It takes your houseplants a little while to adjust to being inside. Don’t worry if the foliage becomes lighter in color or some of the leaves drop. Your plants are just trying to get used to less light and lower humidity. Avoid fertilizing and water less frequently during this adjustment period.
It’s never too early to start planning next year’s garden. Take a walk around and note which plants did well during this summer’s drought and which ones suffered. A landscape is a constantly evolving thing and you shouldn’t be afraid to pull up something that didn’t do well and fill the space with a drought and pest resistant replacement. If plants that you value look dead, wait until spring to remove them. It is especially hard to tell if deciduous trees and shrubs are dead; failure to leaf out next spring is the only true test.
Now is a good time to plant new trees and shrubs. If the plant comes out of a pot be sure to break up the roots and remove any that are circling the root ball, since they will girdle the trunk as the plant matures. Remove any wrappings and twine from balled and burlapped trees. If the rootball cracks or threatens to fall apart, cut away as much of the burlap and rope as you can after the tree is in the hole. Be careful not to plant too deeply. Scrape away the top dirt and plant so that the flare of roots is just visible at the soil line. If your soil drains poorly plant a couple of inches higher to compensate. Apply two to three inches of mulch and remember to keep the mulch at least six inches away from the trunk of the tree. Mulching too close to the trunk encourages the growth of decay organisms and rodents that damage the tree’s protective bark. Be sure to keep the ground around your new planting moist, watering once a week if rainfall is scarce until the ground freezes.
Once all the leaves have fallen it’s time to prune your deciduous and evergreen trees. Remove any suckers and thin out the canopy. This will help improve air circulation and sunlight penetration to lower branches. Take out all diseased and dead branches. Check the tree’s form and remove any branches that are rubbing on others. Lower branches that are failing because of lack of light should also be removed.
Large groups of Asian ladybird beetles are beginning to congregate on the sides of houses, garages, and sheds. They especially like white houses and warm, sunny days. Their appearance varies from pale yellowish-brown to bright orange-red and they may have no spots or up to twenty spots. Like other ladybird beetles these are beneficial and you should avoid destroying them even though hundreds or thousands may congregate. Be sure to caulk your doors and windows and screen attic and exhaust vents. If they can’t find a way in they will move on. If they do make it inside put a new bag in your vacuum and suck them up. Store the bag in your unheated garage or shed until mid-April, then release them into your yard. They will appreciate the winter shelter and you will appreciate their spring appetite as they feed on your garden pests.
Now is the time to check your lilacs for lilac borers. Look for dead branches and small holes near the base of the stems or in the branch crotches. Cut off any dead or infested branches. If necessary you can cut the entire plant down to the ground. Next season it will produce vigorous new growth and the lilac borers will be eliminated since they only attack mature branches one inch or more in diameter.