Now is the time to wrap your shrubs with twine for the winter. The branches of plants like boxwood, arborvitae, and columnar junipers are susceptible to splaying or breaking under the weight of snow and ice. Secure the twine to the bottom of the trunk and wrap it upward in a spiral form. After reaching the top of the shrub, begin wrapping downward in the same spiral motion until you reach the starting point. Finish by tying the twine securely to the trunk. Twine can be removed in the spring after snow and ice threats have passed.
Composting your green waste is a great way to help the environment, and it will provide your garden with a rich, organic soil conditioner. Compost your jack-o’-lantern after Halloween and your pumpkin rinds after holiday baking.
The cool weather of the autumn months may bring the onset of white pine aphids that feed on the eastern white pine, Pinus strobus. Small trees can be killed by large populations of this insect. Signs of heavy infestation include branch dieback, increased ant activity, sooty mold, and honeydew. White pine aphids overwinter in rows of black eggs on the needles. If the eggs are present in small numbers, the needles can be removed by hand. If present in large numbers, they can be destroyed by applying horticultural oil.
Thousands of Asian ladybird beetles may soon gather on the outside of your houses, garages, and sheds in search of a place to overwinter. This beetle, Harmonia axyridis, was introduced from Asia over ten years ago in the hopes of controlling aphids and scales in this country. This species has over 100 forms with different colors ranging from yellow to orange to red and with no spots or as many as 19. Most commonly, it is orange with black spots or black with four red spots. Like other ladybird beetles, this one is beneficial and should not be destroyed. In autumn they congregate on light colored surfaces on warm days. Asian ladybird beetles are harmless to humans. They do not bite or sting, but they can be a nuisance in large numbers. To prevent them from making their way inside, caulk your windows and doors and screen attic and exhaust vents. If they do make it inside, put a new bag in your vacuum cleaner and suck them up. You can keep the bag in your unheated garage or shed until mid-April, then release them into your yard to feast on springtime pests.
Don’t be concerned if the houseplants that you have brought in from the outside for the winter are turning yellow or dropping some of their leaves. They are adjusting to the changes in temperature and humidity. Remember to water them less frequently; with fewer leaves they do not need as much. Also, refrain from fertilizing them during this period of adjustment.
It’s not too early to start planning for next year’s garden. Make note of which plants pulled through the drought and which ones suffered. It can be survival of the fittest as seasonal weather extremes take their toll. Consider replacing plants that are stressed with ones that are more drought hardy and pest resistant, and remember to amend your soil with organic matter before planting. Wait until spring before removing any deciduous shrubs or trees that are especially valuable to you. You may suspect that these plants are dead, but failure to leaf out in the spring is the only true test.