Master Gardener Plant Expo 2017


This year’s sale day is sure to be fun for seasoned gardeners and novice gardeners alike!

The plant sale will feature the ever-popular Rutgers Master Gardener home-grown perennials, trees and shrubs and a garden market of plant material sold by selected top-notch nurseries from New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

This is a unique opportunity to talk with vendors and purchase a wide assortment of native plants, woody ornamentals, perennials, herbs, annuals and tropical plants. This year we will welcome a new local vendor featuring certified organic plants. Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes (Rutgers varieties and heirlooms) as well as many hot pepper varieties will be in abundance.

Mercer County Horticulturist Barbara J. Bromley will be answering gardening questions and Rutgers Master Gardeners will be on hand to help choose the right plant for the right place.

Click here for a scalable map and location guide:

2017 Plant Expo Map

Plan to come early for best selection and stay to enjoy every aspect of Expo. This event will be held rain or shine and there is plenty of free parking. Credit cards, personal checks and cash are accepted at the sale.

Check out some of this year’s selections below: 


Home-Grown Plants

Master Gardener-grown plants are the most popular part of Plant Expo!

People line up very early to get the best selection of home-grown perennials, trees and shrubs and return year after year to check out the selection. Whether you have a shade garden or a sunny butterfly garden, you can find something of interest in the Home-Grown area. Of course, there is no guarantee that every variety will be available on sale day but there will be a wide assortment of plants.

Click below for list of home-grown plants for this year’s sale:

2017 Plant Expo Home-Grown Plant Selections


Jersey Tomatoes!

Home-grown tomatoes and peppers will be in abundance, including the popular Rutgers tomato varieties, Rutgers, Ramapo, Moreton, Rutgers 250, KC-146 and Rutgers 39. Rutgers Master Gardener Bruce Young has started the tomatoes and peppers from seed for the sale and has potted up over 1,000 tomatoes. Along with the Rutgers varieties of tomatoes there will be lots heirloom varieties. Patio, cherry, and plum, to name a few types, will be available for purchase. Popular and some different Hot pepper varieties will be offered.

Click below for list of tomatoes and peppers being grown for this year’s sale:

2017 Plant Expo Tomatoes 

2017 Plant Expo Peppers

We will try hard to have each variety listed available on sale day but there are no guarantees!


Select Local Plant Vendors

Our hand-picked plant purveyors offer a variety of plants uniquely suited for local gardens.    

This is a unique opportunity to talk with vendors and purchase a wide assortment of native plants, woody ornamentals, perennials, herbs, annuals and tropical plants. This year we will welcome a new local vendor featuring certified organic plants.

To view a list of our select group of local plant purveyors, click here: 

2017 Plant Expo Vendors


Second-Hand Sale 


The ever popular Second-Hand Sale of garden-related items will be back this year. Pots galore, baskets and books to name a few, will definitely be available this year.  There are always a few surprises and you really never know what treasure you might find.


Pest Alert: What You Need to Know About the Emerald Ash Borer

Emerald Ash Borer adult (Photo State of NJ Department of Agriculture)

The exotic emerald ash borer (EAB) has been killing ash trees across North America. Native to China, eastern Russia, Japan, and Korea, it was first discovered near Detroit in 2002 and has since spread to 25 states, including New Jersey.

Ash in New Jersey Facts

• Forests contain 24.7 million ash trees

• 24% of all forested land contains ash

• Ash is found in forests throughout the state, but concentrated in northern New Jersey

• Ash has been commonly planted as a street and landscape tree throughout the state

EAB: Deadly Damage to Millions of Trees

This metallic green insect infests and kills ash trees—all ash species are susceptible, with the exception of mountain ash. EAB larvae feed on the inner bark and disrupt the movement of water and nutrients, essentially girdling the tree. This insect often infests the upper branches of the tree first and may affect branches as small as 1” in diameter. It takes 2-4 years for infested trees to die, but mortality is imminent.

Since its discovery in North America, EAB has spread rapidly. It occurs in 25 states and 2 Canadian provinces. It was first discovered in NJ in 2014. The greatest impact will be for community trees and privately owned trees. The beetles are strong fliers, and good at finding ash trees. When the beetle first arrived in Maryland, the infested area expanded about ½ mile per year. Often people unintentionally spread this insect when they move firewood from an infested area to a new location. Beetles and larvae also hitchhike to a new area in nursery trees and saw logs.

Is your tree an ash? Ash trees have compound leaves with five, seven, nine or 11 leaflets. See additional links at the end of this post to assist in determining if a tree is an ash, or contact your local Rutgers Cooperative Extension office. (Photo State of NJ Department of Agriculture)

 

What to Look for: Signs and Symptoms

Often the first sign that a tree is infested is woodpecker damage. When feeding on EAB, woodpeckers scrape off outer bark, leaving smooth, light colored patches.

Several woodpecker species feed on EAB larvae. Heavy woodpecker damage on ash trees may be a sign of infestation. (Photo New Jersey EAB Task Force)

Under the bark of an infested tree, you can often see S-shaped galleries weaving back and forth on the surface of the wood.

Feeding EAB larvae leave serpentine galleries across the woodgrain. (Photo New Jersey EAB Task Force)

The beetles also leave 1/8” D-shaped exit holes. Between May and August, you may find the ½” long metallic green adult beetles which have a copper color abdomen under the wing covers.  For additional symptoms of EAB infestation, see  Signs and Symptoms of the Emerald Ash Borer

Adults leave D-shaped exit holes in the bark when they emerge in the spring. (Photo New Jersey EAB Task Force)

Managing Your Ash Trees

EAB is in New Jersey. Plan for EAB now if you have ash. Know what’s at risk: how much ash you have, its size and quality, and where it’s located. Consider the ecological, aesthetic, and economic value of your ash, your tolerance of risk, and your objectives for ownership.  Use the assessment tool below to determine your best course of action:

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Forest Management

If your land is enrolled in Farmland Assessment or the Forest Stewardship Programs, you must follow your approved forest management plan or an approved amendment. Contact your consulting forester if you wish to change your planned activities, treatment schedule, or management objectives. Remember that the state forester needs to approve any changes before the management activity begins.

With an approved forest management plan that addresses EAB, you can salvage and restore ash in riparian areas when they follow the prescribed Best Management Practices. Reassess your plan if EAB is detected in or near your county. To date, EAB has been found in Somerset, Mercer and Burlington Counties. The threat of imminent tree mortality increases when EAB is within 10 miles of your property.

Take Action: What You Can Do

EAB adults emerging from D-shaped holes in the bark. (Photo by Debbie Miller)

Identify ash trees. Ash species have opposite branches and leaves and a compound leaf with 5-11 leaflets. The bark has a unique diamond-shaped ridge bark on older trees, but younger trees may have smoother bark.
Monitor your ash trees for EAB, you will know when the risk of mortality becomes urgent. Look for the dying branches at the top of the tree, woodpecker damage, galleries under the bark, D-shaped holes, green adult beetle, and sprouting.

Spread the message, “Don’t Move Firewood.” Visitors who bring infested firewood to second homes or campgrounds near you put your trees at risk. Talk with neighbors and campground owners in your community.

Damaging EAB larvae are creamy white and legless.

Report EAB sightings to the NJ Department of Agriculture. Collect and/or photograph any suspect insects and larvae. Note that several insects look similar to the EAB.


Over the next few years, 99% of NJ ash trees will die due to emerald ash borer infestations


Where to Get More Information

NJ residents are encouraged to visit the New Jersey Emerald Ash Borer websitewww.emeraldashborer.nj.gov where they can find resources on how to protect their ash trees and what to do with dead or dying trees.

Additional information on EAB:

Garden Wars:  Dealing with Deer

 

IMG_0681When it comes to garden pests, deer have long been Public Enemy No.1 here in central Jersey. Their unrelenting browsing disfigures trees, reduces shrubs to nubs, and obliterates our lovingly-tended beds and borders. With deer populations soaring and native habitats shrinking, deer have become a source of constant frustration for many gardeners.

So what’s a Garden State gardener to do about this gnawing problem?

While there is no simple formula for battling deer damage, don’t raise the white flag just yet.  Try some of these deer defying tactics instead.  They might be all you need to make peace with the local herd.

Don’t give up on gardening just because deer have been snacking on your landscaping.  While nothing is foolproof, there are strategies that can moderate deer damage.

Dine or Dash? It Pays to Plant Smart

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As a general rule, deer tend to avoid anything in the onion family, which includes these allium. (Photo by David Byers)

To help New Jersey residents make smarter choices about the plants they install in their gardens, the folks at Rutgers Agricultural Experiment station have put together the ultimate tool for gardening in deer territory.

They’ve indexed hundreds of popular plants—all of which grow and thrive in our area– and rated them by deer resistance.  But the best part is: you can tailor their list to unearth exactly the type of plants your garden needs!  Were your annuals annihilated?  Your perennials pulverized? Using the Rutgers online tool, just search for “annuals” (or perennials, trees, shrubs, etc.) and voila: a list of deerly-detested plants pops up.  Or maybe you’re considering adding a certain plant to your garden and are wondering if it is destined to be deer fodder?  You can search for it by name (using either the common name or the Latin name) and see its degree of deer delectability.

So why not do a little “browsing” of your own for a change!  Click the link below to delve into Rutgers’ deer diet database:

Plants Rated by Deer Resistance

For a printable, quick-reference list of the Rutgers info, download: Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance

Zinnia

Zinnia, are among the plants rated as “Seldom Severely Damaged” by deer. (Photo by Margaret Montplaisir)

Azalea

Azalea  are listed among plants rated “Frequently Severely Damaged” by deer.  (Photo by Joe Scarlata)

Now that you’re armed with an arsenal of deer-distained plants, does that mean any plants tagged with the dreaded “Frequently Severely Damaged” designation are off limits?  Hardly. It just means they’re best planted with a little “additional protection.”  What kind of protection?  Read on…

On Guard: Fencing 101

The most effective, long-term solution for thwarting Bambi and his plant-munching kin is definitely fencing. No other tactic is as successful at eliminating deer from the garden.  That said, fences only work if properly built and maintained.

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Fear the Fence: Even though deer can easily jump fences under 8 feet tall, they are normally hesitant to jump into small plots, or spaces that don’t allow them to see their landing spot–for fear they won’t be able to get out. (Photo by Margaret Montplaisir)

To successfully thwart deer incursions, fences should be at least 8 feet high, kept taut, and have no gaps.  And it goes without saying that the fence must completely enclose the area you are trying to shield. Forget about fencing only one side of the property or thinking a small or remote break will go unnoticed. If there are any open sections, rest assured deer will find a way through.

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An obvious–though commonly missed– component of effective deer fencing is to make sure gates are always kept securely closed. (Photo by Anne Zeman)

On the Fence About Which Enclosure You Need?

There are many types of deer fencing available–from solid stockade barriers to nearly invisible plastic mesh screens.

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Wire fencing is long lasting and highly resistant to damage. It is also expensive to purchase and install, but can be a cost effective way to protect valuable plantings. (Photo by Anne Zeman)

Which style you choose depends on: your budget, the size of the area you are trying to protect, and the level of deer damage in your area.  Also, if your property is in any way hilly, preventing gaps can be a challenging but necessary issue to address.

Regardless of the type you select, deer fencing must be properly anchored to the ground. Unlikely as it may seem, given the choice, deer are more likely to crawl under a fence than to jump over it.

Deer are opportunists and will push through any breach they find, so it’s important to examine fences frequently and fix any holes or gaps.

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Fencing made of plastic netting is generally less expensive, and less visually obtrusive. (Photo by Anne Zeman)

There are some types of deer fencing that you can install yourself, but others–like high-tensile wire fences—require special skills and might be best left in the hands of experienced contractors.

While deer fencing can be expensive, you may find that the one-time cost of a permanent 8-ft. fence is well worth the price given the peace of mind and years of damage-free gardening it can provide.

To learn more about deer fencing, see:

High-Tensile Woven Wire Fences for Reducing Wildlife Damage

How to Build a Plastic Mesh Deer Exclusion Fence

Low-Cost Slant Fence Excludes Deer from Plantings

 

Amping up Deer Deterrence

Another type of deer exclusion is electric fencing. Built specifically to handle deer, high voltage electric fences can prove very effective in keeping them out. As with any fencing, proper installation and maintenance are key.

Before you consider this type of exclusion, you should know that the use of electric fencing is generally not an option in residential areas, although it is often permitted in rural locales.

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Portable electric fencing consists of conductive strands of stainless steel and nylon cord which are kept separated by plastic supports (b) a foot apart to form a “mesh-like” barrier. Fiberglass posts (c) are coupled with 5-inch steel spikes to allow them to be hand pushed into the ground to support the fence. (Illustration from Rutgers’ Portable Electric Fencing Fact Sheet #888)

Under the right circumstances, electric fences can be both effective and cost-efficient.  But for safety and effectiveness, it’s best to have electric fences constructed by an experienced contractor.  The price of electric fencing can vary widely depending on the style of fencing used and the size of the area that needs protecting, so it pays to shop around.

For best results, electrify the fence immediately after installation and keep it electrified at all times. If an electric fence is turned off for several days, deer may learn to go through it.

Stop Gap Measures: Portable Electrics 

In addition to permanent electrified fencing, there are also portable electric fencing systems that can provide temporary protection for crops, gardens and landscaping. Most often used in smaller areas, they offer the advantage of being easy to move around, dismantle, and reassemble as needed.

For more information, download Rutgers factsheet FS888, Portable Electric Fencing for Preventing Wildlife Damage

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Deer fences of any design must be checked regularly. Repairs to damaged or broken fencing should be made promptly to prevent any gaps that might allow deer to squeeze through. (Photo by Calleen Parson)

Net Gains: Protecting Individual Plants

Electrified or not, the biggest drawback to full-on deer fencing is cost. But in areas where deer density is less intense, a more cost-efficient approach might be to only “fence in” those plants that tend to get hit the hardest. Young trees, for example, are particularly sensitive to deer damage and often do not survive intensive deer browsing.  Individual trees can be protected from damage by surrounding them with tree shelters or wire cages that keep vulnerable trunks and lower branches out of the DMZ (Deer Mutilation Zone.)

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Young trees are particularly sensitive to deer damage. Protect trees below “browse line,” from ground to lower limbs.

You can remove this type of fencing once trees have branched beyond the reach of deer, or you can leave it in place to keep bucks from using young trees as their personal scratching posts when removing the felt from their antlers in the fall.

Admittedly, tree shelters and wire cages are not the most attractive additions to a home landscape, but if the damage you’re experiencing is extensive enough, and the plant you are shielding is important enough, you may be able to “look past” the wiring in order to keep your prized plant alive.

For the Birds: Help for Low Growing Plants

Another low-investment way to protect vulnerable plants and shrubs is through the use of flexible plastic or “bird” netting. Like wire caging, it too provides temporary protection for vulnerable plants but it is often less noticeable (especially from a distance) than enclosures made of hefty metal wire.

Lightweight and less substantial than wire mesh, plastic netting tends to works best in areas where deer browsing is relatively light.  It is typically used to cover low-growing shrubs, groups of plants, or seasonally-harvested berries and fruit.  To keep netting from blowing away and to avoid gaps, use wooden stakes or zip ties to anchor the netting over plants.

For additional information on  the use of bird netting, as well as other types of deer fencing, see: Deer Damage Management Techniques —  Exclusion Methods.

Scent-sible Solutions: Using Deer Repellents

If exclusion is not a viable option for you, repellents can be a comparatively low-cost way to steer deer from your prized plants.  Repellents basically use either an unpleasant taste or odor to teach deer to avoid the yucky stuff in your yard and search out less noxious noshes elsewhere.

Repellents come in a variety of forms –from homemade concoctions to commercial ready-to-use sprays. Some are applied directly to plants and repel deer by taste. Others deter deer by scent, and are meant to keep deer from a specific area rather than a specific plant.

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One deer repelling technique used by Master Gardeners at Mercer Educational Gardens, is to string absorbent barrier tape around the perimeter of each garden. The tape is then sprayed with deer repellents. Stakes ensure that the tape stays taut and is held right about deer nose level –30 inches from the ground.

Regardless, of the type or technique you use, repellents are most effective when applied before damage occurs. They also work best over relatively small areas when deer populations are on the low side.

Re-application is key for all repellents, since they tend to wear off over time and wash off quickly with rain and snow.  But even with good upkeep, deer tend to get used to repellents over time, so it’s a good idea to switch to a different type of repellent — or at least one with a different active ingredient–at least once a year.

Many gardeners find that a combination of odor- and taste-based repellents provide the best benefit.  For more information see:

Deer Control in Home Gardens – Repellents

Using commercial deer repellents

Repellents can reduce damage, but will not entirely eliminate damage. Deer will eat just about anything when food sources are limited.

Scare Tactics

Another strategy that might be worth a try involves devices that attempt to spook deer.  Things like motion-activated sprinklers, strobe lights, and even radios have been known to send deer high-tailing for more peaceful parts.

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Skittish by nature, deer will often turn tail and bolt when faced with loud or startling sights and sounds.

But more often than not, scare tactics only work for a short period of time.  After that, deer become accustomed to them and don’t even flinch. Sometimes though, scare tactics can give you just enough protection to allow a young plant to become established or a specific crop to be harvested.

A word to the wise: When it comes to using noise-makers, permits may be required in some areas. Check with local ordinances before installing them and–at the very least–clear it with any near-by neighbors.

 Yelp Help: Using Dogs to Control Deer

Deer prefer calm, quiet areas for grazing– so a loud, barking dog in the yard can sometimes be enough to drive them off. Dog deterrence is most effective when combined with those “invisible” dog fences that allow pups to freely patrol an area and harass  intruders as they attempt to move through.

Of course, dogs are only effective at discouraging deer when they are out and about at the same time as the deer. Given that deer often feed during the wee hours, in order to successfully ward off any late-night intrusions, dogs must have access to the yard at all hours.

Good as dogs can be at sending deer packing, in practice, a combination of deterrents might be more effective than relying on Fido alone.

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Dogs can be very effective at repelling deer, provided they spend most of their time outdoors– and are actually interested in driving off deer. (Some dogs are more “vigilant” than others.)

Committing to Co-existing with Deer

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Deer are a fact of life here in New Jersey, but by experimenting with different deer deterring strategies, you can enjoy your garden AND co-exist with any doe-eyed visitors that may wander your way.

Regardless, of the type of deterrence you deploy, when it comes to dealing with deer there are no quick fixes.  So it pays to pick your battles.

Reconsidering how much damage you can live may be the first step in deciding which of the above methods will work best for your yard.  It may be worth approaching deer damage with the same attitude you adopt when addressing other garden challenges– like weeds, insects or even noisy neighbors.  Sometimes just changing your level of tolerance can go a long way toward a more peaceful gardening experience.

It may also help to know that things aren’t always as grim as they sometimes appear:

  • Even though deer damage can look devastating in mid-winter and early spring–when browsing is at its most intense–in many instances, plants will eventually rebound.
  • Corrective pruning can often minimize tree distortion; and, in the case of antler damage, as long as the bark has not been rubbed off around the entire trunk, there’s still a chance that the plant will be able to heal itself.
  • In the spirit of live and let live, there may be some circumstances in which you can plant some “extras” that you wouldn’t mind “sharing”

 Balancing Those Near and Deer

In the heat of “the battle for the backyard,” we can sometimes lose sight of the fact that deer are appearing more frequently in our yards because we have taken over much of their territory and removed many of the native plants that they need to survive.

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Photo courtesy of Mercer County Wildlife Center

To be responsible gardeners, it’s important that we strive to balance the environmental consequences of what we do in the garden with the needs of the larger ecosystem—always seeking to do the most good while inflicting the least harm.

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Photo Mercer County Wildlife Center

To learn more, see:  Responsible Gardening.

For additional info  about deer in New Jersey, download: An Overview of White-Tailed Deer Status and Management in New Jersey

 

Falling into Place: Fall Tasks to Get Your Garden Ready for Winter

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Photo by Betty Scarlatta

Another gardening season has come to a close, but there are still a few things left to do before it’s time to hang up your trugs and trowels till spring.  And while it may be tempting to just call it quits, getting around to some of these tasks now will make your gardening life easier in the spring –when your list of garden to-do’s will be even longer than it is at this time of year. So grab a sweatshirt, pull on your warm hat – -and get on out there!

Check out our checklist for what needs to be done now to help your garden weather the winter ahead:

green-ckConstruct a compost bin or pile

Things are piling up –in a good way! A compost bin not only makes fall cleanup easier by corralling yard debris, it offers a big garden payoff once these materials break down. A win-win! Recycling fallen leaves and other garden waste into compost yields “garden gold” aka, compost: a rich dark,  soil amendment that improves soil and helps plants grow.  If you don’t already have one, fall is a great time to start a compost pile. For how-tos, see: Composting at Home.

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Not sure which type of composter is right for you?  More than 20 different composting methods are on display at Mercer Educational Gardens. Each bin is maintained by a Master Gardener team and displays advantages and disadvantages right next to it. The site is open dawn to dusk, and offers self-guided tours so would-be  compost creators can determine which type best suits their needs. Photo by Joe Scarlata.

 

green-ckCompost backyard leaves.

Leave the leaves on the lawn: Why not skip the rake altogether this year and instead, use the mulching blade on your lawnmower to grind up a thin (up to 4”) layer of leaves and leave them on the lawn? If the layer of leaves is too thick, you can remove most of them from the grass and compost them separately. (They will decompose more quickly if you put them through a shredder or run them over with a lawn mower first.)  Oak leaves or other non-packing leaves can be used as mulch around roses and other shrubs.  For more, see: Using Leaf Compost, or download  Backyard Leaf Composting.

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Skip the rake and leave the leaves! Mowing over fallen leaves with a mulching mower or a mulching attachment, chops leaves into smaller pieces that break down easier. Photo by Catherine Horgan

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Destroy any plants in poor condition.

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When cutting back plants in the fall, avoid adding plants with known diseases or pest problems to the compost pile. Photo by Margaret Montplaisir

Banish the blight: Get rid of any plants that are are diseased, insect-infested, or in otherwise poor condition. Prune back any perennials prone to disease, and pull out any weeds you find so weed seeds don’t get a chance to germinate and take over any open ground in spring. Chop up any healthy garden residue and add it to the compost pile.

Just remember to destroy, and not compost, any diseased or infested plant material.

green-ckLeave some spent plant material for wildlife.

Welcome winter visitors:  Support a wholesome ecosystem by not doing too good of a job “cleaning” this fall. Leave healthy stems and grasses in place for wildlife. Perennial stalks and ornamental grasses not only add interest to the winter landscape but also serve as hiding places for insect-eating toads and loads of over-wintering beneficial insects.

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Leaving some grasses and stems not only provides winter interest, but can also serve as additional winter mulch, and help trap blowing snow and leaves. Photo by Eunice Wilkinson

And don’t forget the birds! Birds love to feast on the seeds of certain common flowers like coneflowers and black-eyed Susan. So why not leave them a wintertime treat and give yourself something to look at in the garden during the winter months?

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Overwintering birds rely on the seedheads of dried perennials, like these black-eyed Susans. Photo by Eunice Wilkinson.

While you’re at it, consider hanging up a bird house or two, and setting out some feeders to provide food and shelter for overwintering flocks.

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Residents of this bird house will be sitting pretty this winter, snugly surrounded by plenty of native trees, plants and grasses. Photo by Eunice Wilkinson

Keeping a heated birdbath or other water source filled and thawed will be a boon to birds when other water sources are frozen solid.

green-ckStore tender bulbs, plants, and seeds.

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In the fall, dig up canna rhizomes, cut the stems back to 2-3 inches, and let them dry. Leave them in a box in a cool part of the house where they will not freeze, such as a basement where the temperatures range between 40-50 degrees.

Annual retreat: Hold on to a little bit of summer by bringing less-than-hardy plants inside.  Store summer-blooming bulbs like dahlia, gladiolus, and canna (see also: Cannas )  in ventilated plastic bags in a cool, above-freezing spot.

You can also pot up your geraniums, wax begonias, lantana, rosemary, and other warm weather bloomers and grow them indoors. (See Keeping Geraniums Over Winter.)

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Many summer bloomers like geraniums can be potted up in the fall, overwintered indoors and then replanted in the spring. Photo by Margaret Montplaisir.

Tender annual flower seeds from this year’s garden can be collected, stored, and used next year. (For more info, download: Grow Your Own Vegetable and Flower Seedlings.)

Don’t bother saving seeds from hybrid varieties of annuals, perennials or vegetables though. Hybrid plants grown from seed might not have the characteristics of the original plant.

green-ckMow lawns until growth stops.

Before the lawn starts to yawn:  Keep on mowing until around Thanksgiving. This final mowing can be 2” to 2 ½” high. Don’t remove the clippings unless the mower is also used to pick up fallen leaves.

Give the lawn its final fertilization in November or early December and eliminate the need for spring fertilizing until May. This also helps reduce the incidence of lawn diseases that are influenced by heavy nitrogen applications in early spring. Many fall turf fertilizers contain a higher level of potassium, which is important for winter hardiness and disease resistance.

 

green-ckPull away any mulch around trunks of trees and shrubs.

Stop the (mulch) madness:  Mulch that touches the trunks of trees invites fungus and insect problems, causes abnormal root growth, and may harbor “varmints,” such as voles, which eat tender bark and roots in winter. Maintain a “doughnut of mulch” around trees by keeping at least 4 inches between the mulch and the trunk. For more info, see: Problems with Over-Mulching Trees and Shrubs and Mulch for the Home Grounds.


Planning on buying a potted or balled and burlapped Christmas tree and planting it outdoors after the holidays? Be sure to dig the hole before the ground freezes. Place the soil in a box and store it where it won’t freeze. Then cover the hole with a plywood sheet or fill the hole with leaves or mulch until after the holidays when you’re ready to plant it.

green-ckProtect small or marginally hardy plants

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Winter injury can occur on a broad range of evergreen and deciduous plants like these arborvitae. To prevent breakage, wrap them with soft twine, pantyhose, or broad tape. Photo by Betty Scarlata.

Support your local trees and shrubs:  Protect any plants or broadleaved evergreens that might be prone to winter burn. Try using a burlap screen supported by stakes to surround and protect them. Just be sure to put the stakes in the ground before the ground freezes in November. The burlap can be tacked to the stakes when the weather takes its inevitable turn in late December.

Multi-trunked or multi-stemmed evergreens, such as tall juniper, arborvitae, boxwood, and yews may split under the weight of wet snow or ice.  Lend them some support by wrapping soft twine, pantyhose, or broad tape around them.  Board shelters (a-frame structures like the sandwich boards used to advertise local delis) can be used to cover shrubs that are prone to snow damage–especially plants sited under the eaves of the house where they can get clobbered by snow sliding off the roof.

green-ckTest garden soil

Time to get testy:  Fall is a great time to have soil tests run. (Just be sure to collect soil samples before the ground gets too hard to dig.) Test results will arm you with important information like the proper pH and nutrient levels for lawns and gardens and since the recommendations are customized to your yard, will spell out exactly how to amend your soil for a better garden next year.  Word to the wise: If test results indicate that your lawn needs lime, do not apply when the ground is frozen or snow covered.  (See: Soil Testing for more information.)

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Properly storing tools and equipment, like garden hoses, will make them easier to work with next year and last longer.

green-ckClean and store garden tools

Tool time: Clean, oil and repair garden tools and store them indoors. Drain the gas tank of the lawn mower and other gas-powered equipment after the last use or run the mower until it runs out of gas. Drain and store garden hoses and watering equipment. Turn on older outdoor faucets, then turn off the water from the inside line to prevent pipes from freezing. (Some hose bibs turn off inside the house, so water drains out and pipes are not in danger of freezing.)

 

green-ckStart planning for next year

Sweet dreams for a long winter’s nap:  Once you’ve put your garden to bed, it’s time to cozy up inside and…start thinking about next year!  When winter winds are howling outside, gardeners can nurture  budding garden dreams by digging into some wonderful garden books and lingering over plant and seed catalogs, (a place to start: Mail Order Vegetable Seed Sources for the New Jersey Gardener)

 

Looking to up your garden game? Check out some gardening seminars and workshops over the winter and expand your gardening know-how for the season to come. (A great one one to try from Rutgers Master Gardeners:  Refresh. Renew. Restore. A Garden Symposium)

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Winter reading can provide just the inspiration you need to get through the frosty days ahead. Need a recommendation? Call the Master Gardener Helpline or join us for our annual garden Symposium in March where you can peruse the book sale for our garden must-reads. Photo by David Byers.

There are lots of other horticultural events and workshops throughout the winter that can fill you with inspiration and help you get through those long gray months when spring seems so far away. Browse our Upcoming Events section for a look at what’s next.

Ready to take your gardening skills to the next level? 

Why not become a Master Gardener and share your love of gardening with your whole community?

Find out how here:  Become a Master Gardener

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Join us! Master Gardeners volunteer their time, talent and passion for gardening to make the world a greener place. Among our labors of love is maintenance of Mercer County Educational Gardens, (above) a living affirmation of the beauty of  responsible gardening. Photo by Joe Scarlata.

 


References:

Preparing the Garden for Winter