FARGO - The autumn of 2018 will go down in history as one of the more difficult for end-of-season yard and garden work.
Our own garden has been too wet to dig potatoes from the gooey clay. Instead, I’m waiting for them to float to the surface. I wonder if Martha Stewart has a recipe for herbed potatoes a la mud.
No two growing seasons are ever quite the same, which keeps gardening forever new. Here’s a final fall checklist of last-minute chores to close out the season:
- Although the recommended season-long mowing height for lawns is 3 inches, reducing the final mowing to slightly less than 2 inches gives the lawn a good cleanup. Longer, matted grass is more prone to molding during winter and provides shelter for voles.
- Instead of raking the last of the leaves, mulch them back into the lawn, providing nutrition, soil-building and weed suppression.To deter voles, spread rodent repellents containing castor oil around yard perimeters, under decks and along sheds.
- Apply rabbit repellent or wire cages around raspberries, roses, arborvitae and other shrubs that are easily damaged by winter feeding.
- Wrap tree trunks to prevent winter sunscald from damaging thin-barked trees. Especially vulnerable are fruit trees, maples, lindens and trees less than 5 years old.
- Potting soil in outdoor planters can be reused next spring. If a container is breakable, remove soil to avoid cracking.
- Water evergreens before soil freezes, if topsoil becomes dry, to reduce chances of winterburn.
- Asparagus tops are best left intact during winter and cut back in early spring. Rhubarb stems and leaves become mushy during winter and can harbor leaf-spotting disease, so are best removed each fall.
- Any trees, shrubs, bulbs or perennials that were bought but still not planted should be installed quickly. All are better in the ground rather than trying to overwinter unplanted.
- Reduce next year’s insect and disease problems by cleaning up vegetable gardens and disposing of vines of tomato, potato, squash, pumpkin, cucumber, peas and beans.
- Rototill or spade soil in flower beds and vegetable gardens to improve the tilth of heavy clay soil and expose insects and disease organisms to winter’s elements.
- 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, and daylily, iris, hosta and others that become mushy or lie flat after frost.
- Rake and remove rose leaves to reduce foliage diseases like black spot and powdery mildew.
- Add 12 to 24 inches of leaves, straw or shredded wood mulch over and around tender perennials, roses and strawberries after the soil has started to freeze in early to mid-November, to keep plants comfortably frozen, but insulated from extreme cold and from freezing and thawing.
- Truly hardy shrub roses don’t require winter covering, although adding a mound of leaves or straw does provide extra insurance against severely cold winters with little insulating snow.
- Rake up fallen apple fruit and leaves to reduce next year’s insects and diseases.
- Take a few minutes to write down names of perennials, trees and shrubs in case labels are lost during winter.