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Storing Pots
and Other November Gardening Tips
By Dr. Leonard P. Perry, Unversity of Vermont Extension

Storing clay pots for winter, checking houseplants for pests, and proper care of
new trees are some of the gardening tips for this month.

Clay and ceramic pots can crack over the winter if left outdoors with soil in
them or if they fill with rain. When the water freezes, it expands, and so does
wet soil.

Empty pots and store upside down under a tarp or bring them in out of the
weather.

Plants that summered outdoors may have brought in freeloaders that are now
multiplying like crazy in our heated homes. Inspect the undersides of the
leaves for webbing of spider mites. Leaf axils (where they attach to the stems)
are favorite hiding places of mealybugs.

Dark-colored scale insects hug the stems and veins of the leaves and can be
invisible unless you look closely. Insecticidal soap is most effective on soft-
bodied insects like spider mites, aphids, and mealybugs. Scale is trickier to
control and horticultural oil is the best option.

Evergreens don’t go totally dormant so they benefit from a deep watering at
this time of year. This helps prevent drought stress if the winter snow cover is
scant.

Plastic spiral tree wraps and brown paper wraps can protect trunks from
sunscald and gnawing by rodents. Put them in place before the snow falls so
they will extend all the way to the ground or else the critters can sneak
underneath the snow and feed on the lower bark that’s unprotected.

If you’ve recently planted a tree and it absolutely must be staked for a short
period of time, be sure the ties aren’t tight so the tree can sway in the breeze.
Wind stress can actually increase root growth and trunk girth and result in a
stronger mature tree.

If you saved
amaryllis bulbs from last year and they have had a dry rest
period, watch for signs of shoot growth, which signals that it’s time to pot them
up. Use a pot only slightly larger than the bulb diameter. Set a bulb into
moistened potting mix so one-half to one-third of the bulb protrudes above the
soil. Place the pot in a warm well-lit spot, and don’t water it again until the first
leaf or flower shoot starts to grow. Follow this same process for newly
purchased bulbs.

It’s time to spread winter mulch. Cover the ground around tender perennials
with rotted leaves, shredded bark, straw (not weedy hay), evergreen boughs, or
other loose mulch. Take care not to smother the crowns with any material
that will mat down. Mulch around trees and shrubs but don’t let it touch the
plants’ bark or it can encourage rot and harbor mice and voles that are late on
the prowl. Mulching sooner than later will help hold some of this season’s
ground heat. Only a couple inches of mulch will help prevent soil temperatures
from large fluctuations—something plants don’t like while trying to harden off
this time of year.

Other gardening tips for this month include stocking up on bird seed and suet
for winter, setting up a heated bird bath, protecting small evergreens from
either winter winds or road salt spray with a burlap screen, storing pesticides
in dry and non-freezing locations, and making sure that stored summer bulbs
such as gladiolus and dahlias don’t freeze either.
Photo courtesy of morguefile.com
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