Neighborly Garden News
Practicing Beecology can help our native bees!
November’s ‘to-do’ list:
Autumn 2019 has brought us a great deal of ideal weather; perfect for doing all kinds of outdoor activities! I hope you have been able to enjoy your yards, and relish the last of the veggies and blooms you grew. According to first hand knowledge, we can receive snow just about any time from October onward. It’s good to prepare ahead, before we get that first snow.
Protect your foundation shrubs from snow falling off the roof. Heavy snow and ice can flatten a mature plant in seconds. A simple wooden ‘teepee’ will provide a safe haven, and is reusable year-to-year. Call our office if you’d like to have us make you a set. (413) 458-5586
Keep watering recently planted woody plants until the ground freezes. We have had dry conditions through the fall, and this can have a negative impact on the health of our young trees and shrubs. Evergreens, especially, need to go into winter well hydrated to avoid winter injury. Evergreens may benefit from a timely application of an anti-desiccant type spray, to help minimize winter drying. We offer this application.
There is still time to transplant deciduous trees and shrubs; as long as the ground remains unfrozen, and weather permits. Their roots will continue to grow even though they’ve dropped their leaves. Be sure to water them regularly, and mulch the roots well to retain moisture.
If you’d like to decorate with a living Christmas tree this year, dig a hole now before the ground freezes, mulch the hole with straw, and keep the hole covered with a tarp, until planting time. It may also be helpful to stockpile some unfrozen soil to backfill the planting hole.
Clear away any dropped fruit, and other debris from beneath your fruit trees and shrubs. Left over fruit can attract gnawing mammals, as well as harbor overwintering fruit tree pests. Toss them all on the compost pile. Protect young, and thin barked tree species with hardware cloth secured around the lower trunk. This will help stop rodents from gnawing the bark, and ‘girdling’ the tree. When trees are girdled, bark has been mostly or completely removed around the entirety of the trunk, and can kill the tree.
Now that the leaves are down check out your trees for any weaknesses; broken or split branches that should be removed before storms pull them down. Pay particular attention to any trees adjacent to buildings, driveways or power lines.
Now that roses are dormant, prune them back to 18” tall and use mulch to cover the bud union to 6” deep. Protect the rose canes with a rose cone, or tie the canes together and wrap them with burlap.
Most houseplants will be going dormant now. Reduce your plants watering schedule, and skip fertilizing them until new growth begins again in the spring. However, their need for humidity is still greater than most home environments can offer. Lack of humidity also creates optimal conditions for mealybugs and scale insects. Try growing humidity loving houseplants on plant saucers filled partway with aquarium gravel. This will create small zones of humidity, as the water evaporates, while preventing the plant pot from sitting directly in water.
Hang out suet feeders to encourage insectivorous birds to keep scouring your garden for bugs. They will continue to hunt for insects, just beginning to hide for the winter, throughout your beds. Consider adding bird friendly shrubs for food and shelter throughout the seasons to your garden. Even if you feed birds, they still need a place to fly back to quickly; to escape from predators. Sparrow hawks in particular love to swoop down on bird feeders and snatch away unsuspecting birds
Great gardens to explore: check out these winter garden shows!
Smith College’s annual Fall Chrysanthemum show; showcases the hybridization experiments by Smith College horticulture students, takes place November 2-19th, 2019. Open from 10-4 pm daily, 10-8 pm Fridays, at the Lyman Plant House 16 College Lane, Northampton, MA. You’ve never seen mums like these fancy flowers!
The Massachusetts Camellia society presents the annual camellia show at Tower Hill Botanic garden, Boylston, MA. Most notable for including specimens from the Tower Hill’s own collection, as well as specimens from private collections. February 16-17th, 2020.
Do you feed birds through the winter? Even though birds will take food from bird-feeders, this is only a supplement, and they get most of their food from the plants and insects around them. Try planting trees and shrubs to provide a living winter food source for our feathered friends. Plants that will provide autumn and winter fruit and nuts are good choices.
Fagus grandifolia – The American Beech is a stately, large stature tree that produces edible nuts. It has very distinctive silvery colored smooth bark. A slow growing tree, it will grow 9-12’ over a ten years period, developing a short trunk, with a wide and spreading crown of branches. Mature size is 50-70’ tall x similar in width. American Beech prefers moist and airy soil, will not withstand heavy soil or standing water at the root zone. The Beech does best with full sun, but will tolerate some shade.
Viburnum trilobum – The American Cranberrybush Viburnum holds its bright red edible fruit September through February. This very attractive large-sized shrub creates a safe retreat for birds as it grows to 10’ tall x 10’ wide. The 3-lobed leaves are shiny dark green in summer and brilliant reddish-purple in fall. Flat-topped clusters of white flowers are produced in May. Will grow in full sun to partial shade.
Amelanchier canadensis – Shadblow Serviceberry is one of the best small sized native trees to have in your yard, whether you’re interested in birds or not. Its natural form is an upright clump-forming tree, growing up to 20’ tall. Shadblow Serviceberry has wonderfully slender twigs, so looks graceful in any season. One of the first trees to bloom in April, it will produce purple-black juicy edible fruit in late summer. A. canadensis will grow well in full to partial sun conditions.
Symphoricarpos albus – The Common Snowberry is an unusual, spreading native shrub that also is very worthwhile for stabilizing banking and slopes. Snowberry bears clusters of smooth grape-like fruit at the tips of slender branches. The fruit will persist through the fall and early winter. Snowberry will thrive in poor soil, and take full sun to medium shade. Snowberry grows up to 6’ tall x 6’ wide. Prune the branches hard in the spring; as it blooms and fruits on new growth.