November is a month that might be viewed as a break from mowing, clipping and digging. Don’t be fooled — there is lots to be done and following these tips just might make the difference between your trees and plants surviving or succumbing to our potentially cold Colorado winters.
The importance of watering during the winter months cannot be stressed enough. Soak your established trees at least once a month. It is important that trees start the winter with moisture around the roots. Newly planted trees (this year) will need to be irrigated more frequently using less water than older trees.
When there isn’t any snowfall or moisture, don’t neglect the lawn. Lawn “winter kill” is common in our diocese. Watering the lawn during winter is extremely healthy. Be sure to do it on a day that is at least 40°F and finish up before dark. Never leave pools of standing water. This water may freeze and the ice can cause damage to the grass and your ankles.
Perennials need supplemental water as do shrubs. Be mindful of where these plants are in your garden and give them a good drink of water too. Lastly, when you’re done don’t forget to detach the hose from the spigot.
Clean rose beds carefully and mound up a 6-to-8-inch pile of mulch, soil or organic matter around the base of the plants for winter protection. Do this after the first hard freeze. Trim the canes back to approximately 20 inches to prevent them from breaking. Climbing roses should not be cut back as next year’s blossoms are produced on old wood. It is acceptable to prune dead or diseased canes. Mounding may not be necessary if roses are planted in a spot that is protected from the wind.
In our diocese, it may be beneficial to wrap thin-barked trees and young deciduous trees using a commercial crepe wrap. This will help prevent winter sun scald. Trees like honey locust, maple, linden and ash are susceptible to sunscald and frost cracks because of our drastic winter temperature fluctuations. To prevent bark damage, wrap the trunks of younger trees up to the first branches. Leave the wrap on until early April. Burlap should not be used as it is a natural material that can absorb water from the tree.
Instead of disposing of autumn leaves, consider layering them around the base of each tree as mulch, or blend them into the yard with a mulching mower to retain nutrients. Leaves also serve as a wonderful mulch on the vegetable patch or perennial bed.
When there is a heavy snow, carefully brush it away from shrubs and small trees. This will help protect against breakage.
Do not use salt/sodium chloride to melt ice on the pavement. Salt can damage and kill plants. It develops as a marginal necrosis on deciduous leaves or a tip burn or necrosis on conifer needles. In prolonged exposures, necrosis moves toward the middle of the leaf in deciduous species and towards the base of the needle in conifers. Early leaf loss can also occur. Salt also burns the grass. If, in the spring, tip burn is present, blame that bag of ice melt.
November comes again bringing us falling autumn leaves, pumpkins and turkeys (maybe a roasted chicken this year if the news reports are accurate). A sense of thankfulness is in the crisp air, an internal time clock reminding us to be grateful for all of our blessings — grateful for our friends, our family, our priests, our health, and for the person who invented the rake, Edmund Brown. In 1874, his rake with a bamboo handle and metal teeth was among the first to receive a patent (U.S. Patent No. 148,660). God bless the soul of Edmund Brown!
(Kerry Peetz is a master gardener and a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Colorado Springs.)