Forcing growth makes shrubs vulnerable to winter damage | THE COMPLEAT HOME GARDENER

Binetti answers questions about moving fall plants out of their pots and adding lime to lawn.

The first part of November is no time to prune or rest on your laurels. English laurels and other broad leaf evergreen shrubs such as rhododendrons are slipping into winter dormancy and pruning always stimulates growth. Forcing out new growth makes shrubs more vulnerable to winter damage.

You can still dig and divide some summer flowering perennials such as daylilies during the month of November and continue to transplant and move around evergreen shrubs. This is a good time to plant garlic cloves in the vegetable garden and cut back any herbaceous peony plants to soil level. Removing the peony foliage now will help prevent fungal diseases that appear as dark spots on the new foliage.

Q. I bought budded mum plants for fall decorating and the chrysanthemums still look great in my container gardens, but I do want to move these fall plants out of their pots on the front porch as soon as they finish flowering. Do I prune them back when I move them into the garden bed or wait until spring? J., Puyallup

A. Make the cut on your fall flowering mums as soon as they are finished flowering. You can cut potted mums back to six-inch stumps and then transplant them into a spot in the landscape that enjoys full sun and good drainage.

Don’t be surprised if that pot of mums turns out to be a collection of four of five individual mum plants rather than one large clump. Just pull apart the smaller plants and space them 12 to 18 inches apart in the garden. Add a mulch on top of the soil to protect the newly transplanted mums from a hard frost before they have time to settle in.

You can also prune back any chrysanthemums growing in the ground as soon as the flowers fade. Be warned that some of the ornamental mums sold as gift plants are greenhouse grown and not as hardy for outdoor use as the more traditional garden mum with smaller blooms.

Q. Is it too late to add lime to my lawn? I have a lot of moss and I heard moss kills moss. G.H., Auburn

A. You can spread lime on your lawn any time of year but fall is a good time because the winter rains will help wash this soil additive down to the grass roots.

Lime does not kill moss nor is lime considered a fertilizer. Lime comes in different forms and types and some work more quickly than others to change the acidity or PH of the soil.

Moss loves the acid soil that occurs naturally in rainy Western Washington and over time, after several years the addition of lime to your soil will help to neutralize the acidity. Lime can also help break up soils with poor drainage but again, with lime it takes time.

Q. When can I move my peony plant? It has stopped blooming due to increased shade and I do know that peonies should only be planted and transplanted in the fall. I just don’t know how late in the fall I can wait to do the job. S.C., Olympia

A. November is a good month to add new peony roots and to dig in and move your established plants if necessary. Peonies are one of the few perennials that hate to be dug up and divided and can stay in the same spot for decades.

Your lack of peony blooms could be from more shade but the most common reason that peonies fail to flower is that they are planted too deep – often after years of adding a mulch to the soil or due to falling leaves that create a natural mulch, the top of the peony plant becomes covered with an inch or so of soil and stops blooming. Scrape away the extra mulch in the spring so that the peony tuber is just barely covered with soil.

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