Gardening Tips: After Thanksgiving Chroniclers

Hope you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving together. I also hope you were able to enjoy the home grown food during your dinner. I still feast on onions, a few potatoes that the voles left me and Brussels sprouts from my garden as well as winter squash. I always forget to bring something to Florida with me and this year it was my home grown garlic! I had a great garlic crop last year from the cloves I planted in October 2020, but the bulbs are still in my fridge.

It’s too late to plant almost anything outdoors right now, except spring-flowering bulbs, which can be planted until the ground begins to freeze. Now is a good time to fertilize woody plants, such as landscaped trees and shrubs. It is not necessary to fertilize your trees and shrubs every year, but if the plants are growing slowly, it can help. Fertilizers can sometimes prolong the life of declining trees. Large, old landscape trees on a front lawn, street or yard often decline before reaching the end of their average biological lifespan. For some trees, such as sugar maple, the lifespan can be 150 years in a forest environment, but it is often only half that in lawns. Oaks can live 200 years in the wild, but rarely in a domestic landscape. Trees don’t grow as well when they compete with grass for water and nutrients. Some widely cultivated landscape trees such as ornamental cherry, redbud, crabapple, flowering plum, massive birch, and almost all “grafted” ornamental trees will generally die within 15 to 20 years of establishment. Blue spruce generally begins to decline after 30 to 40 years.

To fertilize old mature trees in lawns, you need to get the fertilizer into the root zone, just under the grass roots. A crowbar is a handy tool for punching holes in grass four or five inches deep and one or two inches in diameter. Fill the holes with a 10-10-10 granular fertilizer or use tree tips driven into the ground. For tree ears, follow label directions for rates to apply. Space the holes about a foot apart, starting four or five feet from the trunk and extend the holes at least 10 to 20 feet beyond the drip line. A rule of thumb is to apply one pound of fertilizer per inch of tree circumference. This is actually a lot of fertilizer, considering that a tree 20 inches in diameter is over 60 inches in circumference.

If you are looking for examples of long-lived, low-maintenance trees and shrubs, I suggest you visit some local cemeteries. Not only are many of these plants unusually old and well established, they rarely need special care. Often you will observe very beautiful plants that have been growing for over 50 to 100 years in their untouched sites. Albany City Comet has some truly remarkable trees and shrubs. Local arboretums such as the Mountain Top Arboretum in Tannersville and the Landis Arboretum in Esperance have wonderful collections of trees and shrubs. You can visit them during the four seasons to see the seasonal variations.

I urge those of you who are serious about gardening to consider becoming a Cornell University Cooperative Extension Certified Master Gardener volunteer. All counties in our area have master gardener training courses and volunteer programs that you can attend. The following press release is from Ulster County Cooperative Extension.

Who are the Master Gardeners? We are neighbors who teach neighbors about landscapes, vegetables, fruits, herbs, houseplants, beneficial and harmful insects, plant diseases, integrated pest management (IPM), management of wildlife, soils, birds, composting, water conservation and much more! The Master Gardeners are a dedicated group of New York State volunteers who are trained by Cornell Cooperative Extension in the science and art of gardening. Each master gardener received 120 hours of education based on research from Cornell Cooperative Extension. We continue to be informed of the latest developments in horticulture through continuing education and workshops. And yet, the Master Gardener Program is more than a horticulture course or a gardening club. This is a volunteer program that allows participants to serve their community through horticultural education.

If you want to help improve your community and enjoy gardening, landscaping, and related activities, consider becoming a volunteer master gardener. The Master Gardener program is now accepting applications for the Spring 2022 class.

If you have any questions, please contact Senior Gardeners Coordinator Dona Crawford at [email protected]

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