In the most severe cold days, when snow covered the stable lot and it was hard just to walk to the stable to milk, Pa would do all the milking and feeding. My dear Ma had migraine headaches, though not very often, and when Ma had a headache, I learned early to rinse her cloth, which she had spread over her face, in cold water and tip-toe in to change cloths so I kept the coldest one over her face. That is the time that Pa took over all her chores, even straining the milk and washing the milk bucket with scalding water. I learned a healthy respect for headaches at a young age.
Looking back, I realize that Ma was philosophical about the cold weather, and that it would be over eventually and spring would come again. Being her little shadow whenever possible, I gathered that fall and winter months were not to enjoy, just to get through. I still feel that way about winter.
Before the cold weather sets in, take a walk through your flower beds and you probably will notice some perennial or iris or some other plant that should have been moved and you just didn’t get around to it. You still have time if you will do it now. To move a plant at this late season, be sure to give it plenty of water as you plant and also after planting to keep the roots growing.
To get a compost pile started, rake up all the fallen leaves and run the lawn mower over them to cut them into small pieces and lay them on bare soil somewhere in your yard where you can hide a compost heap. Then you need to add some manure if possible and some soil and on top of that, start putting all your kitchen scraps on top. Now you have the beginning of a healthy compost pile.
Even if you don’t plan to have a compost pile, start saving your coffee grounds, filters and all, and when you have a can full, dig a hole in a flower bed and bury them. Next spring, when you dig into that spot, you will find black, rich soil with lots of earth worms. I always saved the grounds at work and at home and it really makes a flower bed much richer.
A reminder: don’t mulch your peonies this fall. They prosper and bloom better if allowed to freeze. You might want to very, very lightly put a thin layer of mulch on them just to discourage grass from growing up around them.
Before the ground freezes, you can grow your own garlic. Pick large healthy cloves and plant about l8 inches apart. Cover with straw and wait for spring then they will pop up through the straw. Home grown garlic is so much better.
Another reminder about your crape myrtles: you can trim off the flower heads, just the flowering part, now. However, don’t trim the branches of crape myrtles. If you desire the look of a tree, as they do in the deep South, cut to the ground some branches. It is desirable to have at least four or five of the branches. Then you can cut out the suckers that come up in spring. The advantage to such drastic trimming is that air can circulate among the branches and you have less mildew. Also, you may like the look.
As soon as we have a hard frost, trim your roses back to12 to 18 inches. Some growers prefer to cut back to 24 inches. Others prefer to cut back to 8 inches. About 18 inches worked well for me. About the middle of March, or on St. Patrick’s Day, as an old friend used to say, the roses will need pruning again to cut off some dead ends. The whole idea of trimming back in November is to keep the winter winds from whipping them back and forth, tearing up the tiny root feeders. I used to keep the thorny branches that I cut off to spread over my flower beds to discourage wandering dogs from digging in my flower beds. Then one day, my husband heard our German Shorthair, “Keeper”, yelping as he ran out of a flower bed. My husband went out to see what had scared him and saw the branches and thought I had just neglected to pick them up. He very carefully picked up all those thorny branches and threw them away. I never told him what had caused poor Keeper to yelp so. To be truthful at this late date, I still put a few of those branches in the rose bed to keep him out.
I must tell you, my readers, that I may miss a week or two. My computer is on its death bed and my new computer won’t be arriving until sometime around November 10. I still will try to get the column to you but if the computer crashes, don’t think I have quit writing the column. As the general said, “I will be back.”
Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632 with questions or suggestions.