Gardener's Grapevine 2013.10.30

Well, here we are again staring at fall, and winter is hiding around the corner looking at us with a smile. I get the feeling winter is going to be a real stinker this year. I guess we are due, but there are not words to express how little I like winter. I completely get the snowbird mentality. If I had the financial means I would be in Florida on my favorite island all the time. For now I have to be a rat in the race day by day carving out a crazy hole in the wintery cold.

With that little side trip of pity over, let's talk fall clean-up and protection of our babies in the horticulture world. There are a few don’ts so let's get them out of the way first. Don’t cut your lavender back, it may be scraggly and ugly, but so be it, leave it alone.

Roses are a biggie, no more pruning. They are going dormant leave them alone. To cover or not to cover, that is the question we rose lovers keep tossing around year after year. My personal take is to leave them alone. I have done the cone covering thing and I've left them to their own devices and covered their bases with leaves like my great-grandmother did and they do just as well. Personally, I think our ancestors knew a lot more than we give them credit for. My roses always do great and lately they have thrived on neglect.

Climbing roses need to be restrained so the winter winds don’t break their canes, but do not cut these canes off or you will stunt the plant in the spring and have no blooms. I bind the canes down to the fence with bungee cords or tie downs like electrical ties. Just a little advice: if bungee cords are your go-to, use the rubber ones, they withstand winter better.

Don’t dig all your root vegetables up because it’s fall. I dig carrots way into November and early December.

OK, now the do’s. Put away all the tomato and other debris from the vegetable garden. Store your stakes, cages, etc., out of the elements. It's OK to till or do it in the spring, whatever works for you. I like to spread the compost bin over the garden and start a new one at this time of year, but that is also a matter of preference.

It’s fine to trim the hostas back if you want. In another few weeks they will all be flat to the ground with frostbite anyway. You can't kill a hosta, it will be back no matter what you do. Contrary to Sybil Diccion’s notion that they scream when split, they do not and I will ever think about that every spring when I split them.

All the seed perennials can be cut back if you wish. I leave most of them for the birds to eat all winter and cut them in the spring. Mow the lawn at least one last time and remember not too short so the winter cannot hurt it. A good winterizer will help it, also.

Know when to prune your trees. Fruit trees are pruned in the dead of winter after a killing frost, according to the tree man at Barrett’s garden center. To be honest, it’s whenever I have time at my house. Pruning trees is hard work and I have big respect for the people who do it as a living.

Well, it’s a gorgeous weekend and I need to get out there and get my fall clean-up started.