Ten Tips for your Fall Garden

Halloween is over, the leaves are turning colors, the temperatures are dropping and everyone is looking forward to the coming holiday season. The 2014 growing season is almost over, but there are a few chores to complete before the season is gone for good.

In your annual and perennial gardens:

  • To deter hungry deer, rabbits, and mice, try fencing or repellents. You may also be able to discourage them by growing less palatable plants in your landscape; they don’t like tough or prickly foliage. You can also mix deer-resistant plants with more desirable ones. Your local nursery can be an invaluable source of information and help with these critters.
  • Scoop fallen leaves and other debris from your pond or other water feature. Pump or bail out the water and drain any lines and hoses to avoid freezing. Order replacement parts, if needed, so you’ll be ready when fair weather returns.
  • Keep newly planted or transplanted shrubs and trees watered if rainfall is scarce, until there is a blanket of snow or the ground freezes.
  • When planting bulbs, add bone meal to the bottom of the holes. Be careful not to let fertilizers touch the bulbs; mix amendments with the soil to avoid burning the bulb.
  • Freezing rain can crack concrete and cast stone. Drain fountains or statuary made of these materials and allow them to dry thoroughly then apply concrete sealer. For extra protection, move portable items to a sheltered location or drape with weatherproof covers.
  • Houseplants brought inside for the winter may show their displeasure by dropping leaves. Be careful not to overwater, and don’t fertilize. Avoid putting them so close to windows that their leaves touch the cold glass.
  • After the ground freezes, mulch perennial beds and vegetable gardens with a thick blanket of shredded leaves from the lawn, bark, seed-free hay, or straw. This can all be tilled into garden in the spring to help lighten heavy soils and provide additional organic material. Layering with evergreen boughs also helps keep the soil from heaving, or alternately thawing and freezing. Heaving can expose roots to the air and sun, causing them to dry out and the plants to perish.

Don’t forget your gardening tools:

  • Clean them thoroughly and make sure they’re dry before storing them for the winter. Applying a thin coat of mineral oil will help stave off rust.
  • Mow the lawn for the last time, clean the caked on grass clippings from underneath the protective cowling, and sharpen the blade. Change the oil and air filters. Add a fuel stabilizer to the gas tank, run the engine for a few seconds shut it off and top off the gas tank. Do the same with your other gas powered tools. You’ll be all set for next spring.
  • Pull out your snow blower, if you have one. If you didn’t change the oil last spring, do it now. Make sure the gas tank is full and that it starts and runs well.

Now, go indoors, make a steaming cup of hot cocoa, wrap yourself in a cozy blanket, pull out the seed and plant catalogs and start planning for next spring’s flurry of gardening activities!


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