tank and run the engine until it stops for lack of fuel. Nothing left to freeze or foul. A better solution for most is to leave gas in the fuel tank, but treated gas. Add an appropriate amount of fuel storage product like Sta-Bil and the gas will be good for six months in the tank with no issues. Once you have the mixture in the tank, let the engine run for several minutes then turn off the fuel supply. This is usually a metal or plastic valve that gets twisted, and it’ll have an on/off symbol on it. Turn it to the off position and wait for the running engine to sputter to a halt. You’re now protected for the winter.
The same procedure is done for two-cycle engines like weed trimmers, leaf blowers and chain saws. Drain the fuel tank, refill with winterized (stabilized) fuel mix — at the proper gas/oil mixture — and let the engine run. After a few minutes, close the fuel valve and starve the engine, or simply turn the engine off, and you’re protected.
On all your power equipment, gas or battery powered, inventory parts that you need for next year. This includes oil, spark plugs, wheels, collection bags, blades cables and filters. If you order them now and have them ready for next year, you won’t have to hear, “Sorry, those are out of stock and we have no idea when they’ll be in.” Mower blades should be removed and brought in for sharpening, and order a backup set as well. Do this now for the same reason noted above.
On battery-operated gear like hedge trimmers, line trimmer and blowers, read the directions for long-term storage of the batteries. The battery is the most expensive replacement part on these machines, but they can last for years if you manage the batteries properly. Usually all you have to do with modern lithium batteries is charge them up and store them in a cool (not cold) place for the winter. Read the manual, though, because there are subtle differences on maintaining the new batteries and older ones.
On hedge clippers, you will need to clean the blades very well. The point is to remove all the gummy sap and lubricate the cutting bar. WD-40 works well for this, but when you’re done lightly remove any remaining product, leaving only a thin film of protection against rust. Run the clipper for few seconds before storing it so the lubrication gets worked into all the moving parts of the blades and bar.
If you have a lawn or garden tractor, follow the engine storage advice above. But, if the equipment has a battery starter, you should remove the battery for the winter. These are lead acid batteries and they need to be maintained until next spring. Bring the battery indoors and fully charge it. There are small chargers, trickle chargers, that take care of this in about eight hours. The better chargers have a series of lights that tell you the state and condition of the charge. Once the battery is charged, store it and then charge it again in February. Most, if not all, are sealed batteries that require no other maintenance.
As it gets colder, all of our garden friends will want to drop in for a snack or a meal. This includes deer, rabbits and voles. Each presents a different challenge and each has been at the survival game longer than us humans.
Deer management requires fencing and or repellents. Commercial applicators can spray materials that will deter deer, and this usually takes two or more applications. If you want to do your own spraying, you should do it on a dry day. Spray the plant stems and foliage to a height of about 6 feet off the ground. Don’t rely on a single repellent. Have two or even three of them and rotate their use. Most will need to be reapplied every three to six weeks. You can gauge reapplication times by watching for browse damage or by staying on a schedule.
Rabbits are also a challenge. They’ll forage all winter, but sporadically. Repellents will work, and the ones containing hot pepper or a derivative are the best. Rabbits will chew as well as gnaw bark and low twigs, and love to hang out under overgrown forsythia and brush piles where they easily hide.
Voles are the most difficult problem. When the ground isn’t frozen, they’ll dig for bulbs, corms and tubers. As it gets colder, they’ll go after the bark of fruit trees, including quince. Don’t bring mulches right up to the trunk of these plants, as the mulch provides cover for the voles. Not to be confused with moles, voles feed and reproduce all winter. They don’t make tunnels but will use the tunnels that moles and chipmunks have left behind. The most effective control is a good mouser (feline type) or old-fashioned wooden mouse traps baited with small pieces of apple. They can’t resist the apple.
Plenty to do. Keep after the leaves, drain the hoses and store them, remove all attachments from exterior hose bibs and don’t forget to feed the birds. Keep growing.
Now’s the time to test your garden soil and lawn for pH issues. When you have the results, apply either granular lime or the faster Solu-Cal.
If you planted garlic, make sure to mulch it with seedless hay or leaves.
Fruit tree pruning can begin.
Graceful Gardens (gracefulgardens.com) is offering a 20 percent discount on plants for next year. They sell the Dowdeswell delphiniums, which I think are now the best for gardens and cutting.
Make sure your irrigation or sprinkler system has been blown out and drained.
Chestnuts are back in the store. More on growing these in the spring, but you can cook them in the microwave on “High” in a small dish for just under a minute and a half for five medium nuts.
Make sure that any liquid insecticides and fungicides you may have outside are brought in to protect from freezing.
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