18November 3, 2016

When I got up on Tuesday morning, it was 27 degrees outside at the house. This type of cold will definitely kill the foliage of the remaining annuals and probably most of the top growth on the perennials. Temperatures this cold will definitely get the trees and shrubs headed into winter dormancy. Plant roots on the perennials, trees and shrubs will continue to take up moisture and they will continue to repair the root damage from the dry seasons’ past. The things that Mother Nature does that we don’t even really think about!

There is a misconception that once we have a hard frost, you cannot plant anything in your yard. As an example, people will say that you cannot plant tulip or daffodil bulbs because we have had a hard frost. These bulbs are planted about 6 inches underground. The soil at that depth is still relatively warm. If you plant the bulbs now, they will get their roots out into the soil. The soil will eventually freeze at that depth. As the soil warms in the spring, that freezing to thawing triggers the bulbs to begin to grow. If you have tulip or daffodil bulbs that you didn’t plant or if you want to buy some but thought it was too late, it really isn’t too late to plant spring flowering bulbs.

Many people have asked me about transplanting trees and shrubs at this time of the year. Many years ago, trees and shrubs were always planted in the fall. In today’s’ world, people have forgotten that this can be done.

In my mind there are a few things you should know about transplanting versus planting trees and shrubs. If you are digging up shrubs or trees in your yard now and you want to move them to a new location, you need to think about what the plants will be doing from now until the ground freezes. Broadleaf evergreens i.e. Rhododendrons etc. take up a lot of water in the fall to help them to prepare for losing water due to the dry winter wind. If you dig them up now, they will need extra protection from the winter winds. The reason is that the digging up of the plant leaves a lot of the root system behind. The plant needs to put out new roots to support the size of the plant. If, however, you bought a rhodendron or other broadleaf evergreen that was grown in a container, the plant will be planted with all of it root system intact. It will need less protection than a plant that was dug up and moved.

Plants that lose their leaves usually have fewer problems with the wind. These plants have a thicker bark that slows the moisture loss due to winter’s dry winds. As is always the case, there are exceptions. Hydrangeas and rose bushes don’t have a thick bark and they are more susceptible to wind damage. If you plant them in the fall, they will need extra protection from the wind.

When transplanting in the fall, you should always amend the soil if the soil won’t support the development of a good root system. You should use a plant starter fertilizer to stimulate new root growth. You should apply a 3-inch layer of bark mulch on top of the soil where the roots will be growing. This layer of bark mulch will help to slow down the freezing of the soil. This allows the plants to have more time to put a new root system out into the soil.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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