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Garden wisdom from deer country!

Gardening in the Sierra Foothills with Carolyn Singer

The seasoned gardener

published in The Union in Grass Valley CA

Transplanting & season extenders

by Carolyn Singer
November 21, 2009

silverberryNovember is a busy gardening month for me. Chilly nights are cooling down the soil, but lots of planting can still be done in the next few weeks. While it's too early to do any pruning, I am ready to do some serious digging this month and next. The intense fall fragrance of the silverberry (Elaeagnus pungens)lures me into the garden almost everyday.

Garlic has been planted, mulched lightly with decomposed straw, and is covered with a row cover. The cover helps retain some of the fall warmth in the soil and prevents heavy rains from compacting the soil. When the garlic is about three to four inches tall, I remove the row cover to add to the straw mulch, then lay the cover on top of plants again.

Tufbell covers cover cropRow covers are perfect protection for cover crops too. I leave the row cover on all winter to protect the bell beans in the "soil builder". The plants push the row cover up as they grow.

I'm using Tufbell, a row cover I have had for many years. This product is no longer available, but a similarly durable agricultural row cover is available called Dio-Betalon. This has excellent light transmission (92-95%). Rain can penetrate through the material but moisture does not build up under the cover. Warm sunny days will not damage the plants under a row cover even if the cover touches the leaves.

If you are one of those foothill dwellers who simply must have a dwarf Meyer lemon, wrap it in Dio-Betalon for the coldest months.

Agribon is a row cover offering several grades for plant protection, each varying in per cent of light transmission, degrees of heat increase, and amount of frost protection. This row cover is not as durable as the Dio-Betalon, but may still be used for more than one year if it is stored dry and out of sunlight.

cloches need ventilationCloches may also be used to extend the gardening season in the vegetable garden. While traditional cloches have been bell-shaped glass domes protecting individual plants in French gardens, they are now available in rigid plastic. Using this type of protection in the sunny foothills, however, means the gardener must pay attention to sudden changes in the weather. A warm day can overheat vegetables protected by cloches. Too much warmth and intensified light may even force plants into a bloom stage prematurely. Cloches also need to be ventilated to reduce buildup of moisture.

Wildflower and cover crop seed sown in November in most sunny locations will still germinate, especially if you use a row cover. Soil with compost added, regular moisture, and a few hours of warm sunshine are the key ingredients. Remember that fine seed should not be covered with soil or mulch. Spread compost mulch on top of the soil and seed into it.

Late fall gardening should also include the addition of more bulbs, either into containers for later transplanting, or right into the soil.

Adding to the ornamental garden may continue this month. Plants in nursery containers are added into my garden well into December. Transplanting is high on my list of priorities, and a fork is the best tool. Now you can even lift established plants to move them. With plants going into dormancy there is little risk of transplant shock. Move the early bloomers (Camellias, Rhododendrons, Sarcococca, Daphne, and Azaleas) first. Later bloomers may be moved well into February.

November in the Nevada County Master Gardener gardenRemember to irrigate new or recently moved plants and fall-sown seeds once a week unless good soaking rains keep the soil moist to twelve inches depth. And renew mulches if rain or wind has shifted the material. Tending plants in November prevents winter damage, ensuring healthy growth in spring.

©2009 by Carolyn Singer. All rights reserved.

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