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GardenSMART Episode

Show #49/5410 - Winter Garden Prep

Summary of Show

Gardening In The Fall
We're going to talk about GARDENING IN THE FALL. And there are so many things that are going on in fall, it's actually kind of a busy time of year for the garden. We have pruning going on, moving plants around, it's also a great time to plant. Spring gets all the attention. It is the most popular time to plant, garden centers really gear up for spring but fall is also a great time to put plants in the ground. Fall is wonderful because you don't have to water as much, you don't have the loss of water through leaf transpiration.
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When To Prune
Of all the activities that are going on in fall maintenance-wise in the garden, PRUNING is very high up on the list. Although there is pruning that goes on year round. There are things that are more appropriately pruned in spring, then of course, maintenance pruning in the summer and then wonderful opportunities in the fall. But Eric would like to talk through when are the appropriate times to prune certain things and what times of year should we not prune certain plants? In the spring of the year we want to think of all our flowering shrubs.
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Pruning Trees
Jim mentioned that fall is the best time to PRUNE TREES. And there are many reasons for that, not the least of which is that the leaves are off the tree and we can actually see what we are doing because it is very important that we build structure and layers in the trees. Eric asks Jim to specifically talk about Japanese maples. He has so many of them plus it's a tree where it's important for us to really know what we are doing before we get in there with pruners.
What Jim likes to do first is examine the tree looking for any dead wood or diseased wood. First take that out, cut all that out, the second step would be to think about the shape and the form.
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Pruning The Root System
PRUNING THE ROOT SYSTEM also makes a tree that much healthier. That's because the small, little fibrous roots are very important from the standpoint of absorbing the nutrition that's in the soil and also from the standpoint of water absorption. Talk us through how you look at root pruning at Gibbs Gardens. November and December are the best months to root prune. The reason is all of your deciduous trees are going to be dropping their leaves and you won't have transpiration going on.
For More Information Click here

Plant Bulbs In The Fall, Divide In The Spring
It is always best to PLANT BULBS IN THE FALL and divide in the spring. But if you have daffodils planted, when those daffodils finish their bloom you have got to watch the foliage. Most people have a tendency to want to cut it off. If the foliage is green it is storing up enough nutrients for that bulb to produce a flower for the following year. So what you want to do is wait until those leaves turn yellow. If they're yellow it is okay to dig them up and divide them. One does not have to be careful in digging any bulbs up. Take a shovel, scoop underneath the bulbs, go down about eight or ten inches, you get a clump because you only want to be digging the bulbs if it is time to divide them.
For More Information Click here

Prune Perennials
Fall is also a wonderful time to PRUNE PERENNIALS and there are many reasons that we ought to prune perennials, not the least of which is just to tidy the garden up. But also, we want to remove plant material that basically is spent so that it does not create places where fungus and bacteria can grow and create other problems for our plants. What are some of the plants that Jim thinks are particularly good for pruning in the fall?
For More Information Click here

Dividing Perennials
DIVIDING PERENNIALS should be done probably once every two or three years. Jim probably divides his perennials once every three years. If you do that you are going to have better root structure and you are going to be able to let those plants fill out better and continue to grow which means you are going to have stronger vegetation on the top.
For More Information Click here

Compost
We have all of these sticks that we have just pruned off as well as the leaf matter that we are going to rake out of the beds as we are transitioning from fall to winter and all of this gets composted. Jim COMPOSTS all of this and you can imagine the leaves, they have piles of leaves that they will compost this year. They will probably have a hundred truckloads of composted leaves and debris that they compost in one year.
For More Information Click here

LINKS:

Gibbs Gardens
World-Class Garden | North GA Destinations | Gibbs Gardens

Jim Gibbs book - "GIBBS GARDENS - Reflections On A Gardening Life"
Gift Store | Gibbs Gardens

Carol Skapinetz - Original Watercolors
cgskapinetz.com - Home

Plant List

Show #49/5410 - Winter Garden Prep

Transcript of Show

In this episode GardenSMART visits one of our favorite southeastern gardens to discuss what we need to know to take care of our garden in the winter months.

As we say goodbye to the bright colors of fall and transition into the winter when begin temperatures drop, plants are preparing for dormancy. While it appears as if all activity in the garden has stopped, there's a lot going on under the soil, until it freezes. Newly transplanted trees and shrubs, divisions of perennials, and hardy bulbs are all growing roots, drawing on soil nutrients and moisture around them. With all of this going on under the surface, your plants need protection from the cold, frigid weather.

With all of this in mind, we visit with Jim Gibbs to get his expert advise on preparing your garden for winter. Eric thanks Jim for joining us again. It's great to see you. Jim thanks Eric and GardenSMART for having him on the show again.

We're going to talk about GARDENING IN THE FALL. And there are so many things that are going on in fall, it's actually kind of a busy time of year for the garden. We have pruning going on, moving plants around, it's also a great time to plant. Spring gets all the attention. It is the most popular time to plant, garden centers really gear up for spring but fall is also a great time to put plants in the ground. Fall is wonderful because you don't have to water as much, you don't have the loss of water through leaf transpiration. Once you get your plants planted you just check what Jim calls his rule of thumb; if the soil is damp you don't water, if it's dry you give it an occasional watering. Fall is a great time to get all of your perennials divided, to transplant anything that needs to be transplanted, For example, Japanese maples - you may want to root prune or transplant them. They are easy to do in fall. There are so many things like composting a bed, getting the beds ready for winter, a lot has to be done now before the ground freezes. January, February, nothing can be done but then in March, April, you start again. So in fall, gardening slows down, it's the time to really get those fall things out of the way and get ready for winter when you can do nothing.

Of all the activities that are going on in fall maintenance-wise in the garden, PRUNING is very high up on the list. Although there is pruning that goes on year round. There are things that are more appropriately pruned in spring, then of course, maintenance pruning in the summer and then wonderful opportunities in the fall. But Eric would like to talk through when are the appropriate times to prune certain things and what times of year should we not prune certain plants? In the spring of the year we want to think of all our flowering shrubs. Do not ever prune the flowering shrubs before they bloom. Remember, let them finish blooming and then cut them back and you'll get new flowers for the next year. In the spring you are going to prune all the flowering shrubs after they bloom. As far as summer pruning we can do sort of a mix of different kinds of pruning because you are not taking it all the way back, you are not cutting it as severely. Remember this, in the summer when we prune we have a loss of water through the underpart of the leaf called transpiration. If you take off the growth you want to be careful that you don't ever prune over one third of the growth on that plant. If you do and Jim has had many clients that tell him they think their plants are dying and they want to know why. He quickly looks at them and determines the reason they are dying and they are going to die is because they have over pruned these plants. Fall it is the ideal time to prune everything. It is also worth mentioning that looking at summer pruning going into like late summer we may not want to prune something especially like trees. That would force a late flush of growth because pruning stimulates growth in the plant which could then be damaged by frost. So often times it is wise to pause pruning mid to late summer, wait until fall when the trees are starting to go to sleep. That is the best time to prune.

Jim mentioned that fall is the best time to PRUNE TREES. And there are many reasons for that, not the least of which is that the leaves are off the tree and we can actually see what we are doing because it is very important that we build structure and layers in the trees. Eric asks Jim to specifically talk about Japanese maples. He has so many of them plus it's a tree where it's important for us to really know what we are doing before we get in there with pruners.

What Jim likes to do first is examine the tree looking for any dead wood or diseased wood. First take that out, cut all that out, the second step would be to think about the shape and the form. If you have crossing branches you want to look at the crossing branches. One of those has to go, you have to eliminate it. What you want to do is select the best branch to leave and prune the other one out. On all of Jim's trees, not just Japanese maples, he first looks at the diseased and dying wood. Then looks at the crossing branches and takes those out. The next thing is and Jim uses his arm to demonstrate, let's pretend his arm is a limb on a tree. If this limb comes out, normally, you are going to have shoots that are going up and you are going to have shoots that are coming down. Remember, you want light to penetrate so that all of the shaded area doesn't kill the leaves below and the branches below, because otherwise you are going to have dead wood. So what you want to do is keep all horizontal limbs in place. If it is coming up you cut it off, if it is coming down you remove it. When you are through you are going to have these layers that look like floating clouds and throughout the tree, light will penetrate. Instead of having too much shade below you are going to get light going into those trees and you are going to have leaves. This Japanese maple, is an example, it has been pruned so that all of the limbs coming down or going up have been pruned off. The main limb, the branches are all horizontal, they're left in place. Now look at the sunlight coming through the trees, you'll always have beautiful light but as well gives it that cloud like layer and the tree is going to do much better. Jim points out a Chinese Fringe Tree. Same thing, look at the limbs. You are doing the same pruning. It doesn't matter what tree you prune you want to prune these in the same manner. The easiest thing is just to remember your arm is a limb, coming up, cut off, coming down, cut off, now you've got your branching.

PRUNING THE ROOT SYSTEM also makes a tree that much healthier. That's because the small, little fibrous roots are very important from the standpoint of absorbing the nutrition that's in the soil and also from the standpoint of water absorption. Talk us through how you look at root pruning at Gibbs Gardens. November and December are the best months to root prune. The reason is all of your deciduous trees are going to be dropping their leaves and you won't have transpiration going on. Jim gives us a demonstration of how he handles moving a Japanese maple, one even as large as the tree behind him. Take a shovel, a long spade that is narrow, drive it down into the ground, you are actually cutting the roots, circle around the tree. You want to start out further if it is a bigger tree, the next year you would come in a little closer, so each time you cut the roots you're establishing a new root system that has fibrous roots which will take in more nutrients, more water during the spring, summer and fall.

If you want to dig up the tree and transplant it, it is easy to do because maples, for example, have a very shallow root system. You can take all that dirt off underneath, plant it with good top soil, stake it and if you've got a good fibrous root system it will come right back out in the spring and grow. But all plants need to be root pruned. So just think about fall as the ideal time to move any of the plants that you want to move and to do any of your root pruning.

One of Eric's favorite late summer activities is going through the catalogs and picking out the next exciting bulb that is going to go into his garden because fall is the best time to plant a bulb. It needs the chilling hours over the winter in order to make a nice strong stem. Of course, every bulb has different chilling requirements, but none the less, we want them in the ground in fall. Fall is the time we can plan out that part of our garden. But, a common misconception that many have about bulbs is that fall is also the best time to divide but that is not true is it? No, that is the worst time to divide bulbs. The reason is, you have got to be able to see where the plant is and if the bulb is dormant you might be digging up most of your yard trying to find where you planted them the year before. It is always best to PLANT BULBS IN THE FALL and divide in the spring. But if you have daffodils planted, when those daffodils finish their bloom you have got to watch the foliage. Most people have a tendency to want to cut it off. If the foliage is green it is storing up enough nutrients for that bulb to produce a flower for the following year. So what you want to do is wait until those leaves turn yellow. If they're yellow it is okay to dig them up and divide them. One does not have to be careful in digging any bulbs up. Take a shovel, scoop underneath the bulbs, go down about eight or ten inches, you get a clump because you only want to be digging the bulbs if it is time to divide them. Once you dig the bulbs up in a clump you can literally take them and throw them as hard as you can on the ground. You want to bust all the soil off. When you do that you are probably going to find that you have fifty or sixty bulbs in that one clump. Just separate them, it's really easy because you don't have dirt around them, you pull them apart then you put them in the place where you want to plant them for the following year. So it is really important - plant in the fall, divide in the spring of the year so you know where you're planting your bulbs. One other thing Jim thinks is real important, bulbs are going to tell you when it is time to divide. Too many people think well I am going to divide every two years or three years. That's not true. You want to look at a clump, and lets say daffodils again, we've got a clump of daffodils, if the interior daffodils no longer have flowers and all of the flowers are around the edges it is telling you it's time to divide. A lot of daffodils Jim has had for ten or twelve years and they still do not need to be divided. If he has flowers in the middle, not as many as on the outside edges, but if there are flowers you don't have to divide them, but when you have no flowers in the center for sure you need to divide.

Fall is also a wonderful time to PRUNE PERENNIALS and there are many reasons that we ought to prune perennials, not the least of which is just to tidy the garden up. But also, we want to remove plant material that basically is spent so that it does not create places where fungus and bacteria can grow and create other problems for our plants. What are some of the plants that Jim thinks are particularly good for pruning in the fall? What he likes to do with perennials is look at the entire bed and first design your bed so that you do have a few perennials that you do not cut back and the reason is you want to create some winter interest. One of his favorites is Russian sage, perovskia, and his other favorite is sedum Autumn Joy. The reason for that, even in the winter when there is no foliage on the Russian sage the stems will turn more of a silver color and as November and December go on it's very silver in color and it is beautiful against a stacked stone wall. It shows up well. The seed head on the sedum autumn joy also has some ornamental interest. With frost on it in the winter it is beautiful, when a light snow catches in the sedum autumn joy it's beautiful. But, again, it gives a little structure to your perennial bed in the winter time. Remember, everything else is going to be cut back.

DIVIDING PERENNIALS should be done probably once every two or three years. Jim probably divides his perennials once every three years. If you do that you are going to have better root structure and you are going to be able to let those plants fill out better and continue to grow which means you are going to have stronger vegetation on the top. This year happens to be the third year and it is the year that Gibbs Gardens will cut theirs back. They will lose the silver stems and the Sedum Autumn Joy, but only for one year. They have to give that up to do this.

Jim demonstrates how they address this pruning. They take a plant and literally cut it back. Jim has some pruners and will demonstrate. You want to remember to always start with a pair of sharp pruners. He starts with one plant, he wants it to be manageable, it isn't going to hurt anything if you take all of this growth on down and cut it. You don't have to be careful, it doesn't matter, you are just trying to get some of the old growth out of your way. In fact, lets go on down. There are a lot of forks in the plant so is going to go below all these forks and makes a cut. He got rid of all those forks. After cutting below the forks he then comes through with a shovel. Dig down around the roots, cut straight down, sever the root system then you are going to take this plant and literally where each of these clumps are you are going to split them, divide them. Now you have a number of new plants, we will easily have one, two, three or four new plants from where that one plant was. Now we will put three back in each place and we have a nice clump so that's the way you would be dividing those.

Eric knows that after Jim is done with pruning especially with perennials but also with trees and shrubs there is a lot of material that is left over. We have all of these sticks that we have just pruned off as well as the leaf matter that we are going to rake out of the beds as we are transitioning from fall to winter and all of this gets composted. Jim COMPOSTS all of this and you can imagine the leaves, they have piles of leaves that they will compost this year. They will probably have a hundred truckloads of composted leaves and debris that they compost in one year. All you have to do is pile those leaves up, they try not to get any higher than four or five feet but in one year it is completely composted to a black dirt. And it looks like the richest, blackest dirt that you have ever seen. In the spring you will then want to put about three or four inches thick over this entire bed. Then take a pitch fork and just stick it down in the ground, move it back and forth, back and forth. You want the compost to be able to work its way down into the clay that will be down deeper. This aids in getting moisture from the compost into the clay and that makes for better drainage. It is important to compost the bed not for just the nutrients but to also break up the soil for good aeration and good drainage. Good compost is as important as anything on the bed.

In this episode we visited with Jim Gibbs, an expert horticulturalist and garden designer and discussed many of the exciting things that go into a winter garden. Jim you've provided many wonderful tips and tons of information. We really appreciate your spending the day with you and sharing your garden with us.Thank you so much. Jim replies it's been his pleasure. Thank you.

LINKS:

Gibbs Gardens
World-Class Garden | North GA Destinations | Gibbs Gardens

Jim Gibbs book - "GIBBS GARDENS - Reflections On A Gardening Life"
Gift Store | Gibbs Gardens

Carol Skapinetz - Original Watercolors
cgskapinetz.com - Home

Plant List

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