By Linda Heideman, Somervell County Master Gardener
Early November is a busy time for gardening in our north Texas area. One of the most important chores is preparing perennials for winter.
While you are preparing your perennial beds for winter you should be thinking about any changes you may have in mind for next year. Draw and write out your ideas on paper and make any changes you can now, while you are doing fall clean-up and winter preparation. Clean-up includes not only the removal of debris, but also storing decorative objects and signs away from the harsh winter elements.
Remove plants that have gone to seed. If you decide to cut back plants that have stopped blooming and the tops have died back, leave 8 to 10 inches above the ground. Woody plants should not be pruned or cut back at all now. Do a thorough weeding around your perennials, removing any plants that are not doing well or are no longer attractive.
This is an excellent time to “divide” your spring-flowering perennials. This means digging them up, dividing the roots, and replanting the newer parts with a handful of bone meal and compost. When dividing the roots, it is sometimes helpful to have a bucket of water at hand to rinse the soil off the freshly-dug roots to see a good spot to cut the roots. For the sake of precision, cutting is preferred to just breaking the old from the new roots. As you divide, pick the best parts to replant where you originally had them, and save the left-overs for other places in your garden or pot them up to give away to your gardening friends. Protect your perennials with a fresh, deep layer of mulch, and let the leaves fall where they may and stay there to provide an extra layer of protection and nutrients. Some favorite perennials include: Coreopsis, Bearded Iris, Bouncing Bet, Daylily, Cannas, Indian Blanket, Louisiana Iris, and Sweet Violet. Remember, late-blooming perennials should not be divided until spring.
In late November you can still plant and divide perennials, but you’d better hurry! It is also time to plant some of your spring bulbs including daffodils, narcissus, jonquils and grape hyacinths directly into soil as you buy them. Remember some bulbs need to be chilled before planting: tulips and Dutch hyacinths should be refrigerated at 45 degrees until mid-December.
The average date of the first killing frost is November 22nd. All your colorful, warm-weather flowers will turn brown and you’ll need some cheerful blooms for the holidays and through the winter. How about some pansies, snapdragons, pinks, flowering cabbage, and flowering kale? Insects and caterpillars may be hiding in wait for those pretty little pansies and the tasty cabbage and kale leaves. Sprays containing Bt will control caterpillars best when they are young, and insecticidal soap sprays will control aphids.
Betcha thought November was a quiet month in the garden! Trees and shrubs should also be planted this month and there’s plenty to do in the vegetable garden! For more details, check out www.TexasGardener.com , www.centraltexasgardening.net, or www.aggiehorticulture.com. A visit with your county extension agent or a Master Gardener will yield a wealth of information as well.
Do everything before you put up the Christmas lights. You’ll be glad you did!