These next couple of weeks before Thanksgiving will be the end of this year's gardening season. Take advantage of this mild fall weather to finalize your winterizing efforts.
- Most parts of northern NM have been blessed with ample fall rain. I've had over 3 1/2" at my house since the start of October. So the soil is nicely moist and no additional irrigation should be needed.
– However, winter watering is essential for all new perennials, shrubs and trees planted this past growing season. If there is scant snow or rain over the winter and early spring months, water when day temperatures are above 45⁰ F, once every three or four weeks.
2. Fertilizing (Feeding the Soil)
For a healthy, resilient garden and landscape, healthy living soil is essential; so when we fertilizer, use organic and natural fertilizers like Yum Yum Mix and good quality composts to “feed the soil”. The web of life depends on the soil’s ability to break down fallen leaves and other organic materials and recycle the nutrients into the soil. This is accomplished by the incredible diversity of microbs, fungi and earthworms that live in the soil . After the first hard frost is a good time to mix-up a wheel barrow of high quality compost and Yum Yum Mix and top dress your flower beds, shrubs and younger trees and lawn. Just scatter the compost/Yum Yum Mix over the top of the soil and scratch it in lightly. Then set the sprinkler and water it in.
If you haven't treated your plants with beneficial mycorrhizal fungi, it's easy to add the granules to the Yum Yum Mix and compost mixture. The spores will germinate over the winter months and make your garden and landscape plants healthier, more resilient and more water efficient. The Plant Success brand is available from highcountrygardens.com. Purchase the granular formulation.
3. Protect Plants from Feeding Animals
- Treat for gophers; Gophers can be tremendously damaging to your garden plants
by eating the roots. They are active now and can be spotted by looking for freshly mounded soil around your plants and trees. Use a gopher repellent like Chase Mole and Gopher Med (a natural emulsified castor oil product). Spread the granules over the top of the soil and water in thoroughly. Re-apply in the spring.
- Protect young trees and shrubs from rabbits - rabbits will often eat the bark of young trees over the winter, so use corrugated paper tree wrap around the bottom 3 ft. of the tree now and remove in April.
- Bothered by deer? Deer feed on woody stems over the winter and spring months. So use a deer repellent spray on trees, shrubs and evergreens now. And re-apply in early spring.
Mulching is an essential tool for conserving precious soil moisture, building the soil's humus content and keeping the soil cold in the spring so plants don't wake up and bloom too early. I like to mulch after I've fertilized to cover the soil and the organic fertilizers so to help facilitate the organisms in the soil to break down the fertilizer and make it available to the waking plants in spring.
Fruit trees and other early blooming flowering trees and shrubs are greatly benefited by have the ground well mulched out to the drip line of the tree to protect them from pre-maturely warm early spring temperatures.
For Xeric and Native Plants use: 1 to 2” thick layer of pine needles, crushed pecan shells or or small crushed gravel.(3/8 to 1/2" diameter).
For Plants that Like more moisture and richer soil like fruit trees, flowering shrubs, and evergreens : 1 to 2” thick layer of composted bark (not bark chips or nuggets), shredded wood or leaves and coarse textured composts like Soil Mender BTE cotton burr compost. Use clean straw for your fall and winter vegetable beds.
5. Garden Clean Up
Enjoy the beauty of the fall and winter garden provided by dormant plants and grasses. In your flower beds and landscape plantings, let the perennials and ornamental grasses stand over the winter, unless the plants were diseased with powdery mildew on the foliage, In which case, these can be cut back. Letting plants stand over the winter improves cold hardiness of plants like Hummingbird Mint (Agastache), Hummingbird Trumpet (Zauschneria) and native Sages (Salvia). .
Leaving plants untrimmed also helps protect beneficial insects and pollinator populations. The eggs and cocoons/pupae of beneficial insects, butterflies and moths are often attached to the dormant stems of your garden plants so let them stay and hatch next spring. Clean-up in mid-spring after a few weeks of warmer weather. Wait to prune trees and shrubs until late winter/early spring.
6. Planting Spring Blooming Bulbs
November is the final month to plant your spring blooming bulbs. Bulbs are a bargain and a great way to wake up your garden in spring, but plant them where they will get some supplemental irrigation. Common bulbs like tulips, daffodils, grape hyacinths and others need supplemental irrigation in the spring (if the soil is dry) to bloom well, so plant them in irrigated beds. My favorites bulbs are perennial varieties that come back year after year and multiply in numbers (naturalize). These include - Crocus- Muscari (Grape hyacinths) - Narcissus (daffodils) which are gopher proof, - Tulipa (tulips); especially 'Lilac Wonder', Tulipa tarda and Gregiii and Kaufmaniana types - Allium (ornamental onions) which are also highly resistant to gophers.
7. Planting Shrubs, Trees and Evergreens
Most cold hardy plants benefit from fall planting. Fall planted trees and shrubs have extra time to establish their roots before winter and will bloom more robustly and grow more quickly next summer that spring transplants. Finish planting woody plants by late November.
8. Raking Leaves
Avoid mulching with whole leaves as they will mat down and keep moisture and oxygen from reaching down into the soil. If possible, rent or buy a shredder that will grind up your leaves into a coarse pieces. Coarsely ground up leaves are a superb mulch and a great soil builder. Keep your leaves and pine needles on your property; they are a valuable resource for soil building and mulching.