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Advice & More September 2017

The Midnight Gardener

Things to Do – and Not to Do – In Your Garden this Fall

By Lori Rose

Enjoy these last lovely days in the garden and let the memories and anticipation of springtime sustain you throughout the winter.

Fall isn’t just for removing dead plants in the garden, although that is an important task. There are many garden chores for those cool, clear fall days. Go outside and enjoy the weather and the changing colors of the leaves, and keep these tips in mind as you prepare your garden for the winter.


Planting Spring Bulbs

Now is the time to put in bulbs that bloom in the springtime. As winter drags on, you’ll be glad you planted them in the fall when the first flowers appear.

DO remember there's a lot of sun in a spring garden while choosing where to plant your tulips, daffodils, or other spring bulbs this fall.

DON'T be fooled by the patterns of sun and shade in the fall garden. Remember that come spring, all the deciduous trees in your yard will be leafless.

DO water newly planted bulbs to establish strong root systems, before the frosts of winter set in.

DON'T plant bulbs for the squirrels! Plant each bulb at a depth of 3 times its height. A 1-inch-tall bulb would be planted 3 inches deep. There are exceptions, so do read any instructions that come with your bulbs.

DO set in the bulb with its nose straight up and its base in firm contact with the soil so that roots can form.

DON'T buy bulbs and forget about them. Plant bulbs as soon as possible after purchase, or store them in a cool location until you are ready to put them in the ground.

DO choose firm, disease-free bulbs from a reputable garden supply store. Look for bulbs with smooth, unblemished surfaces.


Tool Care

Shovels, pruners, rakes and hoes – all garden tools will perform better and last longer if they are clean and rust-free.

DO clean stuck-on soil and other debris off all tools.

DON'T let your tools rust. Fill a bucket with dry sand and then pour about a half a gallon of vegetable oil evenly over the top. Let the oil sift through and then push your tools in. The sand keeps the tools clean, and the oil keeps them rust-free.

DO spray vegetable oil on larger tools after they've been thoroughly cleaned.

DON'T forget to sharpen lawn mower blades and pruners – or take them to a professional for sharpening.

DO store garden chemicals in a secure, dry place – away from kids and pets.

DON'T let your hoses freeze. Turn off outside water faucets, and drain garden hoses so water won't freeze inside them, causing cracks and holes

DO bring in clay pots or garden ornaments so they won't crack or break from fluctuating winter temperatures.

 Prune Trees & Shrubs

Don’t be afraid to prune and trim. Your trees and shrubs will thank you, and look much better during the growing season.

DO remember the Three "D's" of pruning – remove all dead, damaged, or diseased branches or twigs from deciduous trees and shrubs.

DON'T prune any trees or shrubs that bloom in spring, such as azalea, rhododendron or dogwood. Pruning in fall removes all the flower buds for next spring. Wait until just after the flowers have faded in the spring to prune these.

Spending some time working in the garden now will make all your garden chores much easier in the springtime.

DO rake all leaves off garden beds. They harbor diseases and make great pest nests.

DON'T leave dead leaves and debris on garden beds over the winter.

DO add additional mulch where needed.

DON'T forget tender bulbs such as canna, gladiola and dahlia. Dig them up and wrap them in moist material. Store bulbs in a cool, dark place.

DO divide or transplant spring-blooming perennials in the fall before the first frost. Iris, peony and daylily are good choices.

DON'T leave divisions to dry out. Plant them as soon as you can.

DO water deeply in any new plantings.

DON'T leave annuals or vegetables in the ground over the winter.

DO compost healthy plants.

DON'T compost diseased plants.

DO protect the grafts of rose bushes with a mound of mulch.

Enjoy these last lovely days in the garden and let the memories and anticipation of springtime sustain you throughout the winter.

 Lori Rose, the Midnight Gardener, has gardened since childhood and is a Temple University Certified Master Home Gardener and member of the Association for Garden Communicators (GWA).

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