Saturday, November 13

November's Gardening to-do list.

Every month has a list of to-do gardening jobs and this month, regardless of the cold, is no different. Give your garden one last tending while this warmer weather is upon won’t last forever.

Do you have an area by the street that could use a bit of touching up? Now is the time to do it. Get ready for decorating and snow by cleaning out the leaves and brush from your curbside appeal. The less debris, the less messy it looks when the first snow falls.

If you haven’t done it already, prepare your rose bushes for the extreme temperature fluctuations during winter. Roses are just one of those plants that don’t go into dormancy for winter. Roses struggle to survive the cold temperatures but they also die from the wind. Wind causes dehydration and if the bud union of your rose bush is peaking above ground, that can cause the entire rose bush to die. Cut your tea roses to one foot high and cover with burlap stuffed with leaves. This covering prevents your rose canes from dehydrating in the wind. One the burlap and leaves are in place, protect the bud union (if visible) with a mound of dirt. One of the ways to prevent this work is to plant your roses with the bud union at least two inches down in the soil. This can increase the amount of work when planting due to a deeper hole but in the long-run, you won’t be finding and placing dirt on the bud union every year.

Climbing roses? Just secure them so the wind won’t bruise the canes. Make sure your loppers are sharp for spring pruning.

Now is the time to add bone-meal to all your roses if you have it.

Get rid of the bugs before they have a chance to settle in by clearing debris and cutting back perennials in the garden. Many gardeners this year will find the tiny grey eggs lining their sedum stems in November...cut the sedums to the ground and put the stems in a burning pile or the trash to be taken away from your yard. These tiny grey eggs signal an infestation for the following year. Protect your roses and other aphid attracting perennials by planting large onions near the roses now. Simply buy a bag from the grocery store and place them root-down in the soil near the plants. The onions will survive during the winter and begin pushing forth greens early in the year. The mere smell of onion will deter the aphids from your treasured plants.

Plant your bulbs before the ground freezes. If you have moles or voles wrap your blubs in hardware cloth or chicken wire when you plant. This will make it more difficult for those little creatures to get at your bulbs during the winter and you will have better success in the bulb flowers appearing in the spring. Don’t forget to mark them so you won’t disturb them during the spring digging and planting of new perennials.

If you have a strawberry patch, cover your plants with a bit of mulch. The best mulch for strawberries is pine needles but bark mulch or wood chips will do in a pinch.

You have grapevines? Time to prune.

If you have new trees or perennials, water everything with an inch or two of water (a gallon or two each) before the ground freezes for winter.

If you have a compost, turn it over before the snow comes.

If you have a greenhouse, plant some peas, kale, swiss chard and start some long-growing herbs.

Happy Gardening!!!!!!!!!

Try new foods this Thanksgiving!!

We often wait years, here in New England, for the second warm-up of weather. The known Indian Summer in October is famous but what is this second warm up called? After much searching in books (yes, I still use paper books) and the internet...apparently, no one knows. We are having cool nights and quick warm-ups during the day... And the warmth is glorious. This warmth is giving us slackers (I am one of them) some extra time to spend in the garden, getting ready for winter, cleaning our yards and simply enjoying the brightness of the sun before the intimidating gloom of deep fall and the onset of winter. Wishful thinking allows New Englanders (including myself) to hope that winter will be mild but the gardeners within us hope for a normal winter with normal precipitation so that the growing season will be as fruitful next year as it was this year.

Our family ventured into a new area this year by growing a new-to-us type of squash, Buttercup. Butternut is the old standby for the Thanksgiving table. It's a brightly colored orange and a sunny addition of color to any table that holds all the browns of gravy, turkey and stuffing. As wonderful as it is, it's a bit plain without added seasoning.

Buttercup on the other hand? It's so brightly colored it literally glows and it truly doesn't need seasoning before putting on the table. 40 years of eating Thanksgiving dinner could have been improved by simply changing the type of squash...To top it all off, we could have easily grown it grows anywhere. With nine seeds we grew enough to supply us with a winter of feeling good three times each week.

79 pounds a week out of the veggie garden will keep us healthy way beyond winter. Most of the vegetables were potatoes and squash but those root veggies have a plethora of much needed vitamins, specifically designed for the winter gloom onset in our bodies. Vitamin A, being at the top of the list, works in conjunction with Vitamin D and helps us feel better all'round.

To get your Vitamin A more easily, bake your squash before separating it from the scoops away from the skin with a simple spoon. Cutting the squash in half is the hard part but if you have a cleaver and a clean area on your back deck, one good swing with the cleaver can make it truly easy to split. The simplest way to process the tons of squash we had this summer is to chop all in half right out of the garden and freeze just as they are. When you're ready to 'up' your intake of Vitamin A, thaw the halved sections, turn flesh-side down in a 9 X 13 pan in an inch of water and bake for 20 minutes to an hour...The bigger, the longer...the longer, the easier it is to scoop out.

Thanksgiving usually falls into the tried and true's of traditions and old standbys. If we were truly trying to replicate the first harvest we would be eating venison and lobster and celebrating our harvest in August and early September when the produce of the garden is plentiful. Trying new foods by growing them is only one way to tempt your palate. Buy small varieties and make Thanksgiving a ritual of helping others expand their tastes and traditions by including at least one new dish each year. Give that old green-bean-salad some competition.