The November Ramble: Gird Yourself for Drought Consequences; There's Still Time To Plant Bulbs - 27 East

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The November Ramble: Gird Yourself for Drought Consequences; There’s Still Time To Plant Bulbs

Number of images 5 Photos
An unidentified lily bulb just dug for replanting. The 2022 stem it at the top center and the very healthy bulb that needs to be separated from the stem is on the bottom. The bulb is about 4.5 inches in diameter.
ANDREW MESSINGER

An unidentified lily bulb just dug for replanting. The 2022 stem it at the top center and the very healthy bulb that needs to be separated from the stem is on the bottom. The bulb is about 4.5 inches in diameter. ANDREW MESSINGER

At the south end of a perennial island fallen leaves are banked for use on the bed once the ground gets colder. The leaves are from the apple tree in the center and large maples nearby. ANDREW MESSINGER

At the south end of a perennial island fallen leaves are banked for use on the bed once the ground gets colder. The leaves are from the apple tree in the center and large maples nearby. ANDREW MESSINGER

Lake Andrew, my mini bog, after 2 inches of rain in mid-November. The visible stems are from Lobelia cardinalis that survived the drought, but what about the pitcher plants and others? Did they survive the drought? ANDREW MESSINGER

Lake Andrew, my mini bog, after 2 inches of rain in mid-November. The visible stems are from Lobelia cardinalis that survived the drought, but what about the pitcher plants and others? Did they survive the drought? ANDREW MESSINGER

The lily bulb separated from this year’s stem and ready for replanting. Next year’s stem can be seen emerging (purple) just below last year’s stem. ANDREW MESSINGER

The lily bulb separated from this year’s stem and ready for replanting. Next year’s stem can be seen emerging (purple) just below last year’s stem. ANDREW MESSINGER

Signs of a warm fall: A sunflower seed germinating where the parent plants grew during the summer. This seedling will not make it through the winter though. ANDREW MESSINGER

Signs of a warm fall: A sunflower seed germinating where the parent plants grew during the summer. This seedling will not make it through the winter though. ANDREW MESSINGER

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Hampton Gardener®

  • Publication: Residence
  • Published on: Nov 17, 2022
  • Columnist: Andrew Messinger

I usually do a seasonal review of matters horticultural every four months, but this time I’m going to do the fall 2022 review a bit early. There are also several other matters to cover as well, so here we go with this year’s November ramble.

First and maybe most important, don’t forget the drought. It’s still here and still impacting the East End. Weather patterns seem to keep running the rain up the spine of the Appalachians with the bulk of the rain staying to our west. A good example was when the remnants of Hurricane Nicole headed north. Areas west of the Hudson River picked up over 2 inches of rain while out here there was just a few 10ths of an inch.

While you may have seen scorched lawns in August and other drought indications, the big fear is what we’ll see next summer and the year to follow. Droughts often give us good visual clues during the summer, but you can’t see what’s going on in the root zone of trees and shrubs. Neither can you see how pathogens are taking advantage of the weakened state of older plantings. The real signs, like dead branches, dead limbs or total losses will show up next year as these plants leaf out — or don’t. Keep this in mind come next summer when these weakened plants try to recover, seem to, then die.

This fall will probably turn out to be one of if not the warmest on record in the Northeast. My lawn just kept on growing and growing. Even upstate where we’ve had hard frosts and temperatures in the mid-20s some nights this didn’t turn off the turf machine until well into November. While grass roots will continue to grow for weeks the blades themselves slow down once the soil temperatures get into the 40s.

I already have my first drought casualties. There’s a depression spot on my lawn that’s about 4 feet wide and 8 feet long. When there are heavy rains and the ground gets saturated this spot becomes a puddle about 4 inches deep. It can then take days or weeks to dry out, and in wet summers it always stays damp. I call the spot Lake Andrew.

Lake Andrew always seemed to be a good spot to try a bog garden. The image of a collection of pitcher plants and other insectivorous plants intrigued me. I did my research about the soil and what plants I could use and over a two-year period planted about 15 bog plants including several pitchers. They did OK, and my biggest concern was how winter hardy they would be. Well, it seems winter was not the issue. It was the drought that did them in. None appear to have made it through the summer. Not sure yet if they went dormant or died. Next summer will tell all.

It took forever for my lilies to go dormant. I had one straggler that needed to be dug and moved but the 6-foot-tall plant just didn’t give up until early November. When I finally thought it was safe to dig the bulb I was astonished by two things. The first was the fact that the bulb was huge. It had a very good season (with some shade and water). While prepping the bulb for replanting I noticed that a new shoot, the 2023 stem shoot, had already emerged and was protruding a half inch out of the bulb. I think that’s directly related to the warm soil so late into November. It’s 7 inches deep in the soil though, and I think it’ll be fine.

Several stores brought out their fake (aka “artificial”) Christmas trees right after Halloween. The reals ones won’t be around for a few more weeks, but why did the fake ones show up so early? Seems they all arrived very late last year (after Christmas) due to the container/shipping backlog and now retailers are discounting them heavily to get rid of the inventory. DON’T DO IT. There is nothing, absolutely nothing like a live, fresh, heavenly scented Christmas tree.

According to the trade groups, live trees — yes, even though they are cut they are still considered live — will be in good supply, but of course, the prices will be up. We usually see them showing up out here around Thanksgiving. If you buy one early you can keep it happy in an unheated garage or shady, wind-protected spot outside. Set it in a small bucket of water to keep it hydrated and fresh. Remove the bucket of water if it starts getting really cold at night. I was very embarrassed one year when I went out to the barn to get my tree only to find that it was well anchored in the frozen water in the hydrating bucket.

As the leaves continue to fall think twice about sending them off with the town and village trucks for composting. I’ve been banking my leaves in piles and will hold them until the garden soil gets good and cold. At that point I apply them as a winter mulch. As long as you’ve got maple leaves mixed in, the downed foliage offers great winter protection for perennials and roses. You can also shred them for a finer mulch or before adding them to the compost pile. Many of the corded leaf blowers have a mulching function.

Leaf blowers like the Toro 51621 ($99) can blow and shred as well as bag the leaves. With a reduction rate of about 15 to 1 a big pile gets small really fast and there are just so many uses for shredded leaves. Just make sure your leaves are dry and when blowing them try to do it on a calm day. If there’s a breeze use it to help; blow with the prevailing wind and not against it.

Oh, and one other benefit of the very mild fall: If you’ve procrastinated about getting your spring-flowering bulbs into the ground it’s not too late. Tulips and the like should go in first while daffodils can wait. I remember years ago the Southampton Horticulture Society (long defunct) planted daffodils at the entrance to the village just before Christmas. It worked for daffs but tulips wouldn’t have been so accommodating.

There may be some supply issues with fertilizer, especially chemical fertilizers, next spring and summer. I’m not sure if this will spill over to the organic fertilizers but if chemical fertilizers become scarce so will the organics. This is due to supply chain issues, high demand, worldwide demand and declining supply of fertilizers. Maybe it’s time to be proactive and stock up a bit?

If you do store fertilizers keep them on wooden pallets and in dry locations. Cold won’t bother them but moisture and heat will. Also take a look at any liquid insecticides and herbicides you may have in storage outside. Keep them from freezing and never, ever put them in any containers other than the ones they came in. Serious accidents happen when these chemicals are stored in anything other than their original containers.

Do you need to wait until the dead of winter to prune your fruit trees? Yes and no. Apples and pears can be pruned beginning in December. We liked to get the pruning done as early as possible as once the ground freezes or there’s ice and snow on the ground the footing and pruning can be dangerous. However, peaches, apricots, cherries and plums are best pruned in early spring from March to bud break.

Waiting for our next invasive? It’s here now. It will be and is already devastating. You can only see the symptoms, not the invasive itself. More in a few weeks as there’s research just being made available.

Thinking about holiday presents for your favorite gardener? In a few weeks I’ll do a review of five different weather stations I’ve been testing. Every serious gardener needs to keep on top of the weather and there’s no better way than on your own weather station. And yes, there is a clear winner. Stay tuned and as always — keep growing.

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