Gardeners know that gardening chores never really end, but with fall upon us, and winter not far behind, most of us are slowing down now. However, there are those chores, such as growing herbs indoors, cleaning up around our fruit trees and protecting the trunks of thin-barked fruit and ornamental trees that are perfect to finish up on a sunny fall day.
Cooking with fresh garden herbs is a way to make a good dish taste even better, and growing herbs indoors keeps a bit of summer inside with you. So, if you want to grow herbs over the winter now is the time to dig and repot herbs, take cuttings or start seeds. Obviously, it’s not quite as easy growing indoors as outside, so you need to meet some requirements, such as adequate light.
A southern exposure that offers seven to eight hours a of sunlight a day is best. Having less light can limit how much your herbs grow and result in some growth that is leggier, leading to elongated stems, less leaves, or can even cause some leaf drop. If you don’t have that extended southern winter light you can help your plants out by using some grow lights or two cool-white fluorescent 40-watt bulbs. When using artificial lights you want to keep the light five to 12 inches above the plants.
You also don’t want cold or hot air drafts on your herbs, so don’t place them near vents or by doors to the outside. Keep the plants evenly moist but don’t waterlog them or let them dry out too much. Fertilize herbs with a low amount of a water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks. Some herbs that can do well indoors include rosemary, chives, thyme, basil, mint, and sage. If you have other favorite herbs, try those too.
Growing fruit is another of those gardening pleasures. Who doesn’t like to taste that fresh fruit off the tree? However, the fallen leaves, dead branches, and that dried up or mummified fruit still on the branches or on the ground from those fruit trees can harbor diseases and insect pests. To help limit or prevent these problems it really helps to clean up around your fruit trees. So always remove the old leftover dried up fruit off the trees and clean up any fallen fruits, twigs and leaves around the trees and dispose of these, either by tilling them into the garden or removing them from the property. Only compost those materials if you know they have no disease issues or if your compost pile heats up to between 120 and 150 degrees Farenheit to kill any pathogens and insect eggs.
Winter injury, also called sunscald, occurs frequently here in Grand County and affects both fruit trees and sometimes even young thin-barked ornamental trees. This winter injury can take the form of frost cracks in the trunks and, in severe cases, can lead to sections of the bark peeling back or sloughing off the tree.
Winter injury is most often seen on the southern and southwestern sides of trees. During the day, winter sunlight warms the trunks or cambium layer, breaking dormancy. The cambium is the thin layer beneath the bark of the tree that develops new cells and moves both water and nutrients through the tree. At night, the rapid cooling and potential formation of ice crystals can result in the rupturing of plant cells and lead to tissue death. This injury can be more acute when the tree is also suffering from drought stress.
To help prevent this you can wrap thin-barked ornamental tree trunks and wrap or paint fruit tree trunks up to the first scaffold limbs. If you decide to wrap the trunks, take the wrap off in the early spring. If painting, use a white, interior latex paint mixed with 50 to 75 percent water so you end up with the paint between 25 and 50 percent strength. It’s best not to paint above the first scaffold limbs because this can inhibit future bud development if you should need more limb structure.
Thought for the day: “There’s only one endeavor in which you can start at the top, and that’s digging a hole.” —Unknown
For more information about these topics, call the Utah State University Extension Grand County office at 259-7558 or email Mike Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ByBy Michael Johnson
Utah State University Extension Agent, Grand County