Cummings and Goings in Agriculture

by Steve Cummings

The Thanksgiving Holidays have come and gone and before you know it, it will be Christmas.  The cold weather during the Thanksgiving holidays was enough for me.  Hurry up spring…

Horticulture Tips:

Soon we will be experiencing much cooler temperatures and with a few more frosty mornings our warm season turf species lawns will be in dormancy for the winter.  This means that most of us will let our lawn care equipment sit idle for a few months as well.  Some simple and easy winter storage preparation will ensure this equipment will perform when needed next spring.  A thorough cleaning of equipment to remove dirt, grass clippings etc. will prevent rust and corrosion and will reveal any damaged or worn parts that may need replacing.  Changing the oil, cleaning the air filter, and even replacing the spark plug on gasoline engines before storage will have them ready to go when needed.  If these engines will not be run for at least two months it is recommended that the fuel tank be drained and the engine run until all fuel is out of the carburetor. An alternative option is to pour a gasoline stabilizer (Sta-Bil) into the tank to prevent the gas from separating and leaving gum and varnish deposits to clog the fuel system.  Another option is once each idle month to simply put a small amount of fresh fuel in the tank and run the engines for about ten minutes.  If you have equipment that has seen its better days and you doubt that it will make it through another season now is a great time to purchase new equipment has many dealers have some great year-end bargains available.

The rapidly changing temperatures and moisture levels we have been experiencing recently make plants more susceptible to disease and insect pressure. Observe your plants a little more closely than normal and be ready to apply protective measures. Watch plants next to south-facing brick walls in particular since insects tend to congregate there to take advantage of the protection from cold winds and heat radiated from the wall.

A question that comes to mind every year after we pay that hefty price for cranberries is why we don’t grow our own. We grow blue berries, black berries, and strawberries in the garden and have holly berries, winterberries, and serviceberries in the landscape. The answer is heat. The furthest south cranberries are grown is New Jersey. Additionally cranberry is a bog plant and most of us don’t want to flood the backyard.

Fruit Trees

If you can locate them you can plant fruit trees and shrubs now.  Blueberries, blackberries, bunch grapes, apple, pear and peach trees can all be planted now.  Some nurseries will have containerized fruit plants that can be put in the ground this fall. Fall planting will allow these plants to “root in” over the winter and will give them a head start over plants that are not put in the ground until early spring.  For best results, follow local recommendations for the most suitable selections in your area.  Check with an established garden center or call your county Extension office for planting advice.

Prevent damage from hungry rodents on newly planted or established fruit trees by keeping all grass and mulch away from the trunk.  An 18- inch tall collar of chicken wire or commercial tree wrap will deter rabbits and other above ground munchers.  Be sure that as the tree grows the tree trunk guard does not restrict the growth. Better to remove it and replace with a larger model than to hinder trunk development.

Bulbs

Set out spring-flowering bulbs now.  As a general rule, set large bulbs, such as daffodils and tulips, 8 inches deep. Set smaller bulbs, such as crocus, Siberian squill, or grape hyacinth 2-4 inches deep.  Drainage is essential. Avoid spots where water collects. Scattering the bulbs in drifts rather than rows makes for a more naturalistic look. Be sure and place them in areas of the landscape (at the edge of the woods, among perennials, annuals or ground covers) that the foliage can be allowed to mature and die naturally.  Interplanting the bulbs with other vegetation will camouflage the dying bulb foliage. As most gardeners know allowing the bulb foliage to mature and die without cutting it down will provide the necessary sugars to be stored in the bulbs that produce next year’s blossoms.

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