Let the earth­worms do the work

Valley Journal Advertiser - - CLASSIFIEDS - Mark & Ben Cullen Mark Cullen is an ex­pert gar­dener, au­thor, broad­caster, tree ad­vo­cate and holds the Or­der of Canada. His son Ben is a fourth­gen­er­a­tion ur­ban gar­dener and grad­u­ate of Univer­sity of Guelph and Dal­housie Univer­sity in Hal­i­fax. Fol­low them a

It is early Novem­ber and this is no time to panic — there is lots of time for that. But there are a few jobs around the gar­den that could use your at­ten­tion. While there is some strength in the sun and be­ing out of doors still feels com­fort­able, we have a few sug­ges­tions.

The fol­low­ing are our gar­den pri­or­i­ties for mid-fall.

1. Leave the leaves. Let’s start with what ‘not’ to do. Don’t blow your leaves, with a leaf blower no less, into a pile, shove them into a pa­per bag and drag them down to the street for pick up. In­stead, rake them onto your gar­den. That is it. Just let them sit there all win­ter un­til the earth­worms pull them down, drown­ing them in the ex­ist­ing soil and di­gest­ing them into ni­tro­gen-rich earth­worm poop. In other words: let the worms do the work. Your gar­den will look much bet­ter for their ef­forts. And this takes a lot less ef­fort than the al­ter­na­tive. If you have ‘too many’ leaves, run your power mower over them be­fore you rake them onto the gar­den.

2. Plant Hol­land bulbs. This is a job for ‘plan­ners’. For some peo­ple, like those who have no idea what their plans for the rest of this week­end look like, this is hard. You plant dor­mant, rather unattrac­tive tulip, daf­fodil and hy­acinth bulbs this time of year and wait un­til spring for some­thing to hap­pen. We are here to as­sure you that your in­vest­ment is not wasted. Come spring, you will feel great joy when your cro­cus emerges from the depths of the re­cently-frozen earth. They ar­rive, like trum­pets, blow­ing colour into an other­wise brown, dreary land­scape. “Spring is here!” they an­nounce. And so, life and hope and joy abound. But only if you plant the bulbs now.

Bulbs should al­ways be planted in qual­ity, well drained soil, about three times as deep as the bulb is thick, mea­sured from top to bot­tom.

Hol­land, for the record, is not a coun­try. It is a prov­ince in The Netherlands. And most of our daf­fodil bulbs do not come from there but are grown in Bri­tish Columbia, a great Cana­dian ex­port. Now you know.

3. Fer­til­ize your lawn. Read­ers with a love of their lawn have been wait­ing to hear this: your ap­pli­ca­tion of lawn fer­til­izer this time of year is the most im­por­tant of the year. The fall for­mula of lawn fer­til­izer should be 12-018, with less ni­tro­gen (the first num­ber) and more potas­sium (the third num­ber) than the fer­til­izer you ap­plied ear­lier in the sea­son. The potas­sium pro­vides nu­tri­ents to the roots of your grass plants, beef­ing them up for the long win­ter ahead. The re­sult is a stronger lawn that re­cov­ers from win­ter-re­lated stress much bet­ter than un­fer­til­ized lawns. Ap­ply be­fore the snow flies.

4. Pump­kins. What do you do with your pump­kins post-Hal­loween? Put it in your com­post bin or just stand it in a re­mote part of your gar­den to melt with the late au­tumn frost. It is 98 per cent wa­ter and can only help all the plants that are grow­ing there. Do not put it out to the garbage. That is para­mount to putting a bucket of wa­ter out for pick up.

5. Dig and di­vide. Many of the peren­nial plants that have es­tab­lished over the years in your gar­den are ripe for di­vid­ing and mov­ing around your gar­den. Hostas and daylilies are per­fect ex­am­ples of plants that di­vide very well this time of year. Dig out the whole plant, cut it in half with a sharp shovel or spade. If it is big enough, say, the size of a large pie plate, di­vide it again, into quar­ters. You may think that you will get wedge-shaped plants next spring but not so. Through some mir­a­cle, they ap­pear in late April look­ing healthy and just like any plant that you might have pur­chased in a round pot. Be sure to plant in qual­ity soil.

Wa­ter them thor­oughly after plant­ing.

Di­vide monarda, Shasta daisy, pe­onies, Bap­tista, rud­beckia, Echi­nacea, Turtle­head and vir­tu­ally all the densely-rooted peren­ni­als in your gar­den this time of year.

6. Prune trees and shrubs. This is the per­fect time of year to prune a cedar hedge, large spruce or pine, de­cid­u­ous trees in­clud­ing maples and birch ( which bleed come spring if you leave this job much later). Flow­er­ing shrubs that have bloomed late this sea­son should be pruned now. Rose of Sharon, asters and mums bloom bet­ter next year when pruned now. We don’t prune or­na­men­tal grasses or hy­drangeas un­til spring. And we post­pone ap­ple prun­ing un­til late win­ter.

Get all of that? Re­mem­ber to sit and ab­sorb the re­main­ing weeks in your gar­den be­fore the snow flies. Al­low the ef­fects of na­ture to seep into your bones. Spring is a long way off.


Evan­ge­line Mid­dle School stu­dents Mag­gie McMul­lian and Lu­cas Bergevin learned how to change a tire dur­ing a Skilled Fu­tures in Trades & Tech work­shop hosted at NSCC King­stec Nov. 2. An­napo­lis Val­ley Re­gional School Board stu­dents Kay­den Up­shaw, Ben...


The Cullen fam­ily en­cour­ages peo­ple to rake leaves onto gar­dens in­stead of bag­ging them up and ship­ping them off.

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