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GROWING TOGETHER: Autumn checklist for putting yard and garden to bed

Leaves can be mulched into the lawn instead of raking. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service1 / 6
Recently planted shrubs should be well watered before winter. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service2 / 6
Tender perennials like Oriental lilies can be protected with leaves or straw by mid-November. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service3 / 6
Don Kinzler, Growing Together gardening columnist. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service4 / 6
Tree wraps applied in fall protect young trees and those with smooth bark. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service5 / 6
“Place Packs” of rodent bait can prevent vile damage to shrubs, trees and lawns. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service6 / 6

FARGO — You'd think gardeners who are passionate about their lawns, flowerbeds and landscapes would be weeping hysterically at season's end. But there's an unspoken gardening truth that we quietly acknowledge. We relish the growing season with gusto, but we're secretly OK with it pausing for a while.

The key word is pause, not end.

We might be resting from weeding, mulching and mowing, but our minds are already planning to make next year's tomato crop the best ever, and we need the eye-popping perennial we saw on last summer's garden tour.

To be sure yard and garden are tucked in for the winter, the following checklist will ensure nothing's forgotten.

• Any trees, shrubs or perennials that were bought but not yet planted should be installed now, instead of overwintering them in pots above ground. If a plant can't go in its permanent spot, overwinter it by sinking pot-and-all temporarily into the soil of a sheltered flowerbed or garden.

• Reduce next year's insect and disease problems by cleaning up the vegetable garden and disposing of vines of tomato, potato, squash, pumpkin, cucumber, peas and bean.

• Carefully remove seed-bearing weeds to prevent them from creating more work next year.

• Annual flowers are easier to clean up in fall instead of waiting until spring.

• Rototill or spade soil in flowerbeds and vegetable gardens. Turning the soil in fall improves the tilth of heavy clay soil and exposes insects and disease organisms to greater cold.

• Most perennial tops are best left intact to catch insulating winter snow. Types that should be cut back to near ground level in fall include peony, hollyhock and all disease-prone types. Also remove the tops of daylily, iris, hosta and others that turn to mush by spring.

• The lawn's final mowing height can be lowered slightly from the recommended three inches to around two or two and a half inches.

• Instead of raking leaves, they can be mowed and recycled back into the lawn, which provides nutrition, greater moisture retention and weed suppression.

• Wrap trunks of young shade trees and fruit trees to prevent animal damage and winter sunscald injury.

• Potting soil in outdoor planters and containers can be reused next spring. If a container is breakable, remove soil to avoid cracking.

• Apply rabbit repellent or circular chicken wire cages around raspberries, roses, arborvitae and other shrubs that are easily destroyed by winter feeding.

• Locate rodent repellent near voles' hiding places under decks and by outbuildings to reduce the chances of them damaging lawns under winter snow.

• Add 12 to 24 inches of leaves, straw or shredded wood mulch over and around tender perennials and roses after several killing frosts when plants are completely "hardened off" and dormant. Protective mulch keeps plants and soil comfortably frozen, insulated from extreme cold and from the damaging effects of mid-winter freezing and thawing. Covering with mulch too early can be damaging, and early to mid-November is usually about right.

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