Pickaway to Garden
To Do or Not to Do?
By Paul Hang
That is the question. For the past ten years I have been writing this little gardening column followed by a list of things to do, nagging you like some know it all. Given some of the questions I receive it seems quite a lot of people think I do know it all. Far from it, the things I recommend are all research-based practices that I have read, often on internet sites ending in edu, or heard from OSU Extension Educators. As Master Gardener Volunteers we are supposed to pass on only researched based scientific gardening information.
Rather than tell you what to do I’d rather give you options. As Autumn descends upon us there are many things we might do or might not. You might rake leaves or not. If you leave them on the lawn, they will kill the grass, unless they blow away. You could go over them repeatedly with the lawn mower until the tiny pieces disappear into the grass. You could leave them on the flower beds or shred them with a shredder to put on your planting beds as mulch. Or you could till them into the soil or turn them into the compost bin. You could simply rake them into a pile and let them decompose. Or, you could go to the trouble of raking them up and stuffing them into bags to be hauled away, hopefully to a municipal composting facility. The choices are yours. To do or not to do?
You could cut the seed pods off your Rose of Sharon shrubs and dispose of them. Or leave them to scatter seeds and start seedlings all over yours and your neighbor’s flower and vegetable beds to start little seedlings that are nigh on impossible to pull up. This goes for any number of shrubs such as the non-native honeysuckles, Privet Hedge, Japanese Barberry or Burning Bush, all of which are invading our woodlands and neglected roadsides. For these you could cut off the seeds or, better yet, dispose of them. To do or not to do? That is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of your outraged neighbors or to prune your shrubs.
Other things you can do or not do are: plant spring flowering bulbs; plant trees and shrubs; divide perennials; plant perennials; plant garlic, shallots and onions; fertilize the lawn; apply soil amendments such as compost or other organic fertilizers; mulch flower beds. And these are just the outside gardening chores! You can do any, all, or none of these. The world will keep on spinning regardless. If you are like me, and a gardener, you will do some of them. Weather, other commitments, procrastination, etc. usually keep me from completing the list. Plus, there is always next year. What was the question?
Things to do in the garden:
Hot caps and covers should be made handy in case a frost or freeze is forecast. Remember that the coldest temperature usually comes a little after sunrise. The earth radiates heat away and the sun hasn’t climbed high enough to begin heating us. If you can protect your plants now, a couple more weeks of warmth is likely to follow. With more vegetables and flowers to harvest. Average first frost for south central Ohio is October 23.
Consider bringing in the houseplants. Make sure you don’t bring in any bugs with them; a good blast of water from your hose can wash most of them off. Bring the pots into a sheltered spot for a week or so to help the plants acclimate before shocking them with the warmer temperatures of your home.
In October, and even into early November, plant garlic and shallots. Cloves from store-bought garlic may not work as some are treated to delay sprouting. You can also order favorite varieties from seed catalogs. Separate the cloves and plant 4 inches apart.
Dahlias, glads, tuberous begonias and cannas should be dug and stored in a cool dry place. Most basements are too warm. Caladiums, on the other hand, should be stored at 65 - 70 degrees. Go to ohioline.osu.edu and bring up Factsheet HYG-1244-92 to get specific information on storing Summer Flowering Bulbs.
You can still divide day lilies and iris. Cut back the iris leaves to four-inch fans. Stop feeding your roses but don’t stop giving them water. Consider cutting back your roses halfway if they stop blooming. If you have dormant roses you can still plant them. Spring bulbs can be planted as soon as you get them. Plant them at a depth three times their length; place some bulb food in the hole with them. For a better display plant them in groups, not single file.
If you planted trees this year (it is still a good time) protect the trunks from gnawing rabbits and other varmints with hardware cloth or the plastic wrap made for this purpose. Even older trees can benefit from this if you’ve experienced this damage in the past.
It is still the best time to fertilize your lawn. Use a high nitrogen soluble product. You can still sow grass seed.
Leave seed heads of native coneflowers and Black-eyed Susans for the birds. Also leave stems for overwintering insects. You can put off most cleanups (but not in the vegetable garden) until next spring! Add mulch around perennials after the ground freezes, assuming it will.