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John Fulton

John Fulton
Former County Extension Director

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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis
glyphosate label

Prepare for Winter

Posted by John Fulton -

Winter mulches should be put on after the ground actually begins to freeze. Thanksgiving time is a good average guess for timing. Winter mulches put on too early might delay the natural dormancy process. Mulches should be two to four inches deep, and the ground should be moist before applying them. Materials may include wood chips, straw, or about anything that doesn't pack – oak leaves are fine, but maple leaves will pack tightly.

Tender bulbs, roots, or corms should be dug, if you already haven't done so. These would include dahlia, canna, caladium, tuberous begonia, and gladiolus. Many of these will actually have rotting problems from frost. Be careful when digging so the bulbs are not cut, as any wound usually means a rot will begin. Any bulbs that look diseased should be thrown away. Most can be dried at room temperature, but gladiolus should be dried at a higher temperature (70-80 degrees) and dusted with malathion to protect against thrips. Store all the bulbs in a cool, dry place.

This is not a very good time to prune anything. We need to let the plants go through the dormancy process, which should be completed by late November. Pruning at this time could promote new growth, delay the dormancy process, and attract beetles that carry diseases.

Recommended pruning times begin in December for high sap flow trees, such as maples and sweet gums. Most trees should be pruned in late February or early March before sap begins to rise again. Flowering trees and shrubs should be pruned after they flower, assuming you want the blooms for the year. Otherwise, they could be pruned in the February to March period. Evergreens, including broadleaf evergreens, are best pruned in late June.

Definitely wait to prune oak trees until December, as the beetles that transmit oak wilt virus are attracted to pheromones given off in sap that might escape with earlier pruning. The other disclaimer is for ash trees. Our traditional ash borer, which we have had around for many years, is a weak borer that often enters through pruning cuts. Many recommend not pruning ash trees until they are at least eight years old.

Several clients have asked about cutting woody invasive plants, and the ensuing treatment to prevent regrowth. Late fall is fine to cut those maple, ash, locust, autumn olive, mulberry, or whatever trees which have come up in flower beds and along foundations. After making a clean cut, treat the freshly cut surface with glyphosate or trichlopyr herbicide. To be effective, the concentration should be at least eight percent. Actually, the higher the concentration, the more effective the treatment will be. Glyphosate (commonly sold as Roundup) will range in concentration of the ready-to-use to 41%. Don't use the ready-to-use since it is usually less than three percent concentration. Application may be made with a spray bottle, or applied with a brush or foam pad. About the only time this isn't effective is the early spring when there is a strong sap flow from the root system.

Good weather and bad weather will be interspersed for the next few weeks. At least we hope there is some good weather in there! Take advantage of the good days to finish up those outside chores.

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