Frost, Peonies, Raspberries and Roses By John Fulton
October 23, 2013, Frost; Virtually everything in the garden has been affected by frost, except for frost tolerant crops such as lettuce, spinach, radishes, and the like. The main problem with any of the vining crops is the possibility of the vines rotting back to the vegetable. This in turn means they won’t keep well. Unfortunately, vining crops harvested early won’t continue to ripen. Green pumpkins tend to stay green. If vines were frosted, harvest any produce you want quickly. Once the vine rots back to the fruit, the fruit will rot quickly. Sweet potatoes are also critical to get dug if the vines were affected.
For tomatoes, you may pick green tomatoes that didn’t suffer freeze damage, and they will ripen after a period of time. The best way is to pick firm, good quality fruit, and wash well with soapy water. After they are dry, wrap in newspaper or tissue paper and place on a rack or in a cardboard box in a single layer. Check periodically for tomatoes going out of condition, or becoming ripe. To speed things along, you can try putting a tomato in a paper lunch bag with a banana peel. Bananas are high in ethylene, which is the same thing used in a gas form to ripen tomatoes in transport during the winter. Of course, the flavor just isn’t the same as a vine-ripened tomato, but tomatoes in the fall or winter are good regardless.
Fall Care of Peonies
Peonies are one of those “plant it and forget it” flowers. Many haven’t been bothered for over 50 years, and are still going strong. As with most plants, crowding can occur, and the time to dig and divide is late September through October. Peonies do best in soils with a slightly acid to neutral pH. The best time to add lime, if needed, is when you dig the plants.
When dividing, make sure you leave buds on each piece you plan to plant. These buds should be no deeper than an inch when replanted to allow for proper flowering. Mulching will help year-long on any plant, and peonies are no exception.
To start with, remove all the dead, short, and weak canes. The large remaining canes are thinned to 4 to 8 inches apart. The canes are cut back to 5-6 feet tall, or if no support is provided 3 to 4 feet tall. The canes that produced last year should be removed any time after harvest, or removed in the late fall. Canes are productive only one year, and the new growth will produce the next year's harvest. The exception is the Heritage, or ever-bearing, raspberry which produces two crops of berries. One is in the fall, and the second is late spring or early summer. The fall bearing tends to be on the tips of the canes, while the spring bearing is the next growing section lower. These berries should have the canes removed after the late spring or early summer crop. For now, you just cut off the bearing tips.
Many calls have come in to the office concerning rose care and pruning. The main thing in the fall is to wait for all the leaf material to become brown. Next, you would only do enough pruning to allow winter protection to cover the plant. The majority of the pruning is done after winter protection is removed.
As for bush and knockout roses, the same principles apply. Knockouts really don’t require anything to be done to them, other than some possible reshaping or cutting back in the spring.