Friday, October 17, 2014

Common Sense Gardening: 15 yard and garden tasks to do before winter

As rain and wind become more frequent, flowers start to droop and the colorful leaves fall to the ground, reality sets in. We can’t fight it any longer. Fall is really here and winter is right around the corner. It’s time to get those final chores completed outside.

Finish up planting
1. Plant over-wintering cover crops. This should be done by mid-October and will provide nutrients and organic matter for a healthy garden in the spring. Vetch and clover provide nitrogen, which can be used by next season’s crops. Common cover crops include common vetch, crimson clover, winter wheat, barley, rye, and spelt.

2. Plant onions and fava beans in October for a spring harvest. Plant garlic by mid-November for an early summer harvest.

3. Fill bare garden bed spaces with ground-covers and shrubs. This will help maintain healthy soil, help rain soak into the ground and reduce muddy areas in your yard.

4. Plant flower bulbs to enjoy the colorful first signs of spring. Daffodils, tulips, anemones, crocus species, trilliums, and ornamental onions can be planted before December.

5. Transplant trees and shrubs during fall and winter. Transplanting while dormant reduces shock and damage. This video from Native Plant Salvage demonstrates how to Plant it Right.

Yard maintenance
6. Mulch all garden beds that are not cover-cropped or planted with winter vegetables. Mulch three to five inches thick to protect roots from being damaged by winter frosts and prevent nutrient leaching to protect soil health. Fallen leaves, straw or grass clippings make great mulch. Be sure to keep mulch away from the trunks of trees and shrubs.

7. Keep weeding when weeds are present. Less weeding is needed when beds are mulched and planted.

8. Test your soil. Thurston Conservation District provides soil testing services and can help you understand the results to make the best choices for adding needed nutrients.

9. Turn off irrigation systems. Drain hoses before storing.

10. Overseed your lawn. Fall is also a good time to fertilize your lawn with slow-release fertilizer if you did not fertilize in the spring. Avoid fertilizers with bug and weed killers included. Raking compost over your lawn is a great way to improve the soil.

11. Clean up the fallen fruit from under trees. Salvage what you can and compost the rest.

12. Prune roses down to three feet. This will help prevent winter damage.

13. Clean yard and garden tools well before you put them away. This could also be a great opportunity to organize your tools.

14. Take leftover, unwanted hazardous materials such as motor oil, gasoline, bug and weed killers to HazoHouse in Hawks Prairie for free, safe disposal.

15. Bring tender and semi-tender plants indoors.

Wow. That’s a lot to do! Prioritize your tasks and take it one step at a time. Fall yard preparation means more time for reading books and sipping hot chocolate indoors this winter. Before you know it, it’ll be springtime!

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