Your Garden Still Needs Your Attention In November

As the days shorten and the nights lengthen, we can begin putting the yard and garden to bed for the winter. Here is how to tuck them in properly:

  • Cover any bare ground with bark mulch (such as medium dark hemlock). Weed the space first of course! This will insulate your plants from the cold to come. It prevents erosion and as the mulch breaks down it feeds the plants and composting soil creatures. Some plants, such as fuchsias and cannas, always need a blanket of mulch around their base.
  • Provide winter protection to built-in sprinkler systems by turning off the automatic controller and then turning off the water to the system at the street or at the backflow prevention device and then drain it.
  • Prune roses back about 1/3 height to prevent winter wind damage.
  • If moss is appearing in your lawn it may mean too much shade, poor drainage, low fertility or soil compaction. Use a lawn moss killer if you want to keep the grass looking thick and lush.
  • Prepare the lawnmower and other garden equipment for winter storage.  Clean and oil tools and equipment before storing them away. Store hoses carefully to avoid damage from freezing.
  • Now is the best time to lime the lawn: 50-80 lb. per thousand square feet.
  • Fertilize the lawn with a fall/winter fertilizer if you did not do it last month.
  • Thinking of your indoor seasonal decor?  Purchase some Paperwhite Narcissus and start forcing them. They will bloom in 5 weeks.
  • Plant new landscape trees and shrubs.
  • Prune and transplant shrubs and trees as needed.
  • There is still time to plant your spring-flowering bulbs, but don’t delay.
  • Watch for wet soil and drainage problems in your yard during heavy rains; drains/French drains and ditches are practical solutions.
  • You may lightly fertilize rhododendrons and azaleas now, for better green-up in the spring, with an acid fertilizer formulated for them. Make sure soil is moist.
  • Reduce fertilizer applications to houseplants. Change to Oxygen Plus.
  • Consider supplying food and shelter for attracting wild birds to the garden.
  • Always rake leaves off the lawn as soon as you can and into beds. Leaves left on lawns can damage a lawn!
  • Bait garden and flower beds for slugs during rainy periods.

Advanced Gardening

  • Store your potato crop at about 40 degrees in a dark area with moderate humidity.
  • You still have time to plant garlic for a harvest next summer.
  • Fruit tree sanitation: to prevent possible spread of leaf diseases, rake and destroy leaves from around base of trees.
  • Tie raspberry canes to wires; prune to one foot above the top wire (around four feet tall).
  • This is an appropriate time to cut and root Rhododendrons, Fuchsias and Camellias; root Begonias from leaf cuttings.
  • Place a layer of composted manure or compost over dormant vegetable garden area.
  • Cover rhubarb and asparagus beds with composted manure and or compost.
  • Rake and compost leaves. A three to four-inch layer of leaves spread over the garden plot prevents soil compaction during the rainy season.
  • Consider tying up limbs of Arborvitaes to prevent breakage by snow or ice.
  • You might want to plant a window garden of lettuce and chives.

Lagerstroemia indica hybrid (Crape Myrtle): Tree or Shrub?

The Crape Myrtle naturally grows as a very large shrub, with lots of twiggy upright branches. However, most people grow this plant as a multi-trunked tree.

This show stopper can be easily pruned as it grows, so that it develops into three to five sturdy trunks. In time, the lower side shoots can be thinned out or pruned off up to around 6-7 feet in height. In about 10 years, you’ll have an interesting and very attractive tree.

The ultimate height of most varieties is around 12-15 feet tall.  I have found that in the northwest only the varieties named after native American tribes are reliably cold hardy and do not develop powdery mildew. For example, we use Zuni, Tuskegee, Tuscarora, Catawba, Seminole, Lipan, Tonto, Sioux and Natchez.

In our climate, the advantages of this amazing tree are:

  • In the late summer and early fall, it puts on massive blooming shows when there are few if any other blooms and color in the landscape. It is available in a myriad of blossom colors, such as white, pink to red, and lilac to purple.
  • In late October and early November, the leaves turn quickly into yellows, oranges and reds. Bonus: those leaves are small and easily composted in the landscape.
  • In winter, the trunks develop shiny cream to tawny smooth colors with streaks and mottles. I would consider growing this tree just for the fall and winter trunk display.
  • In spring the new foliage buds out as a darker color than the summer green foliage, giving it a spring and summer display as well as the bloom, bark and fall leaf color.
  • It grows best and blooms only in hot reflective heat situations where many northwest plants such as rhododendrons, would burn. The center of a hot asphalt parking lot or the side of a south facing building are ideal locations for the Crape Myrtle.
  • Once it is past the first summer, when it should be watered well and deeply once a week, it does not need to be watered. It is very drought tolerant.
  • It does not need any fertilizer after being planted, other than a good three-inch diameter circle of bark mulch kept at about a two-inch depth.
  • When it is young, trimming off the 8-10-inch dead bloom spikes can help to show off the tree bloom better. As it gets older it can be just left alone.

This is not a native tree; however, it fits beautifully in our human landscape ecosystem, where it can fill in locations that no native tree or shrub would be happy.