Mid-Atlantic

November, 2007
Regional Report

Rake Right

Take care not to injure yourself when raking. Keep a straight back and move with the rake while walking backward. Take frequent breaks. Stretch by leaning backwards. Switch hands occasionally to reduce stress on one arm and one side of the body. Don't strain and twist your body, bend repeatedly, or stand only in one spot. Work in short spurts till your muscles get used to this vigorous activity.

Trick Squirrels and Chippies

Doesn't it seem like chipmunks and squirrels are waiting in the wings while you plant bulbs? Fluffed up soil is a magnet for them to come and dig. At the Chicago Botanic Garden, the staff plant bulbs, then cover the area with fine black mesh that blends in almost invisibly with the dark leaf mulch. They stake down the mesh with sod pins at the edges. Putting chicken wire underground around planted bulbs is another option, but it's harder to do.

Mulch Bulbs Just Before "The Freeze"

Spring- and summer-flowering bulbs planted in autumn will need six weeks of moderate weather and unfrozen soil to root well and survive winter's deep freeze. Just before we get a real freeze, apply about 3 inches of leaf or bark mulch to the cold ground. Mulch's job is to keep soil cool and prevent frost heaving. Mulch is not to keep the soil warm. We don't want to provide cozy conditions that invite mice and voles to eat our bulbs.

Protect Tender Plants

In a few places we spread a heavy mulch where we're trying to protect a plant for winter. Make a wire cage around hardier bananas in very protected areas. Oak leaves make a good mulch because they don't mat down like maple leaves do. Its the air spaces that give the insulation.

Plant Cover Crops

Want to reduce weeds in next year's vegetable garden and fertilize simultaneously? Have you just cleared an open space you'd like to turn into a garden? Plant cover crops now such as Canadian rye and partridge pea that germinate quickly and reseed easily. In spring, mow and re-mow the grown plants. Then till those plant bits into the soil, where they'll decompose into nutritious nitrogen for plants to grow on.

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