Mixed feelings abound this time of year for many of us gardeners as we look forward to a break from the work of pruning, watering and weeding, but are also sad to see the end of our beautiful flowers and fresh produce. While cleaning up my garden yesterday some other fall “things to do” came to mind. Here are a few that may be on your “to do” list or may have slipped your mind.
CLEANING GARDEN TOOLS
When putting a tool away for the season, give it a good scrubbing with water then wipe on a light coating or spray on vegetable oil. Sharpen hoes and cutting tools.
GARDEN HOSES AND SPRAYERS
Disconnect and drain garden hoses before they freeze solid during winter weather. Roll up and store garden hoses on a sunny day. It’s hard to get a cold hose to coil up into a tight loop. Drain your sprayers or store them in a building so the contents will not freeze. If you don’t do this you will likely have more openings than what you want come spring. Bring into a heated area any chemicals, especially liquids that are being stored in an unheated building.
Clean out the underside of your lawn mower. Dead, moist grass contributes to rusty metal. Once the deck is cleaned, give it a light coating of oil as you would your metal tools.
PLANT SPRING BULBS
Tulips and daffodils need to be planted soon if you have any. After planting, mulch with an inch of two of organic material such as straw or bark chips to help retain ground warmth longer. Bulbs can also be planted in pots and stored in a cool area for forcing in February.
Mulching is a must in order to protect perennial plants from freezing weather. It can also prevent the freezing and thawing of soil that causes plants to lift or heave out of the ground. The trick, however, is not to mulch too soon. Mulching should be done after the ground starts to freeze but before the first significant snowfall of the season. Like perennials, strawberries like a layer of mulch too. Clean straw is better to use than hay which can add weed seeds to your patch. Apply three to four inches after a hard frost.
OUR FEATHERED FRIENDS
You may like to stock up now on birdseed before the slick weather of winter sets in. Avoid the inexpensive mixes that contain mostly filler with little nutrient value. Woodpeckers love wire mesh tubes filled with raw, shelled peanuts, Blue Jays like corn, Goldfinches prefer niger seed and most other birds get adequate nutrition from black-oil sunflower seeds. Set out a heated bird bath, cleaning and replenishing the water regularly.
Protect tree trunks from rodents by wrapping them with hardware cloth or a split length of plastic drainage pipe. Anchor with a ground staple to prevent access. The above ground parts of evergreens are particularly susceptible to drying out over the winter through a process called transpiration. After the ground freezes the plants roots are no longer able to take up water to replace that which is lost through the tops. As a result the, needles, buds and twigs can dry out. Give them an extra drink before freezing weather sets in.
As always, Happy Gardening!
More information about gardening and related subjects is available online. The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.
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