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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


Oct. 2013 To-Do List: Northern & Central Midwest

Home Depot

Five-Uses-For-Leaves-From-Your-LawnCleaning up the garden now can save time and work next spring. Cut off old flower stalks and diseased or infested plant parts and discard them (but not in the compost bin, where problems can overwinter). Then rake the garden and let it air dry for a week or so. Next, spread an inch of compost over the ground, topped by straw, hay, or shredded leaves. This mulch will help reduce weeds and keep the ground from heaving, or moving as it alternately freezes and thaws.

  • Watch for pests when you bring in houseplants for the winter. Spray plants with insecticidal soap, or wash the leaves with a solution of mild dishwashing liquid in water.
  • Extend your harvest by mulching with about 12 inches of hay over crops like beets and carrots.
  • Store winter squash, pumpkins, carrots, beets, and parsnips to cure, or harden, in a cool, dark, dry place. Check periodically and remove any that show signs of spoilage.
  • Move garden chemicals to a place where the temperature won’t dip below 40 degrees F.
  • Sow winter rye in bare garden spots to help control erosion and keep down weeds.
  • If you’ve seen brown spots in your lawn this fall, you probably need to core aerate, or make holes to help water, air, and nutrients penetrate to the roots of the grass. Home Depot rents many types of lawn equipment.
  • If rainfall is scarce, keep watering newly planted or transplanted trees and shrubs. They need at least an inch of water a week until their leaves drop.
  • Use a mulching blade on your mower to shred the leaves on your lawn. Use them in the garden, or rake them for later use. After about a year, leaf mold will start forming at the bottom of the pile. It makes great mulch for plants.
  • After frost kills the foliage, lift tender bulbs with a garden fork. Shake off excess soil and let them dry for a few days before storing them in barely moist wood shavings, saw dust, peat moss, or vermiculite. Keep cannas, callas, gladiolas, dahlias, and begonias in a dry, cool place (45-50 degrees F). Store caladiums in a warmer area (60 degrees F).
  • Leave some seed heads on your coneflowers, ornamental grasses, and rudbeckia to dry in the garden. They’ll provide food for hungry birds, and you’ll enjoy watching the beautiful wildlife. Keep bird baths clean, and refill periodically with fresh water. Use an immersion heater made for bird baths to keep the water from freezing when the temperatures drop.
  • Sow annual seeds of larkspur, poppies, cosmos, nasturtium, cleome and nicotiana.
  • When potted plants are finished, dump the soil in the compost bin. It’s probably depleted of nutrients, or may carry diseases and pests, and shouldn’t be re-used.
  • Plant garlic before the ground freezes. Hardneck types are the best for this region. Avoid buying garlic bulbs at the supermarket, as those are often softneck types and may be treated to inhibit sprouting.


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