Gardening Matters

Fall is definitely here. A lot of us are thinking about putting our gardens to bed for the winter. And a few of us are actually doing it. This usually involves cutting back spent flowers, cleaning up debris around our garden beds and generally tidying up.

Some folks, especially those with veggie gardens, will be seeding with clover or buckwheat to grow a cover crop to feed their soil with nitrogen for next year. All of these are fairly simple tasks if we can just convince ourselves to get off the couch and get out into the garden.

The cleaning up of leaves and debris is important since it helps get rid of any diseased or bug infested plant material that could otherwise over-winter in your garden and return next year. Neatness counts, even in gardening!

Unless you maintain an active compost pile of your own, it’s best to get rid of this debris by leaving it at the curb for the county trucks to haul away. They take it to a composting facility where it breaks down in a self-heating environment that kills off any diseased materials as it turns to compost.

Then comes the annual questions about what shrubs should be pruned and when should it be done. I can answer this very simply. Look at Walter” Reeves’ (May I touch but the hem of His garment!) pruning calendar.

As far as I am concerned this is the definitive guide to pruning for our area. You can find his pruning calendar at his website: walterreeves.com/landscaping/shrub-pruning-calendar/.

According to Walter, very few shrubs need to be pruned in October or November. He recommends doing pruning in December, January and February. This is when the garden has gone dormant and there is little risk of damaging actively growing plants. This is wonderful news since, once I get the garden cleaned up, I can continue to watch college football for the rest of the year. However, come January I’ll be out there clipping away.

The website noted above not only tells you when to prune, but gives helpful info about how to prune. This is important. If you are like me and always a bit uncertain about pruning, be sure to follow his links for more information. You can’t go wrong by following Walter’s advice.

Skipping to another topic, I have been clearing privet and wild grapevine from my property lately. With a vengeance! A couple of months ago we had a tree crew in to take out some trees that were in poor shape and threatening our house. While they were there they were able to clear out a large area of scraggly woods behind the house that was mostly privet, grapevine and English ivy. Now I can individually see these terrible invasive plants and take them out permanently as they try to regrow. It sure makes it easier to deal with these problems. And it feels good to get the upper hand on these miserable sons of …s for a change.

We did keep some of the wild thicket behind our home since it serves the birds as a place to rest, hide from predators and build their nests. It also serves as a visual and audio barrier between us and our neighbors and allows us to continue to feel like we live in a private forest.

And, finally, a big thanks to all the folks that bought plants at the Dunwoody Nature Center’s plant sale this fall. We sold over 400 plants! The consensus of the Master Gardeners working the sale was that these were some of the best plants we have ever sold. I think that offering many of the plants in the larger three gallon sizes helped assure that we got healthy, good-looking plants. I know the Dunwoody Nature Center appreciates your support and the Master Gardeners enjoy being able to bring excellent plants to our friends and neighbors.

Jeff Coghill has been gardening in DeKalb County for more than 35 years and has probably killed at least one of each kind of plant he has tried before getting another one to thrive. He is a garden volunteer at the Dunwoody Nature Center and works closely with members of the DeKalb Master Gardeners group. He can be reached at: dunwoodygardener@yahoo.com.

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