Garden care even in November
Gardening in November may sound a little crazy, but there really are a number of caretaking tasks best accomplished this month.
If your garden includes strawberries, mulching them for winter is a necessity. However, it is important to wait until plants are hardened, or acclimated to cool fall temperatures. Here in Henry County, mulching in late November is recommended. Use clean straw or chopped cornstalks. The mulch should be applied 3-5 inches deep and settle to 2-4 inches. In windy areas, it may be necessary to use wire or plastic fencing over the mulch. DO NOT consider using leaves for mulch; they tend to mat, creating layers that trap excess moisture and form ice.
Most perennials can be cut back in fall unless they provide winter aesthetic interest (e.g., ornamental grasses). Chrysanthemums, however, are an exception. Their shallow, fibrous roots make them susceptible to the freeze/thaw cycle. Rather than cutting them back, mulch heavily with pine needles, clean straw, or evergreen branches, and cut back tops only when new growth appears in the spring. Peony foliage can be cut back near ground level after a hard freeze.
Plant debris should be removed from the vegetable garden. However, it is ideal to leave dead asparagus foliage over winter. It will catch snow, thus protecting crowns from freezing. Plan to remove the foliage in March or April.
Since leaves should not be used to mulch straw berries or perennials, what’s a gardener to do? On turfgrass, they can be chopped by mowing if they are not too deep. However, thick layers of leaves will cause damage to lawns. Leaves can be mixed into compost piles in combination with grass clippings or other high-nitrogen plant material. To accelerate decomposition further, shred the leaves before mixing. Leaves can also be used as mulch for raspberries, cleared vegetable gardens, and trees and shrubs.
Right now: All the news about emerald ash borer is bad for us here is eastern Iowa. Numerous infestations have been found, and a quarantine is in place for wood products from ash trees. Remember that there is no fall treatment or preventative for ash trees. If you plan to treat an ash, early spring will be the right time.