Sharpen Garden Bed Edges
For a tidy winter landscape, take time to freshen the edges of ornamental beds before the ground freezes. Cleanly cut the edge with a garden or border spade, then lift away grass and infringing weeds. To reduce weed seed sprouting on the open soil, apply corn gluten pre-emergent herbicide (until a hard frost) and top with 2 to 3 inches of chopped leaves, wood mulch, or small wood chips.
Be Alert to Diseased Rhododendron
If you live in southeastern Pennsylvania and purchased the rhododendron variety known or labeled as 'Joe Paterno' this year, it's important that you contact the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's regional office in Creamery, Montgomery County, at (610) 489-1003. A rhodie with the disease called "sudden oak decline" (Phytophthora ramorum) was reportedly found in September in a Delaware County nursery. Sudden oak decline is a potentially serious disease for a variety of plants including lilac, mountain laurel, pieris, camellia, and viburnum. Until recently, sudden oak decline was confined to the west coast. Pennsylvania officials hope to limit its escape in the environment by asking consumers to report purchases of this potentially diseased rhododendron cultivar.
Remove English Ivy and Liriope Under Trees and Shrubs
For mice, squirrels, voles, and other small wildlife, English ivy and liriope can provide protective winter cover. That's good for them but not for trees and shrubs in ivy and liriope patches. During winter and into spring, hungry critters strip and eat the lower bark on tree trunks and gnaw on low-hanging shrub branches. Moisture and rot can follow. To preserve your trees and shrubs, it's best to clip away ivy, then remove its roots at least 3 feet from the base of all trees and shrubs. Dig up and remove encircling liriope as well. Be sure to deeply water the area afterward to help tree and shrub roots regrow after the soil disturbance. A heads up: Some arboretums are completely removing ivy and liriope to prevent regrowth.
Magnify Your View of Colorful Leaves and Berries
Tuck a magnifying glass into your pocket and visit your local arboretum or public garden. Brightly flowering annuals and perennials may be on the wane, but trees and shrubs are taking center stage. Autumn is their time to shine, with brightly colored fruits and berries and crispy falling leaves. It's easy to spot the small red or green crab apples, red-flowering dogwood fruits, bright red Hawthorne fruit, purple elderberries, and red American cranberrybush fruit clusters. Viewing them magnified gives a different perspective. While you're among the woody plants, check out the striped bark maples and exfoliating birches and maples. A magnifier brings their textural beauty into closer focus, too.
Last Call to Order Bulbs
Think Spring! Order those spring- and summer-flowering bulbs now. They'll take at least a week, probably more, for delivery. Here's a tip from landscapers: In southeastern Pennsylvania many like to have all their bulbs planted by Thanksgiving. That leaves just enough time for the bulbs to send out roots before winter's deep freeze. Fertilize and water deeply after planting according to package directions.