Master Gardener Sue Morris: Time to wrap trees, put away pots as growing season comes to close

Getting your yard and garden ready for winter


One sure sign that the growing season is coming to a close at my house is when I see the first beautiful blue color on the monkshood flowers. First bloom was toward the end of September — seems earlier than usual.

When you are cleaning out containers this fall, remember to also remove the soil. Outdoor freezing and thawing can crack or break almost any type of pot. Add this soil to a compost pile or spread it around the garden. Store empty pots indoors.

If you have not already done so, it is time to wrap all the new or smooth-barked trees to protect them from sunscald or animals. Sunscald happens in late winter when the sun rays are getting stronger.

The afternoon sun reflecting from the snow warms the tree and this activates the sap. If the sun goes behind a cloud, the air temperature drops very rapidly. This traps the moisture in the trunk and as it freezes it expands and causes the trunk to split.

Evidence of this is a long vertical crack along the southwest side of a tree. Wrapping trees protects them from these extreme temperature fluctuations.


Commercial tree wrap is a good product and can be used several years if it is promptly removed each spring. Strips of fabric or gunnysacks can also be used.

Hardware cloth around trunks of young trees prevents mouse and rabbit damage. This cloth needs to be pushed several inches into the soil. When mulching trees, keep the mulch at least 6 inches from the trunk as mulching does encourage mice.

Trees that should be wrapped are all young fruit trees, maples, mountain ash and any other smooth-barked trees. Tree wrap needs to be removed by Easter.

Continue to mow lawn until the grass is no longer growing. Keeping your lawn at 3 inches actually reduces snow mold. Rake up and compost leaves and discontinue nitrogen applications.

After one or two killing frosts, it’s time to plant garlic. Separate the cloves a day or two before planting. Plant the clove pointed side up in well-drained soil amended with compost.

It is important to water evergreens until the ground freezes. Trees and shrubs need sufficient water in order to survive our dry winters.

Stop fertilizing houseplants in October. You can add fertilizer again at half-strength when you see new growth on plants — usually when the days start to get longer in February.

If you want your amaryllis to bloom by Christmas, it should be potted up and set in a warm spot by Thanksgiving.


Now is a good time to examine your houseplants, those that were outdoors as well as those that stayed inside, for the presence of insect pests. The sooner insects are discovered, the easier it will be to control them.

Related Topics: HOME AND GARDEN
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