Getting lawns and gardens ready for a long winter nap
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There is a lot still happening in the garden. My chrysanthemums are just coming into a nice bloom. The tender plants have frozen and many of the perennials are starting to die back. The deciduous trees are shedding their leaves and the evergreen trees are shedding their older needles. The lawns are still green and most vegetables have given up the ghost. It is a season of change.
So, what can we do when we have those few nice days left? Since gardening is an annual ritual, there are things that should be done each season of the year to prepare for the next season. Here are a few things that can be done in the fall.
Many have had their sprinklers turned off and blown out. This limits what you can do.
Most lawn grasses are still growing, but very slowly. Keep mowing it, and for your last mowing make it short (about 2.5 inches high). A very light fall fertilizer (1/4 – ½ rate) after the last mowing will help the grass come out stronger in the spring if you can water it in. If the sprinklers are turned off, you can fertilize just before a rainstorm or wet snowstorm.
After your last mowing clean up your mower and store it out of the weather.
Trees & shrubs
If you have the right plants, you shouldn’t need to do much with your trees and shrubs in the fall. The leaves can be raked or left on the ground. Don’t allow them to form a mat over the grass.
Leaves make a great mulch to pile around some of the more tender plants, like roses. They can be mowed and mulched into the lawn if you can still see grass blades between them. Otherwise, you can compost them or put them on your flower beds or vegetable gardens. They don’t need to be tilled into the ground. The worms and micro-organisms will do that for you.
This becomes more of a personal preference. Spent flowers can be left in the bed to be pressed down by the snow and worked into the soil by the soil life. Or they can be removed to provide a clean, pristine look. It depends on how you deal with your OCD.
Semi-erect stems will help the snow melt faster in the spring. Do what makes you feel good about your flower beds.
How clean you need to make your garden depends on how well you can rotate your crops. Current season crop residue of plants that are closely related, like, tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers, should not be left in areas that will grow those same relatives next year. If you can properly compost your crop residue, then the compost won’t be a problem.
Tillage should be reduced as much as possible to improve the soil and reduce erosion potential.
After your fall garden work is done you should clean and store your tools. Brush all dirt off the metal parts. In areas of high humidity, they can also be treated with mineral oil to reduce winter rust—not much of a problem around here if they are stored out of the weather. Wooden handles can be oiled to prolong their life.
Power tools should be stored out of the elements. Rechargeable batteries and charges should be brought into the house for winter storage — at least in a garage that doesn’t freeze.
I’m looking forward to a brief, winter vacation.