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Here we are in the middle of November and that means the beginning of the holiday season. We are all starting to shift gears to start preparations for Thanksgiving and then Christmas after that. For us on the Garden Time crew, it means the end of our 15th season. We will be wrapping up the season with the show on the 28th of November. This is a hard thing for us every year, and this year it has been tougher. Yes, it has been hard shooting stories for the show with the Covid crisis, but it has been a blast getting out and sharing a bunch of new stories and great garden tips with our viewers. That group has included a group of new gardeners due to the ‘stay at home’ nature of the year.
We also wanted to remind people that you can still follow us on Facebook and our website even when we take our annual break!
This week we featured...
Digging and Dividing Dahlias
f you have ever seen the spectacular show of the Dahlia Festival in Canby at the end of August, you know how beautiful dahlias can be. Now is the time to dig, divide and store your dahlia tubers to help them survive the winter and be ready for replanting in the spring. You will want to do this if your plants have been in the ground for a few years. The tuber clumps get big and, over time, you can see less flowers from your plants. We visited with Heather Schloe and her father Nick Gitts of Swan Island Dahlias (1-800-410-6540) to learn how the experts do it. You first start with a clean clump of tubers. Make sure all the soil is off them so you can see the tiny ‘eyes’ of the tuber. These are located near the main stem of the plant. You will need to include the eye along with the tuber you cut off or you will not have a flowering plant. Make your cuts to include these ‘eyes’. Let the cut tubers rest overnight so the cuts can seal, then store them in a box, in a protected area, wrapped in a moistened peat moss or mulch. This will keep the tuber from drying out. Then in mid-April you can head out to plant them again. If you forgot to order your tubers, you can still do that now for arrival in the spring. For more detailed instructions on how to dig, divide and store your tubers you can check out the videos on the Swan Island Dahlias website.
Jan’s November Tips
The fall is here and the cleanup in the garden continues. That is where we found Jan McNeilan again for this month’s tips. She was armed with a shovel and a lopper to do some pruning to a brugmansia, also called an Angel’s Trumpet. She was going to cut the plant to the ground and cover it to help it survive the upcoming winter. Once it was cut to the ground, she shoveled a little mulch over the crown to protect the crown, or top, of the plant. Then she placed a tomato cage around the crown and filled that with leaves to help hold in even more heat. If we have an average winter, it stands a good chance of being around next year too! The use of leaves around the garden can be your plants best friend. Jan piles them high and deep over her outdoor containers too. This layer of leaves seems to help everything in her garden!
We then turned to talking about hardiness zones. The USDA have an on-line chart showing the various zones around the US. In the Willamette Valley we are in zone 8. That means our average annual extreme minimum temperature is between 10 and 20 degrees. When buying and planting plants in our area we need to look at a zone 8 plant (or lower) for the best results. If we get a very bad freeze, you could still lose a zone 8 plant, but on average, you should be fine most years. You can always get a plant with a higher number like a zone 9 or 10, but the higher you go, the closer to a tropical plant you come. Remember those plants with a higher number will need protection or be taken inside to survive.
We then took a look at some bulbs that Jan had in her greenhouse. Due to a lack of air circulation and some moisture, these bulbs were starting to mold. Jan brought them inside the house and the increased circulation and heat helped get rid of the mold, now she is going to plant them in her garden. This can happen to any indoor plant in a greenhouse or even on your kitchen counter. Remember to increase airflow and moisture (she has a fan in her greenhouse) to combat mold and mildew. Finally, we talked about slugs! We advise gardeners to bait for slugs in the fall to prevent a large group showing up in your spring garden. People can gage this by looking for slug eggs in their garden. These eggs are a milky translucent white and sometimes can be confused with Ozmocote fertilizer pellets in your beds and containers. Jan recommends that you know the difference so you can look for problem areas in your garden while you’re working outside. For tips on winter gardening you can follow Jan on Facebook or check the OSU Extension website.
Winter Pond Prep
It is getting colder and it’s about time to get your pond ready for winter. We met up with Eamonn Hughes of Hughes Water Gardens (503-638-1709) to see how to prepare our ponds and pond animals for the cold. Eamonn talked about the importance of pruning off the old foliage from your water plants. The dying leaves will rot in the water and create an algae problem in the spring when things warm up again. You should also take care of your pond plants by either lowering them deeper into the water or moving them to protected areas after pruning them to protect them from freezing water around the crown of the plant. You also need to address the feeding your fish. Using the correct foods can prevent them from dying. Once the pond temperature drops below 50 degrees you should stop feeding your fish their high protein food. They can’t process the food in the colder water. You can switch to a fall and winter feed to help them stay healthy. Be aware that they will not eat as much during the winter due to their slowing metabolism. You will also want to keep your pond running. The water movement will prevent freezing and damage to your pond liner and pumps. If you have to shut off the pump, you will need to drain all the water out of the water feature to prevent long-term damage. If you do keep it running, make sure there is enough water in your reservoir so it doesn’t run dry and ruin the pump. To get answers to all your pond questions, contact the experts at Hughes Water Gardens or check out their website.
Hoyt Bamboo Pruning
Bamboo is a magical plant. It can be a unique and beautiful plant in the garden, but if you have a certain type of bamboo, like running bamboo, you could have a problem. Running bamboo is aptly named. This type of bamboo can grow running roots of over 4 feet in one season. To learn how to control it we stopped by Hoyt Arboretum and met with Martin in their bamboo grove to see how they keep their plants in check. They use a berm and trench system of controlling a running bamboo. First you build up a berm of rich mulch and compost and plant your bamboo in the center. Then around the outside you dig a trench and fill it with sand. Twice a year, in the spring and in the fall you go around the trench and cut off the runners that have grown out into the sand. Since bamboo roots tend to stay close to the surface you should find the roots easily. In the spring or fall these roots will be softer and easier to cut. If you have a clumping type of bamboo you will still have to prune the roots, but maybe once every 3-4 years.
For both types of bamboo you should also consider pruning out some of the older growth to help control diseases and pest problems that can be caused by a lack of air circulation. Martin recommends that you do your heavy pruning in the fall. During the spring the new growth pulls energy from the older trunks, branches and leaves. This transfer of energy can make the older stalks look yellow and tired. To give your new growth the best chance for success, don’t cut the old bamboo until the new growth has full branches and leaves. That is why fall pruning is the best for plant health and new growth. He also recommended a spacing of at least 12 inches between the established canes, removing those that are closer, so there is better circulation in your grove. Prune the canes off at ground level and above a joint if you can. For clumping bamboo, you can remove up to a third of the plant every year of two to help manage growth.
If you want to see how a grove of bamboo looks when it is well cared for, stop by Hoyt Arboretum and check out their grove. It is magnificent!
TOW – Fall Leaf Mulch
Tired of bagging your leaves? Here is a quick tip that will help your plants and save your back! Rake your leaves into your garden beds. This will help the plants by protecting them from the bitter cold, plus it will also keep the rains from compacting your soil during the wet months ahead. This spring you can compost the leaves to finish the job that nature started or you can put them in your yard debris container where they will take up less room than they do now.