by Gene Sumi, Homestead’s Education Coordinator
November is when we really feel the presence of fall. Leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs are seriously changing from green to yellow or other flamboyant colors in anticipation of dropping off the tree entirely. There is a nip in the air and the first frost of the season normally hits us by the second week of this month. Plants that are going into full winter dormancy are finishing up their conversion of sap sugar into carbohydrates, which are even now being stored in the plants’ roots, bulbs or stems. Evergreens are hunkering down to brave the winter months, leaves green and intact, to prepare themselves for spring.
The coming of the first frost means tender plants that you wish to save must be brought indoors for the winter. This should be done by the end of October, to be on the safe side. Use this time to spray these plants with an safe-for-indoor plant insecticide and fungicide to kill plant pests that may linger on the plant. Expect tropical and subtropical plants to lose up to 50% of their foliage after they settle in inside the home. This is because they are accustomed to long days of sunshine year round in their native tropical haunts and the shorter days here make the seasonal shedding unneeded leaves in these shorter days necessary.
Lawns and evergreen shrubs and trees can be given plant food in November. Remember, they have kept their green blades, leaves and needles and they can and will take up nutrients through December.
Do not, repeat, do not prune evergreen needled and broadleaf shrub and trees in the fall. There is a good reason why they retain their green foliage through winter. These plants still conduct photosynthesis in their green foliage cells during the winter months, especially those plants that are growing under trees that have lost all their leaves for the winter.
If you have not planted your spring-blooming fall bulbs, like tulip, daffodil, crocus and hyacinth bulbs, for example, you still can. Plant them where they will receive at least a half-day or more of sunshine and plant them in the ground to the right depth. The depth of the planting hole should be 3 times the height of the bulb being planted.
The Brown Marmorated Stinkbug(BMSB) pests that have plagued your ornamental and edible garden plants all summer long will be coming indoors to the protection of you home. You can stop
many of them by sealing up cracks and small opening into your home with a caulking seal. You can also place special stinkbug traps close to the sides of your house outdoors (about 10 feet from the side) and place some traps indoors. Attach an LED light to each trap, which will attract the stinkbug to the trap. [U.Md. entomologist Mike Raupp has lots more to say about this pest – see our recent blog post on the subject.]
These are some tips to follow as we change over to a new month and prepare the garden for the coming winter and following spring.
Photo credits: Stinkbug by G. Hamilton at Rutgers. Other photos by Susan Harris.