Gardener's Grapevine 2012.10.24

Written by David Green.

I love fall, even though the harvesting and dry leaves make my allergies go nuts. The trees and fields being harvested are so beautiful. The downside to such beauty is the barren cold winter months. Winter is so very necessary to our plants in this part of the country. The earth and trees need down time to sleep, renew and regroup.

With our warm winter and early summer last year the trees took a lot of stress. They lost a lot of their fruit due to the freakish weather. Some fruit trees did very well while others had next to nothing or lost most of their fruit early. Apparently, the giant oak tree in front of the Johnson’s next door did not suffer at all. That tree has dropped bushels of acorns. I can hear them pop on the driveway when someone drives over them. This is not so great for Mary as she has to clean them up from everywhere, but the squirrels are in heaven storing the acorns for winter.

Speaking of squirrels, the little buggers are so funny. I cleaned up some dead flowers that had gone to seed and prior to cutting the dead stems and disposing of them, I cut the dried seed heads off and left them in the flower beds. Later, I looked out the window to see squirrels running across the yard with the whole seed head that I had cut off. That had to be a very painful job to carry it up a tree as the coneflower seed heads are like thistles, very pokey.

What do you do with your seeds on the dead plants? Usually I let the dead stalks stay until spring so the birds can eat them when the snow is covering everything else. The only reason I cut the ones I did, is because when I’m in a cleaning up mood I tend to get carried away.

Speaking of cleaning up, don’t be in a huge hurry to clean everything out of your perennial beds. Some plants need a nice cover of leaves and dead vegetation to protect against the cold winter weather. My great grandmother Hila used to have me cover her roses with leaves every fall so they could act as insulation.

Other plants like the iris or hosta do not need such protection. If you are cleaning up your landscaping go ahead and trim the hostas since they have all frosted now and are not reaping any benefit from their leaves any longer.  While you are cleaning up, remember to take a note pad and write down which hostas need to be split in the spring. It is much easier to do the splitting if you write it down in the fall. By the time the hostas are full open, it is too difficult to split them and they will spend the rest of the summer trying to round themselves out again. They like to be round and will put a lot of effort into it.

By splitting the hostas while the leaves are still tightly rolled and small, they are a lot easier to handle. It takes very little for them to reround their shape as you will be splitting them while they are still partially dormant. I have a very grubby notebook in my gardening shed, but each spring it is a job I’m glad I do each fall.

In addition to cleaning up the beds, don’t forget the lawn. If you use chemicals it is time to apply winterizer. I also like to aerate in the fall; it gives the grass somewhere to stretch its roots in the spring.

While it is a lot of work to get everything cleaned up for winter you will be glad you made the effort. When the bleak winter winds blow, you will look out onto a tidy sleeping landscape. Besides, it gives our city workers job security cleaning up those giant piles of yard waste. They do such a great job of keeping everything clean and tidy, and they never complain. Thanks to our great city workers.

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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