October 23, 2003 at 1:13 p.m.
Protect young trees from voles, mice and rabbits by using white spiral plastic cylinders or hardware cloth. According to recent research, hardware cloth has also been shown to reduce frost cracks in young trees. It appears to divert enough sunlight to prevent injury.
It's too late to plant grass for this fall because if the grass seed has sprouted and if we get a hard freeze as we did last week, it will kill or severely weaken the plants. The last fall fertilizer application should go down around the end of October. Check with your garden center or feed store for instructions as to what kind to use and how much.
Cannas, gladiolus, dahlias, and other annual bulbs can be dug after the killing frost has dried the stalks. Every year I am asked if cannas and gladiolus can be left in the ground over the winter. You can but don't expect them to come up next spring. If they do survive, they will be weak and probably won't survive the summer. When you dig them, be sure the bulbs are completely dry before you store them in a cool, dry area that won't freeze. I don't wash my bulbs but rather let the dirt dry and then I wipe it off.
A couple of years ago I dug some of my glads and put them in a shed to dry off. We had a very cold night and they froze and I had to throw them away. In that case they would have been better protected in the ground.
October is the best time to plant tulips. I didn't realize how many different varieties of tulips there are. There are tall ones, short ones, multi-colored ones, as well as ones that bloom at different times. They are one of the easiest flowers to plant, but they need light and well-drained soil. When you plant them add a teaspoon of bulb food and the bulbs will do the rest.
Critters such as moles, rabbits and squirrels, etc. have long been the enemy of tulip bulbs. I don't know of any chemical that will help, but there may be something on the market. I did see in one of my garden magazines, a type of mesh that can be installed. However, the mesh looked a bit costly.
The other day I heard that you should plant the tulip bulbs in the evening. It may sound silly but this gardener said that the squirrels watch while you plant the bulbs and come and dig them up later. Since they go back in their holes toward evening, that is the best time to plant. I plant when I get the time and hope for the best.
Fall bearing raspberries can be pruned back after fruiting but research has shown that winter or early spring pruning is best. This is because the nutrients stored in the canes are re-absorbed by the roots.
Next week I hope to write about putting your garden and plants to bed for the winter.