WHEN DO THINGS GO DORMANT?
I finally got a freeze cold enough to kill everything at my house the other morning! This is the first time this year and when it gets to be early November I guess it supposed to be cold.
I had been covering my tomatoes for several days to try to ripen the green fruit but that morning it wilted the leaves even under cover.
That brings me to think that one of my readers suggested that I explain when and what dormancy is in plants. This was prompted by my article on pruning recently.
Plant dormancy basically means the plant goes to sleep. It quits growing and slows down its metabolism in order to conserve energy. This is usually brought on by environmental conditions. In cool season grasses, this happens when summer heat comes on as well as in the middle of the winter. This condition can also be brought on by drought, especially with deep-rooted perennial weeds like bindweed. In most cases, dormancy is brought on by consistent freezing temperatures.
The Snell calendar, as odd as it may be, is a little different as far as the seasons go on the regular calendar, I figure early winter actually begins on Veterans Day as far as planting purposes go. Mid-winter, when I figure everything is dormant or what I call soil freeze-up is December 11- February 10. Then late winter runs from February 11 - March 10.
Until dormancy occurs, plants, including trees, are storing energy in the roots in the form of carbohydrates. So, before Thanksgiving you don’t want to cut back spring blooming things or do any heavy pruning.
Dormancy is the best time to do a lot of the pruning shores and to apply mulches as you can see in the next two articles below.
Though most shrub roses are hardy in Kansas, other types of roses can be more tender. For example, the hybrid teas have certain species in their ancestry that had their origin in the warm climate of southern China. These roses need protection to reliably survive our winters.
A mound of soil or compost about 8 to 10 inches high should be hilled around each plant after most of the leaves have dropped. If soil is used, it should be brought in from another part of the garden. Do not pull soil from between plants to make the mound as this can either directly damage the roots of the rose or make the roots more susceptible to cold damage.
After the ground has frozen, mulch made up of straw, leaves, or hay should be added to an additional depth of 4 inches to provide further protection. On the average, I usually figure soil freeze up is around Thanksgiving, although it can be a little earlier and may not be until late December some years.
Some additional soil may then be placed on top of the mulch to keep it in place. Do not add the mulch before the ground freezes or mice may invade and feed on the roses over the winter. The purpose of these coverings is not only to moderate the cold but also to prevent warm days during the winter or early spring from stimulating growth which is very tender to renewed cold weather.
Excessively tall canes should be pruned down to a height of 36 inches and tied together to prevent them from being whipped by strong winter winds. This whipping action can damage the crown of the plant or loosen the soil surrounding it.
Next spring, the coverings need to be removed before new growth starts. Do not do this before the ground thaws as the tops may begin growth before the roots can provide water.
WINTER MULCHING OF VEGETABLES
Some crops benefit from some mulching to prevent damage to the crop during the late autumn season. Root crops such as beets, carrots, parsnips, and turnips can be harvested and used until the soil freezes hard (usually in mid- to late December). A mulch can slow down this soil freezing and extend the harvest period. Rhubarb is a shallow planted perennial crop that will benefit from winter mulching. However, the mulch needs to be removed by mid-March to allow soil warming to encourage earlier emergence (and spring use). Asparagus is a deep-planted perennial with a deep, hardy root system. Mulching is probably not much of a benefit to the crop. However, mulching is a good way to stabilize soil and prevent erosion, in some cases. As with rhubarb, mulch should be removed in the early spring by about mid-March to encourage early emergence and growth.
K-STATE SWINE DAY
I hope you will plan to ride up with me to the annual Swine Day that K-State holds each year. This year’s program will be held on Thursday, Nov. 18 at the KSU Alumni Center on the campus in Manhattan.
There will be an expanded trade show from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. The morning program gets underway at 9:45 a.m. with the welcome, followed by an update from the K-State swine team on how current K-State research can help improve net returns to a farm business. Then Dr. Steve Henry will give one of the key presentations on “Failure to Thrive: Is Emerging Viral Disease the Cause?”
The afternoon features a discussion on “Managing Risk in Today’s Swine Industry” by Joe Kerns of Iowa City, Iowa, followed by K-State ice cream.
The cost of the program is $20 in advance or $30 at the door. You can register on line at ww.KSUswine.org
Rick Snell is the Barton County Extension Agricultural Agent for K-State Research & Extension. He can be reached at 620-793-1910 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Barton County Extension Office is located at 1800 12th Street in Great Bend.