As the temperatures drop, take some time to assess what you’d like to change next year, and which plants worked or didn’t work in different areas. You may decide to transplant a shrub that needs better drainage, or a flowering plant that requires more sun. Consider adding a colorful spring bed by planting tulips, daffodils, and other bulbs this autumn. Sketch a diagram of what crops where planted where, before you forget, so you can rotate plantings next year. Hang bird feeders and fill bird baths with fresh water for feathered visitors.
- Trim off the old stalks of peonies and hollyhocks, but don’t compost them if they show signs of disease. Trash them instead, so problems don’t overwinter and spread.
- If you grew more carrots, beets, potatoes, and radishes than you can use right now, leave them in the ground. Cut off the green tops and cover them with mulch or soil, and they can stay buried for another month or two.
- Rake and compost leaves. You may prefer to mow over them and leave them to decompose on the lawn, but remove them if they form thick mats that could smother the grass.
- To protect sprinklers and irrigation systems from freezing weather, turn off the water supply, open the valves, and let water and trapped air escape. If your lines don’t have valves, or they’re not at least 12″ underground, use an air compressor to blow out the water.
- Sharpen blades on your mower and garden tools, and oil any wooden handles, before storing them for the winter.
- Many gardeners in this region need to add lime to their acidic soil. A pH of 6 to 6.5 is suitable for most plants. Use a soil test kit to determine what amendments you need, or ask your local extension service if they’ll test a soil sample for you. If you need lime, use a lawn spreader to distribute it as a powder or as pellets. If your soil is low in magnesium, use dolomitic lime.
- Prune old raspberry canes and rake up leaves and other debris so diseases can’t overwinter.
- Aerate your lawn to help loosen compacted soil and to allow the roots of the grass to receive more water, air, and fertilizer. Aerating also helps eliminate puddles of standing water in your yard.
- After your aerate, leave the plugs on your lawn to gradually wash away in the rain. Mowing will help break them up. Bacteria will also break down the plant matter in the plugs, which will help feed your grass.
- When potted plants are finished, dump the old soil into the compost bin. The nutrients are probably depleted. Use fresh potting mix when you re-plant next year.
- Plant trees now, keeping them watered deeply and thoroughly until they’re well established. Choose trees that fit your needs: flowering trees for spring color; evergreens for winter interest; or shade trees.
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