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Wool sweaters, rubber boots and stocking caps may have replaced our tee shirts, sandals and sunglasses but there is still a few things left on the gardening checklist this fall.
1. Wrap your trees
Tree trunk wrap, in the form of plastic sleeves or paper rolls, is important for protection against sunscald as well as deer damage on young trees. Maples, Magnolias and any tree with green or light colored bark are extra sensitive to sunscald while any young tree planted in open spaces become targets for buck rubbing. Remove wrapping in the spring.
2. Protect your shrubs
Wind burn damages sensitive plants by drying exposed branches and leaves during the winter. Susceptible plants include Holly, Boxwood, Rhododendron, Azaleas, Hydrangea, Roses and Japonica. Protect these plants with a burlap wrap, screen and/or an application of anti-desiccant spray. (Wilt-Pruf, Wilt-Stop)
3. Time to fertilize
Even as leaves are falling, plant roots continue expanding making the fall season an ideal time to fertilize outdoor plants. Trees, shrubs and lawns showing signs of stress after the droughts of the early summer will benefit most from a fall feeding. Consider using organic fertilizers like Plant-Tone or Holly-Tone that release over a longer time and build beneficial microbes in garden soils.
4. Improve vegetable garden soils
Provided we have dry soil conditions, fall is the best time to get started on next spring’s vegetable garden. That’s right!!! Till your dry soil now so you will be prepared to plant your early season crops next March when soils are typically too wet to work in. Top-dress vegetable and flower planting areas with compost to improve soil fertility and drainage. Plant a cover crop such as winter wheat that will assist in soil tilth as well as adding nitrogen to spring garden soils.
5. Why mulch now?
Mulching may be best done in fall in perennial gardens. Early spring soils are often too wet and cold to walk in and mulch. Once the soil does eventually dry out and warm up, your perennial plants have shot up and spreading mulch becomes more difficult without causing damage to emerging plants. Do not use painted mulches on your perennial gardens!!! These mulches are composed of wood that can rob your soils of beneficial nutrients. Bark mulches or composts are much better for your plants and will, in time, help improve garden soils.
6. Fall clean-up is important
A good fall clean up is important for many reasons. First, mice, voles and other critters love to live in nice dry leaves under your shrubs and next to your home. Next, many plant diseases over-winter when infected leaves are left on the surface of garden soils. Lastly, more damage can be done to emerging growth as you try to remove sodden leaves in the spring.
7. Wait to prune
Pruning trees and shrubs now promotes growth that will not have the necessary time to “harden up” before winter arrives. Prune after Thanksgiving once plants have passed into a state of dormancy. Feel free to trim back dormant perennial growth that has already turned brown at this time.
I realize you already have a vast array of items on your to-do lists but these tasks are sure to save you time and money down the line as well as improving the performance of your lawn and gardens.
Now go outside and have fun in the dirt.