There are several important jobs that must be done this time of year to protect your gardening tools and equipment and prepare your garden for the winter.
Deep watering your trees and shrubs is essential in the fall. As discussed in earlier articles this year, trees continue to transpire and lose moisture throughout the fall and into the winter. If water is not available to the roots, your trees will suffer winter burn and you will not see it until spring. Give several good soakings before the ground freezes. Do not forget to water plants under the eaves of buildings.
Drain, coil, tie and store hoses out of freezing temperatures. Any water features should be drained of water and prepared for winter. Water lines that are not frost free should be turned off, drained and blown out. Most sprinkler systems are designed to allow you to use an air compressor to blow out water in sprinkler lines. For more information on blowing out sprinklers, this fact sheet from Colorado State University Extension is a reliable source of information.
Trunks of young trees, especially those with thin barks are susceptible to winter injury. On sunny winter days, the bark on the southwest side of the trees warms but freezes as the temperatures drop causing the bark to split. Any open wound can cause disease and decay. Trees can be loosely wrapped with a non-paper trunk wrap, or painted with a white, water based latex paint. Many homeowners choose to use trunk wrap as it can be removed in the spring once the temperatures start to rise.
Good sanitation is important, especially with fruit trees. Remove all fallen fruit, leaves, and dead branches. When left on the ground they provide habitat for pests and disease. Remove mulch and weeds from around the base of the trees to prevent mice from hiding and eating the bark.
Trees and shrubs can be transplanted in the fall. Be sure to give them plenty of water until the ground freezes. Do not prune any branches or fertilize until spring.
Much has been discussed about lawns in this series of articles, a few tips on keeping lawns healthy. Continue mowing as needed. Cool season grasses grow well in cooler weather. Make your last mowing higher than usual. Rake leaves from the lawn area. Fertilize for the last time in late October or early November. Use a slow-release fertilizer after the final mowing, but before the soil freezes.
Cut out this year’s floricanes, these are the canes that produced fruit this year. Primocanes grew this year and will produce berries next year. These are the only canes you should leave. Cut any primocanes down to about four feet high.
Remove old leaves and foliage lying on the ground around strawberries. Reduce watering as growing slows. When temperatures fall below the low 20s, cover with six inches of mulch.
Deep watering is essential. Prune tall canes to prevent winter winds from breaking them, but most pruning should be done in the spring to prevent cold damage. Remove and destroy all diseased leaves. Cover the bud union with at least a foot of soil, but do not take the soil from around the rose but get it from another area of the garden. Cover with two feet of loose mulch like pine needles or large leaves.
After the first freeze is the best time to use chemical control on invasive weeds. Perennial and biennial weeds send their energy to the roots as the temperature drops and systemic herbicides will flow to the roots where they can do the most damage. Remember to read and follow label instructions. Store chemicals in an area that will not freeze.
Good garden sanitation is important to prevent diseases. Any leaves that come from diseased plants should be removed and destroyed. Compost should be spread evenly over the garden area. Do not mix it in, allow the soil microbes to break down and incorporate the compost over the winter.
Clean and oil mowers and other tools. Gasoline should not be left in mowers and other small engines over the winter. Sand and treat wooden-handled tools with linseed oil to prevent cracking. Sharpen blades on the mower, pruning shears, shovels, and any other garden implements. Applying linseed oil to newly sharpened blades can help prevent rust.
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