October - Summer is Past

October - Summer is Past 

by Lee Vanderpool

Days are shorter, nights are longer - that first nip creeps into the early morning twilight - it must be October! During October, you must begin to seriously consider of winter protection for your trees. Remember, the first frost date for the Ft Walton Beach area averages around November 15th, so you have about six weeks to get your plan made and executed. This will probably consist of organizing materials such as lumber, fiber- glass, plastic sheeting, railroad ties, mulch or other items required to assist you in providing a sheltered area where your trees may safely overwinter, be it a greenhouse or a simple mulch area in which you can bury your plants and pots.

The mulch area is a simple and effective solution for overwintering hardy trees. Move four railroad ties, landscaping timbers, logs or other retaining material into a square, fill the square with pine or cypress mulch and bury your trees at least to the top of the pot but to the first branch, if possible. Tropicals, of course, require more elaborate pro- tection such as a heated porch, spare room in the house or a heated greenhouse. The cost of external greenhouses may be from as little as a few dollars for a simple plastic covered frame to several hundred dollars for a professionally con- structed building.

Together with a shelter for cold and wind protection, you must not forget to continue good horticultural practices: water, fertilize with low nitrogen fertilizer, treat with fungicide and insecticide. Before you attempt to move your trees inside for the winter, you should put them through a period of acclimatization lasting several weeks. Move them first to the shade of a tall tree or house overhang then onto a porch and finally putting them inside. This procedure should minimize shock to the tree and, although you may expect some leaf drop, it should not be too drastic. Preparing for winter takes time and effort but it all pays off in the end! 

© Fort Walton Beach Bonsai Society (FWBBS) ELF 2020