Gladys and I have written a number of articles recently about things that need to be done this fall in order to get ready for winter. This is a summary of some of the information as a reminder of what needs to be done in order to overwinter your plants and also in order to have color in the Spring.

1.       October is the month to get ready for spring, especially if you want spring flowers from bulbs. October is the time to plant tulips, daffodils, crocus, and hyacinths if you want the spring flowers. It is surprising how many people come into the garden center in April and May asking for tulip bulbs.  It is also time to plant ALIUM bulbs in order to have those big round purple flowers next year. I dug mine last week, divided them as they had really multiplied, and will get them back in the ground next week   

2.       It may seem strange to think that October is the time to get ready for spring. But I have found that the more I do in the fall, the easier it is in the spring. Also, I have found that the better I prepare my flower garden, my vegetable garden, my lawn, my trees and shrubs for winter, the healthier they are in the spring. Many diseases and insects over winter in the debris from dead leaves and flowers in your garden and so they need to be removed. Do not put diseased material in your compost pile.

3.       Get out a notebook and write down what worked and what didnít this year. What flowers really bloomed for you and what were disasters? Write it down. I have a hard time remembering in the spring which tomatoes I planted where and which ones really did well. I also write down which row in the vegetable garden had what kind of plant. Every year I try to rotate and move things over one or two rows. You might also want to write down where you got the plant or seed that did very well so you can go back next year.  Make a note of any noteworthy productive or unsatisfactory varieties of vegetables that you planted this year. Such information can be very useful when planning next yearsí garden.

4.       Did you plant a new shrub or tree this year? Write down the kind of tree or shrub, the cultivar, where purchased, and where planted. Be sure and save that tag that came with the tree or shrub. I also have a drawing of my rose bed with the name of each rose. Without that map I canít seem to remember what the names are.

5.       Remove any diseased or insect-infested plant material from your garden, as it may harbor over-wintering stages of disease or insect pests. If you leave this plant material in your garden, you are leaving diseases and insects which will begin to reproduce again next spring and add to next years' pest problem. Do not put these in your compost pile.

6.       Rake up leaves, twigs and fruit from Apple or Crabapple trees and dispose of them in the trash to help control Apple scab disease. Remove all mummified fruit from fruit trees and rake up and destroy those on the ground. Good sanitation reduces infestation of insects and diseases the following season.

7.       Keep Strawberry beds weed free. Every weed you pull now will help make weeding much easier next spring.

8.       Reduce Peony botrytis blight and Hollyhock rust by removing and disposing of all old leaves and stems this fall. This will reduce the carryover of the diseases during the winter and you will have less trouble next year. My Peony bed is such that I can just run the lawn mower over it and pick up all the debris. Apply a liquid or dust copper fungicide to the Peony bed after stems are cut and removed and again in the spring when new shoots are about 1 inch high.

9.       Inspect trees and shrubs for bagworm capsules. Remove and destroy them to reduce next yearís pest population. Soak the bagworm capsules in a pail of water for an hour or so, or step on the bags so the eggs are destroyed, then put in the garbage can.

10.     Iris borers overwinter in old leaves and stems left in the garden. Make sure you cut back the foliage after it turns brown and remove from the garden. Do not put in compost.

11.     Blackspot can overwinter in the dead rose leaves and foliage left in the bed. Do not put any diseased leaves and plant material in your compost where it can overwinter.

12.     Spray those weeds in your lawn now, especially ground ivy, henbit, clover, and dandelions. Two to three applications of Trimec, Clopyralid, or Triclopyr, 10 to 14 days apart is recommended. Weeds destroyed now will not go to seed early next spring. Weeds sprayed next spring that flower before you spray will probably still set seeds and those seeds will germinate next summer or next fall.

13.     Start a compost pile with shredded leaves and grass. This organic material tilled into the garden or used as mulch in the flower garden, is the best material you can add to break up hard clay soil. A hot compost pile is best. Properly constructed and turned regularly it will heat up. If it reaches 140 degrees F. weed seeds will be destroyed. At 160 degrees F. most disease pathogens will be destroyed. Coffee grounds, or a few hands full of high nitrogen lawn fertilizer, or green material like grass clippings, is needed to generate the heat when the brown material like leaves are breaking down. Use a small kitchen thermometer or a long stem compost thermometer and when the pile starts to cool down, turn the pile or mix it up so there is plenty of air to help it heat up again. The pile may dry out from time to time and need some water. I use a Ross Root Feeder to add water. A cold compost pile takes at least one year and usually two or more years to break down. My hot compost pile breaks down in a few months in the summer and a little longer during the winter. I started mine last fall and will start to tear them down next week and then till the compost into my garden. Do not worry if it is not all broken down. The freezing and thawing over the winter will take care of that. As soon as possible I will reassemble the compost containers and start over with the leaves my friends have already started to bring.

14.     Apply a fall or winter fertilizer to your lawn sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving. When we have a warm fall I do not put mine on until at least Thanksgiving. Do not apply too early in the fall or it will be used up before winter comes. If you applied your winter fertilizer before October 1st, re-apply a slow release fall/winter fertilizer in mid to late-November. This is the best Christmas present you can give your lawn.

Copyright 2009