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The garden is a little quieter this time of year but there are still projects and chores, as always. There are also still many things to enjoy! The rain has returned, usually in full force, but there may still be a few greens to munch in the fall vegetable garden. Most get sweeter with the cold, too! You can still plant garlic and spring flowering bulbs in early November, just in case you are running a little behind. Keep reading for tips on frost protection as well as tool cleaning. Learn more about Pigsqueaks and feeding the birds! Then, get out there and enjoy the beautiful autumn foliage, before the last of it is swept up by your rake.
Protect plants from frost
Frost can hit as early as November in the northwest. Our generally mild winters don’t see too many hard frosts but we have just enough that we recommend some plant protection. Here are a few methods you can try:
Mulch: lay 4-12 inches of mulch around the base of plants. This will insulate the roots and keep the foundation warm, helping them to withstand a frost. If a plant is particularly sensitive, you can just about bury it in mulch if it’s just for a few nights. Enclose sensitive shrubs, like hydrangeas, in a wire cylinder and stuff it with leaves, straw, bark and other materials. More mulch= more insulation! You can buy several kinds of mulch at Furney’s. Come down and talk to our talented nursery professionals for more frost-fighting tips.
Cloches and cold frames: overwintering vegetables and sensitive perennials can benefit from a mini-greenhouse to keep them warm. That is just what cloches and cold frames are: tiny greenhouses, made from a variety of materials including old windows and milk jugs, which act as heat conductors that reflect light. Just make sure there is some type of ventilation; plants still need to breathe. For more information, read the August section of our Gardening Calendar. You can pick up a few pre-made cloches at Furney’s.
Row cover: cover your crops, perennials and low-lying plants with row cover, a thin white cloth that insulates, while remaining permeable. Plants are covered (the edges of the cloth are buried to hold it down) and are kept a few degrees warmer underneath. The breathable cloth allows air and water to pass through but still has a protecting, insulating affect. Added bonus: it keeps unwanted insects, deer and other pests off!
Prepare your Tools
A busy gardening season can leave shovels, hoes, rakes and hand-held tools looking a little worse for the wear. November is the perfect time to give them the care they need to prepare for the next year. This will ensure that they store well, too. Dirty, rusty tools won’t last as long and might break or bend in the middle of the task at hand. Nobody wants that! High-quality tools are worth the investment and are worth the time it takes to keep them in good condition. Keeping them cleaned and well-oiled will help them to last longer and help you with those countless garden jobs! Here are a few tips:
- Scrub tools with scours or sand to remove all dirt, rust and debris.
- Polish them with just plain vegetable oil, to protect the metal.
- Store them in a clean, dry place all winter.
- Don’t forget the pruning shears, gardening scissors and trowels!
- If some are bent or rusted beyond repair, pick up new ones at Furney’s!
Plant Pigsqueaks for Autumn Bliss!
Enliven your yard with the ‘Autumn Glory’ Pigsqueak (Bergenia cordifolia)! This evergreen perennial is easy to grow and offers color in every season. In spring, lovely spikes of pink-to-red flowers hover above their wide, paddle-like leaves. The glossy green sheen on the rubbery foliage offers interest throughout the summer. When the temperatures cool, see them slowly put on shades of scarlet, purple and maroon.
‘Autumn Glory’ is, overall, a pretty easy-going plant. It has a couple of special requests so that it can be at its very best but, otherwise, the most basic care will do nicely. Plant your Pigsqueak ‘Autumn Glory’ in a place with good drainage and plenty of sunshine. The ideal light would be plenty of sunshine, while avoiding direct sun in the heat of the day. Give your plant regular water during periods without rain and take care not to let it dry out too much. While the ‘Autumn Glory’ will tolerate some poor soil and drought conditions, its patience is limited and you will see the negative effects.
They retain their shape and color well! Pigsqueaks will reproduce and can be divided after a few years. This prevents overcrowding and provides extra ‘Autumn Glories’ for your garden! Simply dig them up gently in the spring and divide the root clumps, replanting them with plenty of space in between. It’s best to divide them in the spring, after flowering has finished.
Boost your bird care!
By November, many native food sources are drying up for most local birds. Several species migrate south and a few others, like the Oregon Junco, migrate from the north to winter here! As gardeners, we can provide both home and habitat for wild bird species. Now is the time to make the winter commitment to taking care of our feathered friends.
Watching various species feed and bathe and engage in bird antics provides endless entertainment, throughout the winter, for gardeners, their children and their cats! Enjoy learning about their habits and species as you watch them fly to and fro, gathering the fuel that you generously provide.
If you decide to feed the birds, it is important to continue throughout the winter, as birds become dependent on you as a food source. You must also supply water for drinking and bathing in, although this is less important in the winter when puddles are everywhere.
Come down to Furney’s to get equipped for bird care. We have a large selection of attractive feeders, bird baths and many types of seed, including suet.