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Get Growing: A little fall gardening lessens spring workload

Person raking leaves in garden, low section

Person raking leaves in garden, low section Purchase photo reprints »

You probably spent last weekend battening down the hatches for Hurricane Sandy, which fortunately caused little damage in the Pioneer Valley, at least compared to New Jersey, New York and New England coastal areas. If any good came out of the storm it was that we got lawn furniture, porch furniture and planters put away for the winter.

Now it’s time to tidy up the garden. Vegetable gardeners need to remove dead plants to prevent overwintering diseases and insects. Don’t compost diseased plants but put them in the trash. Carrots, parsnips, leeks and some other root vegetables can stay in the garden under a straw mulch until you are ready to harvest for Thanksgiving or in the spring. Strawberry plants need a light straw mulch for protection.

Flowering annuals can be removed or simply cut off at the ground. The latter method means the roots will decompose over the winter and add humus to the soil. However, this also means you may not recognize spent annuals from special perennials in the spring. Do leave seed heads of things like cosmos for the birds.

Certain perennials should be cut to the ground to prevent future disease problems. These include peonies and phlox. Others can be left standing till spring especially black-eyed Susans and baptisia which have seeds for the birds. It is best to cut back foliage of Siberian iris and daylilies. Otherwise they tend to be a mushy mess in the spring and you end up with lots of slugs.

Hosta foliage can also be removed for the same reason – and slugs love hostas.

Tender perennials like crocosmia and any planted this fall benefit from a mulch of chopped leaves or compost. However, refrain from mulching until the ground freezes. You don’t want to provide a haven for mice and other rodents. The best time to mulch the perennials is after Christmas when you can cut up your holiday tree and use the boughs for protection.

Roses usually need protection in our area but wait until Thanksgiving weekend.

Maple leaves and others that tend to mat down should be raked from lawns and gardens but oak leaves are generally less of a problem because they are brittle. Do clean up under fruit trees to avoid overwintering pests.

Let’s hope we have some balmy weather (like this past Tuesday) to finish up garden chores including bulb planting. Last year’s October snow storm wreaked havoc on most gardeners’ fall plans. And then we had a mild winter without snow cover and many of us lost special plants. Spending a few hours outdoors soon will make spring chores a lot easier.

CHRYSANTHEMUMS: The annual Fall Chrysanthemum Show at Lyman Plant House at Smith College is tomorrow through Nov. 18. The conservatory display is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily with special evening hours from 6 to 8 p.m. on Nov. 9 and 16. Admission is free. Arthur Haines, author of “Flora Novae Angliae,” published by the New England Wild Flower Society, will speak tonight at 7 p.m. in the Carroll Room of the Smith Campus Center. His lecture will be followed by a reception, book signing and sneak preview of the mum show in Lyman Plant House.

ART EXHIBITION: Susan Valentine of Leverett will display her flower paintings, “Secrets of the Garden,” at the Leverett Library through November and December. The opening reception is Sunday from 3 to 4:30 p.m.

ORCHID SHOW: The Massachusetts Orchid Society celebrates its 60th anniversary with a show at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston this weekend. Hours are 1 to 5 p.m. today, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. tomorrow and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. There will be workshops on potting techniques and care of cattleya and phalaenopsis orchids. Roger Swain, former host of “The Victory Garden” on PBS will speak Sunday at 2 p.m. Admission to the show and show events is free with admission to the botanic garden which is $12 for adults. For more information visit the website: www.massorchid.org.

ASIAN LONGHORNED BEETLE: Bob Childs, entomology specialist at the University of Massachusetts, will discuss the Asian Longhorned Beetle Thursday at 7 p.m. at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton. The beetle attacks maple trees and other hardwoods and devastated the landscape in Worcester a few years ago. The fee is $8, members $5.

NATIVE PLANTS: There are two programs on native plants at the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge on Nov. 10. From 10 a.m. to noon, Andy Brand will speak about “Spectacular Natives: Diversity and Beauty from the Wilds of America.

In the afternoon from 1 to 3 p.m., Carolyn Summers will discuss “Gardens Filled with Life: Designing with Northeastern Flora.” The fee is $35 for each lecture with a 20 percent discount if you sign up for both. Register by calling 298- 3928.

TREES IN THE URBAN LANDSCAPE: The 15th annual Trees in the Urban Landscape Symposium is Nov. 15 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston. Admission is $10 with an additional $10 for a box lunch.

Topics include: fruit trees in the urban landscape, the destructive emerald ash borer (an insect recently found in Dalton, the first sighting in Massachusetts), community tree inventories and state of the nation’s urban forests. Register online at www.towerhillbg.org.

TOVAH MARTIN LECTURE: “Unexpected House Plants” is a wonderful new book by the well-known garden writer Tovah Martin who will give a lecture and workshop on the topic on Nov. 17 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge. Participants will take home house plant cuttings. Martin will also sell and sign her book. The lecture fee is $35. Register by calling 298-3926.

WATERMELON, GERBERA AND WILDFLOWERS: The National Garden Bureau has announced its 2013 plants of the year. It will be the Year of the Watermelon in the edible category, Year of the Gerbera in the annual plant group and the Year of the Wildflower for perennials. Since 1920 the National Garden Bureau has helped home gardeners learn more about plants and garden techniques.

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