Time to put your gar­den to bed for up­com­ing win­ter

Calgary Herald - - YOU - BILL BROOKS

The win­ter that wouldn’t end. Record-break­ing heat. Avo­ca­do­sized hail. Haz­ardous air qual­ity in­dexes above 10. The only thing Mother Na­ture didn’t throw at us was a plague of lo­custs.

The 2018 gar­den­ing year was a chal­lenge. One could be for­given for reach­ing for the gin be­fore noon.

And yet, we Cal­gary gar­den­ers are a hearty lot (op­ti­mistic?) and will sur­vive to gar­den an­other year. There are gar­den­ing tasks to be un­der­taken now be­fore it’s all over for the sea­son and the un­wel­come F word (frost) black­ens peren­ni­als and an­nu­als.

An­nual con­tain­ers will be tired­look­ing shortly — if not al­ready. You can, how­ever, en­joy one last pop of colour by re­plac­ing sum­mer an­nu­als with fall-flow­er­ing mums on sale at box stores and gar­den cen­tres.

An­nual grasses are widely avail­able as well and pro­vide the thriller com­po­nent in con­tain­ers. Wa­ter­ing is Job 1 — even this time of the year, but I don’t bother fer­til­iz­ing as the last con­tainer show will be short-lived.

Speak­ing of wa­ter­ing, a slow, deep soak­ing of peren­ni­als, shrubs and trees will pro­duce wel­come re­sults next spring and sum­mer. And the op­er­a­tive words here are slow and deep. A soaker hose is the best tool for this.

Trees and shrubs can be pruned now or you might con­sider wait­ing un­til the de­cid­u­ous trees have lost their leaves as this al­lows the “bones” of the tree to stand out. Branches that are crossed and rub­bing against each other should be re­moved, as well as those in­fected with black knot. Make sure to de­stroy black knot-in­fected branches and do not put them in the re­cy­cle bin nor com­post pile.

Which peren­ni­als to leave un­til spring and which to cut back are a mat­ter of per­sonal choice. I choose to cut pe­onies and lilies to the base but leave del­phinium and lark­spur as these pro­vide win­ter in­ter­est. That, and leav­ing peren­ni­als as they are will help col­lect snow and ame­lio­rate some of the prob­lems the chi­nook freeze/thaw cy­cle can cause. Cut­ting lilies to the base, espe­cially Asi­atic va­ri­eties, helps re­duce the chance of the dreaded lily bee­tle tak­ing hold next year.

Now is the per­fect time to plant hardy peren­ni­als as well. Many are rea­son­ably priced at box stores and gar­den cen­tres. Make sure to wa­ter in well and mulch around the base. Mulching your en­tire peren­nial bed with leaves is a good thing to do once the leaves have fallen from the trees. This keeps mois­ture in the ground and helps pre­vent peren­ni­als from heav­ing out of the ground.

There can be noth­ing more up­lift­ing than the first flush of springflow­er­ing bulbs. Tulips, al­li­ums, cro­cus and iris should be planted within the next two to three weeks. These bulbs/tu­bers look much bet­ter when planted en masse and ben­e­fit greatly from the ad­di­tion of bone meal to the plant­ing hole. If squir­rels are a prob­lem, chicken wire placed on top of the soil af­ter plant­ing keeps these crit­ters from nip­ping at the bulbs.

And fi­nally, give the lawn one fi­nal cut but leave it a lit­tle longer than you usu­ally would to help col­lect snow. Whether or not to fall-win­ter fer­til­ize is, I think, a mat­ter of per­sonal choice as I have not seen a dra­matic dif­fer­ence be­tween those lawns fer­til­ized ver­sus those not.

Here’s hop­ing the Farmer’s Al­manac fore­cast for the im­pend­ing mother of all win­ters is wrong. Gin be­fore noon sounds just fine if they are cor­rect.

Gar­den­ing in Cal­gary can be a chal­lenge yet there can be noth­ing more grat­i­fy­ing than plant ma­te­rial at its peak in the sum­mer. An it’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore this im­age will turn into the im­age be­low.

The Farmer’s Al­manac is pre­dict­ing a harsh win­ter is in store. Lots of snow is, how­ever, a good thing for the gar­den as mois­ture lev­els have been low for a num­ber of years.

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