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This week in your Massachusetts garden & landscape

Week of October 24, 2016 By Ron Kujawski

I’ve just about given up trying to make sense of the weather.  On Tuesday, the 18th, many parts of the Commonwealth experienced record high temperatures. On Friday, substantial rain finally arrived after months-long drought conditions.  Substantial may be an understatement as flash floods occurred in the Worcester area.  On Saturday, snow fell, albeit of the wet variety, in the hilltowns.  This week, we can expect below normal temperatures.

What does it all mean for gardeners?  Probably not much.  What damage the drought inflicted on plants in gardens and landscapes is not likely to have been reversed by the recent rain.  However, the rain may have helped evergreens avoid winter injury, specifically desiccation, but that determination will be made next spring.  The expected freeze this week does not appear at this time to be severe enough to be detrimental to perennial plants which are already dormant. On the other hand, tender annuals and vegetables will see their growing season come to an end.


Gardeners, being wise people, know that none of these means an end to their tasks.  Therefore:

  • Plant tulip and Dutch iris bulbs now.  Cold soils are needed to keep them from sending up shoots before their roots are established.  Though tulips have reputation for a short life span, deep planting, i.e. about 8 inches, prolongs their life.  Most of my tulips have continued to develop large attractive flowers for more than 25 years.
  • Remove annuals and vegetable plants that have been killed by frost and place these on the compost pile.
  • Dig trenches in gardens to bury leaves and garden debris if you do not have or want a compost pile.  The leaves and debris will decay and contribute organic matter to the soil.
  • Gather pine needles and store them temporarily in plastic trash bags.  Pine needles make great mulch for perennial borders after the ground has frozen.
  • Mow the grass near the base of fruit trees and keep mowing, at a low cutting height, until grass stops growing for the year.  Rodents that like to gnaw on the bark of fruit trees hide in tall grass, so close mowing will help keep their presence to a minimum.  Also, be sure that no mulch – another hiding place for field mice – is placed near the tree trunks.
  • Carefully store leftover vegetable and flower seeds.  If properly stored, most seeds should remain viable for another year.  The best storage conditions are cool and dry. I pack seeds into a large jar along with a little packet of desiccant gel, seal it tightly, and place it in the refrigerator.
  • Examine potted miniature roses for spider mite.  Apply insecticidal soap to control the mites.  Powdery mildew and black spot are other major problems of potted miniature roses.

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