“This time of year, ornamental plants are going to be slowing down as far as getting ready for dormancy,” Bartow County Extension Coordinator Paul Pugliese said. “The growth is going to be much slower, a lot of them are going to change color, that’s your fall color this time of year. And then a lot of your perennials, things like daylilies and that sort of thing, they’re going to be dying back as soon as we get a really good cold snap, which usually that doesn’t happen until the end of October, early November before that kind of stuff gets knocked back hard by the cold.
“And that’s OK. That’s what they’re supposed to do. It looks like they’re dead but you just go in and you clean up the tops that are burned back, especially your perennial-type plants. Cut them back and they’re good to go through the winter with 2 or 3 inches of mulch to keep them warm. If it’s something that completely dies back and goes dormant then once you cut back those plants then you can put mulch right on top of them and clean up your landscape.”
Along with mulch sprucing up the appearance of one’s landscape, Pugliese emphasizes the many benefits of applying mulch to protect plants during the winter months.
“I think the most important thing folks need to focus on is mulching, making sure that you have a good fresh layer of mulch out there in your garden,” Pugliese said. “If it’s pine straw, you don’t necessarily need to pull that out. You can just put another layer right on top of it.
“Just make sure you have a good 3- or 4-inch layer of mulch to get things through the winter because that’s going to help conserve soil moisture and cut down on your winter weeds that might be coming up later. And it also kind of dresses up your landscape for the wintertime because sometimes everything is dormant and it’s not all that appealing to the eye.”
To help area residents properly plant trees and shrubs, the Bartow County Cooperative Extension Office is supplying printouts of the “Soil Preparation and Planting Procedures for Ornamental Plants in the Landscape” publication, which also can be found online at www.caes.uga.edu/publications.
“Fall and winter is actually the best time to plant trees and shrubs. Ironically that’s when you see very little plant material or sales going on at local nurseries,” Pugliese said. “But that’s really the best time to buy those plants and put them in the ground and the reason being is because your chances of success are much better in the fall and winter to get that plant established without any heat or drought or any other stress. It’s a much easier time of year to get things acclimated to the soil and rooted in deep and it won’t require as much water and effort to keep them alive. ... In general, anything that you plant, you want to dig a hole at least twice as wide as the container of the root ball that you purchased and, of course, you can always go wider.
“The wider the better because basically you’re loosening up that clay soil and allowing those roots to get established much easier. As far as amending the soil, as a general rule we would rather people not add any soil amendments or any compost to that planting hole because it’s really better for that plant to get acclimated to that soil — whatever native soil you have, which is going to be clay in this area. The sooner it can get used to that the better off it’s going to be.”
In addition to contacting Pugliese, individuals can discuss gardening issues with Bartow County Master Gardeners at the Arts Festival at Rose Lawn Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., on the grounds of the Rose Lawn Museum, 224 W. Cherokee Ave. in Cartersville.
“We’re hoping to have a lot of native plants [for sale] — beautyberries and sweet shrubs, things like that,” said Kate Posey, president of the Bartow County Master Gardeners, about their clinic and plant sale. “I think we’re going to be focusing more on water conservation. And we’ll have some raffle [items]. We have a composter that someone has donated and we’re going to raffle that off.
“And we’ll have applications for the Master Gardener class that’s starting Jan. 3. ... [During these clinics] it’s amazing how you see the same people come back year after year and they’ll tell you about a plant that they’ve purchased that’s done really well or one that [has] not. [They will share] the things that they’ve learned from that process. So it’s just very interesting.”
For more gardening information, Pugliese can be reached at email@example.com or 770-387-5142.