COMPLEAT HOME GARDENER: Tackle chores now, reap benefits in spring

This is your chance to celebrate October by planning for spring.

What you do now will pay off all spring and into the summer. Dig out or mulch over weeds in your beds, replace ugly or struggling trees and shrubs with better behaved selections and don’t forget to feed the lawn at least once before December with a winter lawn food.

October is the month to check these things from your outdoor maintenance list:

• Clean the gutters, add the gunk to your compost pile or pile it right on top of the weeds in your garden beds. Cover with an attractive mulch like Moo-Doo or bark chips and you won’t have to haul away those gutter-clogging leaves and needles.

• Dig up and divide your daylilies, shasta daises, astilbe and heucheras. Replant in soil that has been well loosened and amended with compost. Do not fertilize newly-planted or divided perennials in the fall. You want them to sleep, not grow.

• Transplant evergreens. If you’ve been meaning to move a rhodie, camellia, juniper, cedar or other winter-hardy tree or shrub, now is the month to dig in. Make the planting hole wider than the old root ball and don’t use your feet to firm the soil; stomping on the soil compacts all the air holes. Instead, use your hands to firm the new soil around the roots.

• Buy bulbs now and plant later if you must. Get the best varieties early then store your bulbs in a cool spot – but don’t forget they need planting before December. Better mark it on your calendar and note where you hid that bag of bulbs.

• Winterize your power equipment. Drain oil and gas from engines if recommended by the manual. (You know, that booklet you never read when you bought the machine.) Don’t worry if you’ve lost the maintenance manual. You can now look up machine manuals online.

• You still have time to aerate, add compost and overseed your lawn this fall. The new grass seed may lie dormant but will sprout early in the spring. If you fill in the low spots with soil now you’ll have easier mowing all summer long.

Resist the Urge to Prune these plants

Don’t prune hardy fuchsias, hebes, Rose of Sharon hibiscus or other tender shrubs now. Pruning always stimulates growth and these plants need to slip into dormancy before winter arrives.

Don’t prune roses now unless you have some very tall and hardy shrub roses that will be whipped about by the wind.

Collect fallen leaves, make some leaf mold

Leaving big leaf maple or other heavy leaves on top of your lawn is risky business. The lack of sunlight will cause thinning and bald spots. Use those leaves to create luscious leaf mold now. Fill a plastic garbage sack with fallen leaves, add a shovel full of soil, tie the bag closed and poke air holes all over the bag. In six months you can open the bag and add the decomposed leaves to planting beds, potting soil or to use as a weed-blocking mulch.


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