Monday, September 27, 2010

October Garden Tips

I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

We are almost to October believe it or not. Autumn officially arrived last week, though in California I hear it feels like the middle of summer with the heat wave they are going through right now. Here in Michigan we are back to cool mornings and nights down into the 40's already. It's time to start preparing for cold weather while the days are cool and sunny.

Once the frost starts damaging annuals, or they simply aren't looking nice any longer, pull up the plants and put them in the compost pile IF they are healthy and without mildew or other disease. There are some exceptions: if you want the plant to reseed where you have it now, then leave on the seed heads and allow them to dry and scatter. I do this with morning glories, calendula and nasturtiums. Some annuals have seeds that birds enjoy and those can be left too.

Do clean up any plants, leaves, fruit, vegetables or debris that looks diseased. Do not compost, but bag it up and dispose or burn if you are allowed to do so where you live. Some diseases and pests can survive the winter if left on the ground throughout the winter.

If you have small ponds or water features with plants, you can trim the leaves off once they turn yellow. It's better to remove fallen tree leaves from the water as they gather there instead of waiting until spring. These can be composted also.

Reminder: I know I've nagged about this, but remember to pull up your nonhardy bulbs once the foliage has died back or after a light frost. This includes: tuberous begonias, caladiums, cannas, dahlias, gladioli, and tuberoses. Gently wipe away the dirt with a rag and store them in peat, sawdust or even shredded newspaper in a dry cool area that doesn't get colder than about 60 degrees throughout the winter.

Lastly, clean your tools before winter after you've finished your fall chores. Wash them with soapy, hot water and dry off with a rag. Sharpen any that need it and rub wood handles with mineral oil before putting them away.

Enjoy these lovely fall days. ~Brenda

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