Fall Gardening Will Pay Off in Spring

For many of us, gardening in the fall means cleaning up, cutting down, raking leaves and generally tidying up before the frost and snow hit.

While it's great to make things neat and tidy, taking some extra measures as you clean up now can make a big difference next spring. Keep the following things in mind when getting your garden ready for winter.

Shrub planting

Fail is a great time to plant trees and shrubs because soil temperatures are still warm compared to the air. Conditions are ideal for root development. If you plan to plant or relocate some trees or shrubs this fall:

dig a generous hole, roughly twice the size of the root ball;
slide the plant out of the container and gently tear the roots to encourage them to grow out;
place the plant in the hole, leaving it slightly higher than ground level to allow for settling;
fill in around the plant with half compost and half existing soil;
water with a vitamin supplement to encourage root growth.
 

Tulip bulbs
 

Everyone knows that tulip bulbs bloom in the spring, but if you don't plant them in the fall, there will be few to see. Don't rely on the bulbs left dormant in your garden over the summer. Buy lots of tulip bulbs and get digging. All you need is reasonably good soil, some bulb food and, of course, the bulbs:

dig holes six to eight inches deep;
put some bulb food or fertilizer in each hole;
place one bulb in each hole, bottom down against the ground;
plant in groups of 12 to 15 in different varieties.
 

Check for disease
 

When cutting back perennials, check for diseases and pests. These are things you don't want to come back to your garden. As you remove diseased materials, including the leaves from your roses afflicted with black spot, don't throw them in the compost bin; this may only help spread the problem around your garden next year. Be diligent - even pruners used on infected materials should be cleaned with a household disinfectant.

Composting

There's nothing better for your garden than rich, home-made compost. And fall is full of the best ingredients - leaves. Leaves and other garden waste are natural, nutrient-rich and plentiful at this time of year. You can make the compost in something as simple as a wire cage. The recipe is simple, too:

mix leaves, other garden wastes, some kitchen scraps (no grease or animal fats) together;

keep moist at all times, but not sopping wet;
turn every couple of weeks. Wait about six months (you can accelerate the process by adding a source of nitrogen, such as a commercial fertilizer, manure or green grass clippings).
 

Bring in the house plants
 

Many house plants can be placed outside in summer. As temperatures cool in the fall, however, it is time to bring them inside. Some garden annuals such as geraniums and begonias can be placed in pots and brought indoors for the winter as well. Before bringing any plants into your home, take a few precautions:

while the plants are still outside, remove any dead or yellow foliage;
examine the plants carefully for pests that might infest your other house plants;
wash the plants down - soapy water and a good rinse will knock off dust along with spiders and other insects;
provide indoor conditions similar to what the plants were enjoying outdoors - flourescent lamps can provide a consistent source of light and a dish of gravel mixed with water placed under the potted plant can provide moisture.

 
 

 

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