The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting longer, and the leaves are almost done showing off their bright colors. That means your quiet meandering walks in the neighborhood are getting shorter and your fall "Honey-Do" list is getting longer.
Frost is the trigger for many perennials and annuals to go into dormancy. Since we have had our share of mornings below the freezing mark, you will find some plants around the landscape have turned yellow or black. That's another sign that you can start your fall cleanup.
•PULL OUT THE ANNUALS: It was backbreaking work last spring, but now it should be really easy to pull all of those dead annuals out of the ground. If they are large, you can cut the foliage down to the ground or turn the entire plant over in the soil to use as a natural compost. Throw out all broken yard decorations and clean pots that previously held the annuals around your yard.
•RAKE THE BEDS: Carefully rake out all yellow and brown leaves and pull all the weeds you can get your hands on. Toss all twigs and other debris on the burn pile.
•RAKE THE LAWN: Keep the heavy piles of leaves off your lawn. Light maple leaves will easily crumble and make great compost. Heavy leaves like oak might need to be chopped up with your weed trimmer before smothering the compost pile.
•DO SOME PRUNING: Cut off any dead or limp stems. Prune back a few shrubs like beauty berry and butterfly bush. Wait to prune other shrubs until late winter. But leave early blooming shrubs like lilac and magnolia until after they flower.
•PULL THE TUBERS: Dahlias and cannas don't like the freezing soil temperatures and will die over the winter if you don't pull them out. Dig out each one, cut off most of the stem and let the root dry. Pack them in a box filled with crumpled newspaper or in paper sacks with sawdust for padding. Label them by name and color to make them easier to plant next year.
•FINISH OFF THE VEGGIES: If you still have fruit on the vine, you can cut it off and take it inside. Green tomatoes will ripen in a sunny window. Herbs such as parsley, chive, rosemary, thyme, sage, and oregano can be repotted with new potting soil and taken inside for the winter if you have a really sunny window or grow lights.
•KEEP PLANTING: Now is a great time to find late-season deals. I found weigela and variegated willow at my favorite home and garden store on clearance. Trees can be planted until the ground is too hard to dig. Water them thoroughly, then top them with a solid three inches of compost for winter protection.
•PLANT BULBS: Because we will have a run of warmer weather this week, take some time to plant spring bulbs. Planting them in tight clumps of five, seven, or 10 makes them look more natural. Carefully spaced rows makes them look more formal. I like to make the holes with a three-inch auger bit on my husband's hammer drill.
•CLEAN & SHARPEN TOOLS: Take a few minutes to clean shovels, hoe, trimmers, and other tools you use around the garden. If you know you are done with a tool for the season, give metal surfaces a light coating of oil before it is stored. Keep the trimmers handy since you will need them for midwinter pruning, and sharpen your mower blade once you have stopped mowing for the season.
That should keep you busy for a few days! If you need more projects, I can always find a few. Just ask my husband.
Contact Kelly Heidbreder at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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