The weather has been unseasonably warm these past few weeks, but don’t let that fool you. Winter is coming and there is still lots of work to do to prepare your yard and gardens for the upcoming cold months.
Now is the time to fertilize your lawn. If you fertilize it this fall, when it’s still green, it will survive winter best and come back more vigorously in spring. Keep mowing your lawn to a 2½ to 3-inch height for as long as it is green. Don’t scalp it by mowing short while it’s still green. It’s also a good idea to aerate the lawn and to continue watering until it turns brown. Even then, water once a month throughout winter, especially if there is little snow.
Insects that feed on your vegetables during summer and fall often lay eggs on the old plants so pull them up once you have harvested. If the vines are left on the soil surface, insect eggs will survive the winter and hatch in the spring!
In addition to garden debris, other organic material may be added to the soil in fall to help it keep its nutrients. You can use well-rotted manure, compost, peat or leaves.
For fall vegetables like winter squash and pumpkins, harvest them after the first light frost.. Do this before a heavy frost damages the fruits. Cut from the vines leaving 3 to 4 inches of stem on the fruit so they keep longer.
Rip up spent vines and foliage of annual flowers and compost them or dig them into the garden, the organic material will help the soil. If the plants are diseased, however, discard them in the trash.
Fall is the best time to get rid of weeds. Perennial weeds, such as dandelion, thistle and bindweed, are more easily killed by fall sprays than in the summer. So get down in that dirt and pull those weeds!
Shorter days and falling temperatures are prompting deciduous trees and shrubs to drop leaves and prepare for winter dormancy. Limit fertilization in fall, as nitrogen stimulates useless late-season growth and delays dormancy which can damage the tree when the temperatures begin to drop rapidly.
Do continue to water trees and shrubs through fall, sending them into winter with ample moisture. Dry soil kills roots and puts stress on trees and shrubs so make sure to water every three to four weeks. Water when temperatures are above freezing and when the soil is not frozen. Appling water early in the day will give plants time to absorb moisture before the soil freezes at night.
Wrapping trees and shrubs prevents sunscald injury, a conditions that develops when the warm winter sun is absorbed by the plant’s bark. By the first of November, wrap trunks of your deciduous trees with crepe-paper tree wrap. Begin at the base of the tree and wrap upward, overlapping about a third of the paper with each turn. Stop when you reach the first set of branches. You can remove the wrap in April.
After temperatures hit freezing and the plants die back, cut the stems on most perennials to within an inch or two of the ground. Do not work the cuttings into the soil! They can harbor diseases that could survive the winter and return to the plants in the spring
As the season progresses and the weather becomes colder, mulch the soil around the plants. This is generally done in mid-to late November. It is not necessarily the cold that damages perennials in the winter, it is the fluctuation of temperature. Mulch keeps roots cold, not protect them from the cold.
Use mulches that are light and won’t pack or suffocate roots. Apply to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. Make sure to water once a month if the winter is particularly dry.