The last of the summer wine
November is the eleventh month of the year in the modern-day Gregorian calendar and its predecessor, the Julian calendar.
The month kept its original name from the Latin novem meaning nine, which marked the ninth month of the year in the Roman calendar. November was named during a time when the calendar year began in March; the calendar of Romulus consisted of 304 days. Is it any wonder why Mother Nature is all screwed up!
So, back to reality and the land of our fathers which continues to need our attention. Shorter days and cooler temperatures are the portent for the downside of new growth, and a chance to review issues from the summer growth and prepare for the ‘onslaught’ of a Bermuda winter.
With the last of the blooming coming to an end, it is a good time to clean up excessive growth in preparation for winter winds: prune out heavy growth to allow wind to filter through growth without causing too much damage; clear out all fallen debris from flower beds to avoid the problem of the debris acting as host to pest and diseases.
If any pest and disease is noticed treat immediately before it has a chance to spread and overwinter. Do not compost or simply dump infected debris, it is best burnt otherwise fungal spores or insect eggs will regenerate and start the cycle over again.
As summer weeds start to decline, winter weeds will start to kick in – and usually at a fast rate. Be on the constant lookout for ephemeral weeds, these are plants that germinate, mature flower and seed in a very short period of time and can become invasive if not tackled in the early days of appearing.
After the summer heat the surface of the soil can be quite solid and firm. Use a Dutch hoe to gently ‘slide’ through the surface of the soil. The exercise will remove not only germinating weeds but break up the surface of the soil allowing better penetration of rain or irrigation and plant nutrients getting to feeder roots.
From November through to March it is best to apply fertiliser low in nitrogen and higher in potassium and phosphates. Liquid feeding can also be applied as a supplemental via a hose end applicator; Jacks being a good product and with hose end applicators to match.
November is a good time to start removal of weed growth in hard landscaped areas and woodland areas. Be specific when using weed control as there are two main types – selective and non-selective. Stay away from the latter, except if using in purely hard landscaped areas with no run-off. Chemicals can be contact or translocated in their method ie contact herbicides only react to and kill what they cover leaf-wise whereas translocated herbicides move within the plant to have a greater effect. Herbicides, as with any chemical, can be hazardous if not used as per the instructions so if all else fails, read them!
Never spray plants with chemicals when plant is under stress, soil is dry or in the heat of the day, it is the quickest way to damage foliage and, in worst case scenario, lose the plant.
Always clean out the sprayer and lance thoroughly after use as retained material will have a deleterious effect on material when used incorrectly. Keep sprayers used for weed control for that purpose only; similarly keep sprayers for pest and disease control just for that. It is best to colour code them to highlight their usage and write either selective or non-selective in indelible ink on each spray tank.
Malcolm Griffiths is a trained horticulturalist and fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture in the UK. He is also past president of the Bermuda Horticultural Society, Bermuda Orchid Society and the Bermuda Botanical Society