I fully realize how stepping into the garden this time of year can be a challenge – like waking up at 6:30 a.m. with the sky pitch black, buying carrots from the grocery store and not the farmers market or debating which is a better snack: grocery store carrots or Halloween candy (curse you, Butterfinger!).
However, fall and early winter are critical times in the yard and garden, and your landscape will thank you in 2019 for the work you put in. So here’s a checklist of what you can still do (I realize that you may have completed many of these things already. If so, congratulations – you’re a better gardener than me):
For those with lawns, fall is one of the better times to fertilize. If your grass is still “green,” apply one-half to 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. The benefits of fall fertilizing include a healthier turf before winter, a healthier root system and stimulating a turf that greens up earlier in the spring without excessive top growth.Aerate and over-seed your lawn while you’re at it. Rent an aerator (also called a core cultivator) and keep making passes until holes are 2 to 3 inches deep and no more than 2 to 4 inches apart. After aeration, throw some grass seed in the areas where there is less coverage.For the veggie garden, remove any dead or diseased plants. The dead ones can make their way into the compost pile, while the diseased ones need to be burned or removed from the property. After the dead material is removed, apply compost or manure. If it’s plant-based compost, apply 2 to 3 inches, and if it’s manure, apply only 1 inch. Leave it on the soil surface and incorporate the material in the spring.It’s also not too late to plant garlic (pointy-end upward). Depending on the size of your clove, place 2 to 3 inches deep and space them 6 inches apart. Ideally, the soil is relatively loose. Water and mulch the bed with a thick layer of straw or a couple inches of leaves. The ornamental beds also need a bit of care this time of year. If you want to deadhead or cut dead plants back to the ground, you can, but it’s not required. Some plants have some winter visual interest (especially ornamental grasses), so you can always do this chore in the spring. For the spring and summer blooming plants, you can always divide them in the fall. Dividing fall-blooming plants in the spring when new growth is emerging is best, so wait on those. When you are ready to divide the plant, cut back stems and foliage to 6 inches from the ground. Use a spading fork to dig deep on all four sides of the plant, pry underneath with the tool and lift the whole clump. Shake or hose off loose soil.Don’t fertilize your plants now either. No need to confuse them with a boost of energy right before (or even after) they go dormant. Lastly, don’t forget about watering your trees this winter. Hopefully, Mother Nature will take care of that for us, but if we have a long stretch of dry weather this November, and it’s warm (and snow-free) over Thanksgiving break, give your young trees a healthy, slow drink of water on a warm (above 45 degrees) day. Darrin Parmenter is the director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6464.Darrin Parmenter