Q. I noticed a light colored spot on my tree, which was not present this summer. I inspected the tree, and I didn't see any ants or other pests, nor did the area seem to be oozing anything. My best description of it is it looks like a bleach stain. The tree is rather tall and sits just between mine and my neighbor's house, so I am worried about its health and if I need to remove it or can save it. (see photo)
A. That looks like some type of stress fracture. The way that tree has grown is not structurally sound. I think it would be stronger/better if you had a tree company remove the (smaller) trunk to the left. The growth of the trunk to the right would compensate over time and you'd have a better tree growing from a single trunk, as would be preferred.
Q. I would like to put my vegetable garden to bed for the winter. I was going to seed some cover crop, like turnips, but forgot. What can I do for now? What about next spring?
A. The best thing to do would be to turn over the soil as deeply as is practical. Then cover with a layer of mulch. An ideal mulch is chopped up leaves, which you can easily get with a lawn mower that has a bagger to catch them. A layer of about an inch is great.
You can still seed the turnips as a cover crop very early next year. I would plan on the second week of March. Work the mulch into the soil and seed the cover crop. Only do this where you are waiting to plant vegetables at the end of April or into May. It may not grow a lot, but is still helpful. Seed at a higher density when you know you'll till them in within a month or so.
Q. With the recent cold, should I now cut back my roses? What's the best way?
A. This cold should have set the roses dormant, so yes it's a fine time to cut them back. I like to prune roses for winter in two steps. Prune to about 2-3 feet tall now. They won't catch as much snow or ice at this length so will be less likely to get damaged through the winter. In the spring, around the second week of March, prune to the desired height. You may be able to see where winter damage has occurred by then, and can prune to remove it.
If cutting back and using a rose cone or other winter protection, you can cut back to the final height now, then apply the protection.
Q. Can I winter protect my strawberries now? And if I forgot to protect other sensitive plants like figs or rosemary, should I still do it?
A. A few nights around 20 or colder sets strawberries dormant, so it is probably OK. We normally don't get this until early December, so if the plants seem to look green and decent you could wait a few more weeks. If you just want to get it done, go for it.
I have failed to winter protect my figs when we dropped into the teens, and then done so later. I still think it is much better than leaving the canes exposed all winter. It is not always about a singular cold event, but an accrual of cold exposure. That said, going below 10 is harsh for figs or rosemary. If you can spare the time, I'd say to do it and hope for the best.