Dirt on Gardening

Writer and gardener, Vita Sackville-West, wrote, “People who are not gardeners always say that the bare beds of winter are uninteresting. Gardeners know better, and take even a certain pleasure in the neatness of the newly dug, bare, brown earth.”

November brings a time of pause for the gardener in the Ozarks. Although we can grow many different things indoors or in a greenhouse, the beds are resting.

Many things in perennial flowerbeds should be cut back and cleared away. Spring and summer blooming perennials will not be harmed by cutting back the decaying foliage. Peonies can actually remain healthier by cutting back dead foliage.

Fall blooming perennials such as asters and chrysanthemums can be cut back to four to six inches, but they should not be cut back to the ground. Asters and mums need some of their dead foliage to protect them through the winter.

Mulch is an important part of fall garden maintenance. The mulch will provide a natural insulation for your plants that is especially important in areas like the Ozarks where we have frequent temperature fluctuations that cause the ground to freeze and thaw. The fluctuations can cause plants to “heave” themselves out of the ground. Mulch can protect them against heaving.

It’s also a good idea to provide light mulch around berries and brambles to protect them from the winter. Straw is traditionally applied on top of strawberry plants – a light layer of straw that can be removed when spring rolls around.

If you intended to plant bulbs this fall, but you haven’t done so yet, it’s not too late! As long as the ground isn’t frozen, you can still plant bulbs. Spring blooming bulbs like hyacinths, tulips and daffodils need six weeks of cold weather to induce them into blooming in the spring.

It’s getting too late to put any fertilizers on the lawn at this time, and certainly there’s no need to fertilize outdoor plants. Fall is an excellent time to feed your houseplants with some fertilizer to get them through the winter months.

Finally, don’t forget that the fall months are an excellent time to plant new trees and shrubs. The trees and shrubs will have some time to concentrate on growing new roots before they need to grow new leaves, too.

Questions or comments related to gardening? Contact Joleen at missourigardener@hotmail.com

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