New England

November, 2012
Regional Report

Place Birdfeeders Properly

If you're a gardener and a bird lover, you may have planted evergreens and other shrubs to provide cover and shelter to feathered visitors. These plantings can help keep birds safe from both predators such as hawks and cold winter winds. But don't place feeders too close to this cover, which can provide a jumping off spot for seed-snatching squirrels and hunting cats. The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology recommends hanging feeders about 10 feet from cover, close enough for birds to reach quickly, but not so close that cats and squirrels can pose a threat. It's also important to place feeders the correct distance from windows to avoid injury to birds from collisions with glass. Feeders should either be within 3 feet or more than 30 feet from windows. Placing feeders close to windows keeps birds from building up enough flying speed to harm themselves if they hit the glass. And remember, if you live in black bear country, don't put feeders out until December 1, after the bears are in their dens for the winter.

Winterize Your Mower

Once you've done your last mowing of the season, be sure to clean your mower and winterize it according to the manufacturer's instructions. It's a good time to take your mower blade to be sharpened (or sharpen it yourself), so you'll be all set when mowing season arrives next spring.

Mulch Strawberry Beds

Once there have been multiple hard frosts and the top half to one inch of soil is frozen, usually in mid to late November in our region, cover your strawberry plants with about 4 inches of loose mulch that won't mat down, such straw, weed-free hay, or chopped leaves. Or you can cover plants with a winter-weight (1.25 oz/sq.yd. or heavier) row cover fabric. Be sure to remove mulch as soon as growth begins in the spring, but be ready to re-cover plants if frost threatens.

Protect Roses

Hardy shrub and landscape roses will make it through New England winters with little or no protection in most cases. But the more tender types such as hybrid teas, floribundas, grandifloras, and polyanthas need protection to weather our region's cold temperatures. In mid to late November erect a circle of chicken wire or hardware cloth around the rose bush and fill it 12-18 inches deep with light, loose, porous mulch such as straw, clean hay, shredded bark, pine needles, oak leaves, or other material that won't mat down. For extra protection, light, well-drained soil (brought in from somewhere else in the garden) can be mounded 6-12 inches deep around the base of the rose, but be sure the soil is light enough not to form a dense mound that will smother the crown. Some evergreen boughs added on top of the mulch will help keep the loose material from blowing away. Before you cover roses, be sure to remove any remaining leaves that might harbor overwintering diseases. Tall canes can be trimmed or tied together to make covering easier.

Skip Late Fall Lawn Fertilization

A late fall "winterizing" lawn feeding used to be a standard recommendation. But research has shown that turfgrasses are slow to take up nitrogen as temperatures cool in late fall, making it more likely that this nutrient will be carried off-site in runoff, causing harm in the watershed. Make your last lawn fertilization no later than October 15 in New England, and use a fertilizer containing phosphorus only if a soil test indicates a deficiency.

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