By Brent Gray
November is a good time to continue to dig, divide, and replant crowded perennials. Look for perennials that have grown out of bounds or have declined due to overcrowding. Look for those that have developed a ring of growth with an empty center. Divide and replant peonies now. Be sure the “eyes” or buds on the division are covered by no more than 1/2 to 1 inch of soil. Keep all your transplants well watered to help them develop roots and become established in their new location.
As you continue to remove dying or dead plants to spruce up the garden don’t forget about leaving some seedheads for the birds. Coneflower, sunflower, black-eyed-Susan and other plants provide nourishment for our feathered friends during the winter. Ornamental grasses are at the top of the list with their beautiful seedheads and leaves that turn yellow, orange, red, or purple with the onset of cooler temperatures. So, don’t be too hasty with the pruning shears as you do the tidying up of the garden this fall—remember the wildlife has needs too!
Cold weather is coming so if you haven’t brought in your rain gauge to avoid freeze damage, you probably should. Drain and store water hoses to extend their lives. Protect your investment in garden tools—some can be very expensive. Clean them up by removing all dirt and grime. Repair or replace any broken ones. Bring in those clay pots or other garden art that are not freeze proof. I store all my garden statuary in the glass greenhouse that is connected to my kitchen. All winter the little clay squirrels, turtles, frogs and garden elves and angels peek out among the plants and gaze at our family as we eat at the kitchen table!
Hopefully your vegetables were covered Tuesday and Wednesday night and you still have tomatoes and peppers or maybe okra to harvest. If your plants were killed by the low temperatures, just pul them out and plant something else. There are many crops that grow well in Mississippi during the winter. Early December is one of the best times to plant onion transplants, greens, and some gardeners have excellent results with English and edible pod peas.
Most Mississippians don’t grow much in the fall and winter because we have other things to do like hunt squirrel and deer, Thanksgiving get togethers, Christmas baking and shopping, or just take a break from gardening. Now is a good time to grow a cover crop of mustard to later plow in for nematode management, or a crop of daikon or oilseed radish to penetrate the soil and provide organic matter.
Many transplanted Mississippians enjoyed rutabaga in their former northern life and may wish to grow them here. Plant the seeds now while soil temperatures are above fifty degrees and quick germination will help prevent seedling diseases. They are freeze tolerant and will grow through a “normal” winter in the southern two thirds of the state and possibly the northern third in many years. Grow them just like root turnips, but allow as much as ninety days before harvest.
Many Bermudagrass, centipede grass and zoysia grass lawns will brown in the next few weeks. Try not to walk or play games on a dormant lawn. Any damage creates an avenue for weed seed to germinate and grow.