By Brent Gray
Mark your calendars. Our quarterly Cattlemen’s Meet-ing will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 4 at 6:30 p.m. in the Yalobusha County Multi-Purpose Building. Lance Newman will be the presenter for the program. More information will be publicized at a later date.
Our warm-season lawns will soon be shutting down foliar growth with the onset of cooler temperatures and shorter day lengths. This may also bring smiles to our faces as we can soon be putting the lawn mower away until next spring. However, don’t put the mower away just yet. We need to plan for one final mowing once the lawn does go dormant.
You might consider raising the mowing height slightly for that last cutting to provide a little more turf canopy for the winter. A final dormant mowing, even though the lawn has lost much of its green summer color will give the lawn a nice clean, even surface that is still attractive. An added benefit is that leaves tend to blow over a clean cut surface.
Care should be taken to choose a day for that final mowing when the soil is not overly water saturated so that the mower doesn’t compact the soil and leave tracks in the lawn that will remain and be noticeable all winter.
Cold damage may be apparent on some plants in the vegetable garden. Observe the growing points on the stem ends of tomato, pepper and other warm season crops. If that meristem is still green and healthy, the plant will continue to grow and produce. Prune any dead parts of the plant. Fungicide applications may help prevent disease organisms from taking advantage of wounded areas. Those daring gardeners still growing cucumbers will need to keep cold protection measures handy.
Night temperatures in the 40’s and days in the 60’s are ideal for cool season vegetables. This is a great time to plant cold hardy plants like sugar snap peas, dinosaur kale and more traditional crops like collards, cabbage and turnips. November is traditionally a wet month, but most gardens did not receive much rainfall in October and are dry. It is better to plant into moist soil than to plant dry and water afterwards
Some gardeners save seed from one season to the next. This works well if a few guidelines are followed. Make sure the seeds you save are mature. The easiest way to do this is to let the fruit, pod, silique or whatever form of seed producing structure you have to dry on the plant. Very wet fruits like tomato may need to be removed still wet to prevent diseases from invading the seeds. Keeping the fruit on the plant allows the seed to accumulate the maximum amount of energy from the pant and allows the embryonic plant to fully form within the seed.
Place the dried fruit into a dry, protected place and remove the seed from the fruit. This can be as simple as shelling beans or as difficult as fermenting tomatoes. Seeds should be spread in a single layer to dry completely, then placed in a sealed container. Some gardeners put the container in the freezer. This is not necessary if the seeds will be planted next season, but it will keep the seeds viable for several years. Containers place in a freezer must be air tight to prevent desication. Hybrid varieties are a mix of two or more parents. Seed saved from hybrids may or may not produce a plant similar to the one they were harvested from Gardeners should pay attention to the new plants next year and be willing to accept some possibly strange plants in the garden
The dormant season ahead would be a good time to establish or expand a flower or vegetable garden. Adding soil amendments or taking soil samples now will allow plenty of time for planning—as well as planting—the garden next spring.
As annual and perennial tops dies, cut the plants to the ground and remove all dead material. Dead plants are an invitation to fungus and disease. I like to leave a few plants like the ornamental grasses and other plants, such as purple coneflower, sunflowers, and others that provide winter cover and food for birds and other wildlife. Ornamental grasses can be attractive even when dead with their plumes swaying in the winter breezes.
Don’t forget to water. If it has not rained the equivalent of one inch in the last week, you need to give your plants a good soaking, especially newly planted.