NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

October 2, 2013

Tim's Tips: Get your plants ready for winter

Tim's Tips
Tim Lamprey

---- — Another turn of the calendar page means that we are into October. Let me give you a few things to be thinking about doing in your yard.

So far, it has been a dry fall. In the fall, your broadleaf evergreens take up water and store that water in the leaves and twigs. This then allows the plants to lose moisture to the dry winter winds with only minimal damage. Since we haven’t had substantial rain, you should be watering your plants at least once a week to allow them to take up the water that is needed to survive the winter. If we do get some steady rain, you can skip a week, but from now until the ground freezes, you should be watering the rhododendrons, azaleas, boxwood, holly and other broadleaf evergreens.

October is also a good time to apply an anti-desiccant spray to your broadleaf evergreens. This spray puts a waxy coating on the leaves and twigs and will cut down on the moisture lost to winter winds by 30 to 50 percent. This spray comes ready to use, or you can buy a concentrate form if you have a lot of plants to treat.

A customer asked an interesting question the other day, whether it is too late to plant perennials or, for that matter, trees and shrubs. I assured her that fall is an excellent time to plant perennials and trees and shrubs. The soil is still warm, and the cooler days make it easier for plants to get their root system established before winter. By planting in the fall, the plants have both the fall and the early spring to get their root system in place before the heat of the summer. If you have room for plants in your yard, now is a perfect time to put some trees, shrubs or perennials in the ground.

Many of you have replanted your window boxes and have set some mums in the gardens. You should keep in mind that these plants will need to be fertilized on a regular schedule to keep the flowers coming along for the rest of the fall. Another thing to keep in mind is that fall mums are considered a perennial that will come back year after year. The key to getting those plants to come back year after year is to allow the plants to develop a strong root system in the soil before the ground freezes. So often, people will keep a pot of mums on the porch, and when the frost kills the foliage and flowers, they will put the plants in the ground and then wonder why the plants did not come back in the spring.

As I said earlier in the column, perennials need to get a root system established in the fall to allow the plants to make it through the winter. If the mums are left on the porch until the cold temperatures kill the flowers and foliage, the plant cannot use the foliage to make the food it needs to get a root system out into the soil.

If you want your hardy mums to be truly hardy, you need to get those mums in the ground before the cold weather really sets in and allow those plants to get their roots out into the soil.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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Tim Lamprey is the owner of Harbor Garden Center on Route 1 in Salisbury. His website is www.harborgardens.com. Do you have questions for Tim? Send them to ndn@newburyportnews.com, and he will answer them in upcoming columns.