Fall Clean-up Tip: GRASSES: Cutting back ornamental grasses in fall can be harmful to them since freezing temperatures and cold snow lying on the crown on the plant can “hollow” them out. Grasses should be cut back in late March/early April once the threat of frost is gone and before new growth appears. If you want to tidy up your ornamental grasses, cut them back half-way in fall and leave the remainder of cutting back to spring. Leaving the grass during the wintertime also provides interest to the garden while preventing damage to its center.
The same technique should be used for maintaining Liriope (Lillyturf). Prolonged freezing temperatures can do damage to the crown of the plant, so it is best to leave the pruning until early spring when first signs of new growth appear.
Other ornamental grasses such as Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) die back in winter but do look attractive in the landscape The same principles apply and pruning is best when performed in late winter/early spring.
The temperatures are dropping rapidly here in the northeast and it is time to apply anti-desiccant spray to your broad-leaved evergreens to protect them from winter damage.
What is desiccation?: Certain broad-leaved evergreens are susceptible to winter burn and drying from harsh winter winds here on Long Island and anywhere where winter temperatures drop below freezing. Desiccation, or extreme drying is caused by moisture loss from the leaves by transpiration. A precautionary measure for this drying is the use of an anti-desiccant, which can help to prevent damage to your landscape plants. Anti-desiccant spray is an organic based spray application that lasts for approximately three months throughout the winter, and helps to prevent water loss from your evergreens.
Which plants should be sprayed with an anti-desiccant?: Apply an anti-desiccant spray to your broad-leaved evergreens such as holly, rhododendron, cherry laurel, skip laurel, mountain laurel, Japanese skimmia, leucothoe, aucuba and boxwood when the daytime temperatures start falling below 50 degrees (around Thanksgiving here in zone 7 Long Island). Apply when the temperatures are above freezing and there is no threat of rain or frost within 24 hours. (This tip applies to areas going into their winter season-temperatures dropping below freezing: 0 degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit.)
When to Apply: Apply anti-desiccant when the daytime temperatures start falling below 50 degrees (late fall/early winter). Apply when the temperatures are above freezing and there is no threat of rain or frost within 24 hours.
Dangers: Be sure to read all directions on the label since anti-desiccants can cause photo toxicity on some narrow needled evergreens such as Arborvitae and Spruce that could cause more harm than winter burn. Spraying in freezing temperatures will do harm to the plant. Do not spray in freezing temperatures and allow time to dry before temperatures drop below 32oF or 0oC.
How often should I apply anti-desiccant?: Sudden warm spells can trigger your evergreens to open their pores allowing for more water loss. If there is a winter thaw part way through the season it is recommended to re-spray your plants but only if the temperatures are to remain above freezing for at least 24 hours.
Where do I purchase anti-desiccant?: The most commonly used brands of anti-desiccant are Wilt-Pruf, Vapor Guard and Transfilm that can be found in nurseries and garden centers. There is a new brand of anti-desiccant on the market which requires only one application. Ask your landscape professional for more information.
Time is running out to apply anti-desiccant to your broad-leaf evergreens such as Cherry Laurel, Skip Laurel, Holly, Boxwood, Rhododendron, Azalea and Japanese Aucuba. Anti-desiccant coats the leaves with a protective covering and prevents against winter desiccation/moisture loss and possible damage from drying winds and cold, which broad-leaved evergreens are prone to. Ideally, temperatures should be in the 50’s to apply with no freezing temperatures in the forecast for the next several hours. The best time to apply is now in late November, right around Thanksgiving. Don’t worry…there is still time. Just make sure the temperatures remain above freezing when applying!
If your evergreen’s inner needles are suddenly turning from a healthy looking green to shades of yellow, orange and brownish-red in late summer and fall there is little need for concern…it is all part of a natural process. Each year evergreens will produce new foliage in spring and they prepare by shedding their older foliage in the previous late summer and fall. Shedding of needles and foliage is a natural process that evergreens go through as a way of preparing for new growth once the weather warms. As the days become shorter and temperatures lower evergreens go through a slight dormant period similar to deciduous trees and shrubs. Many evergreens such as pine, cedar, Chamaecyparis (Hinoki Cypress), Thuja (Arborvitae), fir, hemlock and spruce lose some of their needles every year and may go through a major shedding every three to five years.
To examine, look at your tree carefully. Older foliage is shed first so the losses should generally be from the inside out and not at the tips. Prior to shedding the needles appear from green to yellow, orange and eventually brown, remaining on the tree until the process is complete. The actual amount of needle shed on the tree or shrub varies depending on the growing season, temperature changes and amount of rainfall, and can sometimes be sudden. Often the change is unnoticeable but generally the drier the season or more drastic the temperature change the more noticeable the needle shed, a natural cleaning process leading to new growth in the spring.
Other species of evergreens in the broadleaf category can also shed their leaves. Evergreens such as holly and laurel retain their leaves for only one year and rhododendron and azalea for one to two years. Leaves will appear yellow before falling but at some times may go unnoticed if new leaves conceal old foliage. This process usually occurs in spring when new growth is appearing but can happen at other times of the year as well. If the whole tree or entire sections of your conifer are turning brown then there is cause for concern and you should have a certified arborist or landscape professional examine it. Otherwise, fall yellowing or browning at the base or inner branches closer to the trunk seldom indicates a serious problem, but is more often part of the natural life cycle of the tree.
Here is a review of some basic gardening tips and chores as winter approaches.
Watering During Fall & Winter: Plants, especially evergreens require moisture throughout the colder months. Moisture is often provided by occasional rain or snow cover (which also provides insulation for the roots of your plants). It is a common misbelief that is unnecessary to water in winter; however, once the ground freezes it is difficult for water to percolate down to the roots. Dehydration can result from the lack of water. Deciduous trees go dormant but evergreens remain somewhat active and require some moisture for survival. Water as much as possible before the ground freezes, especially if you have new plantings and if there is a period of drought water when the ground thaws.
Anti-Desiccant Spray: Certain broad leaf evergreens such as cherry laurel, skip laurel, mountain laurel, boxwood, euonymus, holly, rhododendron, Japanese skimmia, leucothoe and aucuba can be subject to severe winter burn due to water loss from the leaves by transpiration. When the daytime temperatures start falling below 50 degrees it is time to apply an anti-desiccant spray such as wiltpruf to protect these plants. Apply when the temperatures are above freezing and there is no threat of rain or frost within 24 hours. (This tip applies to areas going into their winter season-temperatures dropping below freezing: 0 degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit.) If there is a prolonged thaw in mid-winter it may be time to re-apply anti-desiccant spray to your broad leaf evergreens, especially if there are more prolonged freezing temperatures on the way.
Pruning Ornamental Grasses: Ornamental grasses can add much interest to the winter landscape and should not be cut all the way back for winter. It is best to cut your grasses back in late March to early April in order to protect the roots from frost which could do damage. If your grasses become unsightly by the end of the fall simply prune back the plumes and leave the rest for early spring. Another trick is to wrap a bungee cord about half way up around the center and let the grasses drape over keeping them upright and in place.
Weeding: A little preventive weeding in fall can give your garden a good start to spring. Some weeds tend to multiply in the cooler temperatures and if not tended to can be a nuisance in the warmer months. On a milder day when temperatures are above freezing weeds can be removed easily and should be disposed to prevent spores/seeds from spreading elsewhere. Also decaying foliage from perennials and around plants should be removed to as a preventive to fungal infection.
Frost Heaving: In sustained below freezing temperatures followed by thaw the soil expands upwards from the ground causing plants to push upwards exposing the crown. This is known as frost heaving. Certain plants such as Heuchera (Coral Bells) and Liriope are especially prone to this type of damage. As a preventive measure apply a mulch finishing to your garden beds. If frost heaving does occur slightly tap the soil back down and brush the mulch back around the exposed top of the plant to protect it from the cold.
Ice Damage to Branches: If snow piles up on your evergreens do not immediately shake the branches for it could cause breakage and damage. Try to carefully brush the snow away removing any excess weight. If the tree or shrub is covered with ice permit nature to take its course and allow the ice to melt naturally. If your trees or shrubs do suffer any damage from winter storms it is recommended to remove any broken limbs to avoid stress and disease to the plant. This can be done when the weather allows.
Garden Tool Care: Before storing your garden tools for winter clean them thoroughly with water and gently remove any built up soil to prevent corrosion. It is recommended to oil any moving parts on your pruners and loppers and spray any wooden handles on tools such as shovels with linseed oil in order to keep them from drying and cracking. It is also a good time to re-sharpen your shears, loppers and shovels so your tools will be all ready to go when spring arrives.
In Summary: Some simple preparation can go a long way especially in areas where winters are harsh. I have found these techniques to be very worthwhile and productive over the years and they should do the same for you! As always…happy gardening!
The temperatures are dropping rapidy here in the northeast and it is time to apply anti-desiccant spray to your broadleaf evergreens to proect them over the winter. It is actually too cold today to apply. Wait until the temperatures are going to remain above freeezing. (Read Below)
Anti-Desiccant Spray: Certain broadleaf evergreens are susceptible to winter burn and drying from harsh winter winds here on Long Island. Drying is caused by moisture loss from the leaves by transpiration and the spraying of an anti-desiccant can help to prevent damage to your landscape plants. Anti-desiccant spray is organic based and lasts for approximately three months throughout the winter and helps to prevent water loss from your evergreens. Apply an anti-desiccant spray to your broad-leaved evergreens such as holly, rhododendron, cherry laurel, skip laurel, mountain laurel, Japanese skimmia, leucothoe, aucuba and boxwood when the daytime temperatures start falling below 50 degrees (around mid-November here in zone 7 Long Island). Apply when the temperatures are above freezing and there is no threat of rain or frost within 24 hours. (This tip applies to areas going into their winter season-temperatures dropping below freezing: 0 degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit.)
Be sure to read all directions on the label since anti-desiccants can cause photo toxicity on some narrow needled evergreens such as Arborvitae and Spruce that could cause more harm than winter burn. Spraying in freezing temperatures will do harm to the plant. Do not spray in freezing temperatures and allow time to dry before temperatures drop below 32oF or 0oC.
If there is a prolonged thaw in mid-winter it may be time to re-apply anti-desiccant spray to your broad-leaved evergreens, especially if there are more prolonged freezing temperatures on the way. Following this simple procedure can prolong the lifetime and vitality of your landscape plants.
Changing leaves and cooling temperatures can only mean one thing. It’s time to complete the saving process. By now, elephant ears and canna have been drying out for about a week — and now I have to get them ready for their long winter’s nap.
The final step is pretty much the same for both elephant ears and canna. You will need peat moss, some kind of storage containers (like brown paper bags), a shovel, and a room that stays relatively dry and evenly cool so that the plants can be lulled into a deep sleep without freezing. If the final storage location is too damp or warm, the plants never get a chance to rest and they are at risk of rotting away — and after so much work getting to this point, that would be a shame.
The October weather has been strange. There was a moment when it felt like autumn, but then it became more mild and humid — and so I let my tropicals stay in the ground. But how much longer will I be able to get away with that? At some point, it will become cooler and frost will arrive — and these tropicals need to be stored for the winter.
This will be my weekend project — and since I’ll be a bit busy, I thought it was the perfect time to re-visit a previous post that chronicles the process. Up first are the elephant ears.
Hurricane Sandy caused damage to many evergreen trees here on Long Island and along the eastern coastline. The Eastern White Pines seemed to be most affected by the high winds and salt spray off the ocean and are showing signs of decline now in the month of December.High winds cause excessive transpiration (water loss) from needles of the pine causing them to turn reddish-brown, giving the tree a dead appearance.
There could be hope for the tree before it is taken as a lost cause. Search for evidence of green viable buds. If you see any green within the needles (see below) then the tree has a chance of bouncing back in the spring providing the winter isn’t too harsh. As water gets to the roots and needles of the tree there is a good chance that new growth will start to emerge. Deep root feeding your damaged pines in late March (early spring) can also help to promote new growth.
Pines naturally shed their older needles once a year usually in Fall or Spring and go through a major shed every three years.
For your damaged pine it could take up to three years for the tree to fully recover as it drops old needles and replaces with new but the tree could eventually make a full recovery.