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Growing Green: Don’t put off your November puttering

November is the last chance to get garden chores done before the first snowfall and the long winter.

Weather may influence the timing of these tasks, but following are some things to check off on your November list.

Puttering to do:

Clean and oil tools that are to be put away for the winter.

Drain and store water hoses, sprayers, watering wands, drain irrigation systems and any water accoutrements.

Keep weeding:

Weeds are hardy and will continue to grow and spread into late fall.

Many weeds that will die over winter have sown hundreds of seeds. Every weed you pull in the fall is 10 weeds you won’t have to pull in the spring.

Take a soil sample before the ground freezes. Test for pH and nutritional levels. Don’t guess what your soil needs. If the soil test indicates your soil pH needs to be raised or lowered, now is a good time to apply lime or sulfur.

Keep raking:

Leaves build up on the lawn and garden, creating thick mats that are hard to remove in the spring. Rake leaves into your garden beds; they make a great mulch.

Leaves will help keep delicate roots covered and foster better growth in the spring. And remember: many butterflies overwinter as chrysalis in the leaves.

Winter mulch:

Once the ground freezes, apply a winter mulch to tuck in your favorite perennials, shrubs and trees.

Contrary to popular belief, applying winter mulch doesn’t help keep your plants warm. Instead, it keeps the soil frozen all winter so your plants aren’t damaged by the cycle of freezing and thawing that can happen on warm winter days.

Remove foliage:

Remove and dispose of diseased foliage. Be sure to clean up dead or diseased foliage to help prevent the diseases from coming back next year. Do not put diseased foliage in your compost pile. Bag it and put it in the trash.

Decide which plants you will leave standing. Most pollinators benefit from not cutting everything to the ground. Birds can eat the seeds of some plants. Plants with hollow stems benefit pollinators.

Fall pruning:

Trees should only be pruned when dormant, which many of us think of as in winter. After the leaves have fallen and trees have gone dormant, they can be gently pruned. Dangerous branches, whether broken or diseased, should be pruned so they are not a bigger hazard in winter. Only prune when you are certain it isn’t going to freeze soon.

Plan landscape:

Take a good look at your landscaped areas. Make notes on where you will want to plant a new shrub next year or what’s getting overcrowded and will require thinning.

For the birds:

Put up a bird feeder and stock up on birdseed. Get a heated birdbath, which will be a huge help to our feathered friends. Heated birdbaths are designed to just keep the water from freezing, not make the water hot.

Dig before the freeze:

If you celebrate Christmas, consider preparing the hole for your living tree before the ground freezes. To avoid trying to dig a hole in frozen soil, dig a hole the same depth as and twice as wide as the root ball. Cover the soil you dig out with a tarp and cover the hole with some plywood.

“Growing Green” is contributed by Diane Dorn, Lehigh County Extension Office Staff, and Master Gardeners. Information: Lehigh County Extension Office, 610-391-9840; Northampton County Extension Office, 610-813-6613.