General Gardening Tips
Keep an eye on any newly planted (or transplanted) plants, and on your containers. Those plants might need more water than the rains provide. But when we do get a lot of rain, check your containers afterwards to make sure they have drained adequately. A lot of container plants die of excessive water in Seattle winters. Be sure your containers drain freely and are not blocked. Sky has a great assortment of pot feet if you need to elevate your pots a bit.
Time to start getting ready for the first frost! Seattle usually experiences our first frost in late November, though it can come earlier. Be ready to protect (or toss) your most tender plants if one hits. If a hard freeze hits suddenly after a period of mild temperatures, plants are especially vulnerable to damage.
Remember to winterize your watering systems. Drain soakers, store hoses, and cover outside faucets.
While you’re putting hoses away, it’s a great time to check, clean, and sharpen your tools. Protect metal tool heads against moisture with a thin coating of vegetable oil. Sand wooden handles if necessary and wipe with linseed oil to preserve them. Now is also a good time to get your pruners and lawnmower blades sharpened if need be.
If you didn’t put down a layer of mulch last month, weed thoroughly and mulch now!
Install cloches, hoop houses, cold frames or even just floating row cover over borderline-hardy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, and root vegetables. Just a few degrees of protection can extend your harvest season dramatically.
Save yourself some headaches by mulching any unused beds with at least two inches of leaves or straw. Heavy winter rain falling on bare soil is the biggest cause of hard, compacted soil that is difficult to work with. Unless you are already growing
Fruit and Berries
Remove fallen fruit, especially if you have had problems with insect damage. If you have had trouble with fungal diseases, you may want to remove leaves as well. If you suspect a disease problem or major insect infestation, you may want to throw affected debris out with the yard waste rather than composting it at home. Both beneficial and harmful insects can overwinter in fallen leaves.
If you haven’t already done so, spread lime around fruit trees, strawberries, and raspberries.
If you use dormant sprays, make sure you stay on schedule to spray only at appropriate times. Please see a Sky team member for guidance for dormant season spraying of your fruit and berry crops.
If you have had problems with fungal diseases, remove affected leaves from on and around deciduous shrubs to reduce the amount of spores overwintering in your garden.
Lightly prune back your roses. The goals are to reduce them to about one third of their current height, open up the centers of the plants, and prevent damage. Cut each stem back to just above a leaflet with five leaves that opens away from the center of the plant. This is also a good time to remove any dead canes, canes that cross each other, and all canes thinner than a pencil.
On your herbaceous perennials (the ones that die back for the winter), go ahead and cut back dying or dead foliage and flower stalks, but leave seed heads and berries for birds to enjoy. Now is also a good time to divide them.
Spring bulbs, winter interest trees and shrubs, and hardy perennials can still be planted as long as the soil can be worked. Remember that planting trees, shrubs, and perennials now gives them all winter to grow their roots (and suck up the free water!) before they are subjected to next summer’s stresses.
Cut back chrysanthemums to within 6” of the ground when they finish flowering. Mulch to protect them.
Enliven your front planters and deck or patio with plants for winter interest: pansies, cyclamen, heuchera, hellebores, hardy grasses, and more. A lot of people like to plant their containers with fresh bright color to keep near the house for the winter months, then transplant those plants into the garden in the spring. Sky has a great selection of plants for fall and winter interest to choose from.
The short days and low light levels mean your indoor plants will slow their growth. Unless you are using grow lights, cut back on watering and stop feeding.
On the other hand, central heating can dry the air. Sensitive plants such as orchids may benefit from a humidity tray—just a water-filled tray with pebbles (or pot feet) so the plant is not sitting in water, but still benefits from the evaporation.
It’s time to start forcing bulbs for holiday color and fragrance: paperwhite, hyacinth, and amaryllis bulbs are in stock now.
Thanksgiving is the time for the final & most important feeding of the year. This is the feeding to strengthen your turf enough to keep weeds and moss from getting well-established. Use a slow-release, organic fertilizer.
Keep dead leaves skimmed, or net your pond. Pay attention to skimmer boxes and clean them often.
Fish should have stopped feeding, or at least slowed way down. If they are still eating, make sure you are using a very low protein food. Stop feeding altogether when water temperatures drop below 50°F.
If you have fish, make sure you have an air pump or some other de-icing going when freezing temperatures arrive. Never smash a hole in ice as it can hurt your fish.
Consider installing a water return line (a line that bypasses waterfalls but keeps water circulating through biofilters) if you will be away from your pond for long periods during the winter.
Winterize fountains: remove pumps; protect concrete from freezing. Sky carries fountain covers in different sizes.
As always, we’re here to help.