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GARDENER’S CHECKLIST: Week of November 17, 2022

As Berkshire gardens put on their sleeping caps, Ron has advice on the best turn-down service to lavish on your flowers, vegetables and soil. Take care to save your wood ash, protect your saplings, keep a bead on canning labels and other winter-friendly indoor gardening know-how that will keep your thumb green 'til May.

There’s no business like snow business… unless you are a gardener, and then that first snow of the season shifts for the most part from growing and maintenance outdoors to gardening indoors. Here are some tasks marking the transition:

* Cover strawberry beds and garlic plantings with straw before the ground freezes.  Straw should be loosely scattered over the beds to a depth of about four inches. Make a note to remove the straw from the strawberry beds in spring at the first visible signs of new growth. On the other hand, it will not be necessary to remove straw over the garlic since the plant shoots will poke through the straw.

* Drain the water and store garden hoses indoors lest they become an ornament in the winter landscape.

Place hardware cloth as a tree guard around newly planted or young trees to protect the trunks from being gnawed by rodents this winter.

* Place a mechanical barrier such as hardware cloth around the stems of young trees and shrubs to prevent girdling of bark by rodents during the winter.  When snows fall, the available food for these critters is in short supply, so they’ll seek out the tender bark of woody plants as a source of nourishment.  Wouldn’t you?

* Examine trees for diseased, damaged, or dead branches.  Remove these now as they may pose a danger when weighted down by heavy wet snow. 

* Collect soil samples for testing at the University soils lab.  The lab is usually not as busy at this time of year and test results with recommendations should be returned promptly.  There’s still time to amend soil with limestone if test results indicate a need.  Soils samples may be sent to the UMass soils lab. For details, go to: https://ag.umass.edu/services/soil-plant-nutrient-testing-laboratory

* Save your wood ashes.  They are a good source of potash. Sift the ash through quarter inch mesh screen and then scatter it over the lawn, along with sifted compost, as a late fall fertilizer.  A 10-quart bucket filled to within 2 inches of the top contains about 5 pounds of ash, enough to cover 500 square feet of lawn.

Save the wood ash from the wood stove or fireplace. The ash is a good source of certain nutrients for lawns and gardens.

* Make frequent checks of fruits and vegetables in storage.  Most of us don’t have the old fashioned root cellar, so spoilage of stored produce can occur quickly, especially if the storage area is warm and with poor ventilation.  Hmm…. what’s that odor?

* Bring pesticides and fertilizers in from the garden shed, garage, or other storage areas that may be subject to freezing temperatures.  Keep pesticides in their original containers with the pesticide labels securely attached, and store them in locked cabinets.  If labels are coming loose or starting to fade, apply clear plastic tape over them.  Fertilizers should be kept off concrete floors to prevent them from absorbing moisture.

***

“What should I do with the gas in my lawn mower?” 

That question came up several times this week as the sharp temperature drop convinced most people that the mowing season is definitely over for this year.  Thank goodness!  Mowing is not my favorite hobby.

“Hey, bonehead! What about the answer to the question?” 

Oh yeah.  The easiest thing to do is to simply start the engine and let it run until the gas is used up.  Then let the engine cool a little before draining the old oil.  Refill with fresh oil.  Another option for the gas is to add a fuel stabilizer to the existing gas in the mower. Run the engine for several minutes to allow the stabilizer to circulate through the fuel system.  While focused on the mower, this would be a good time to change the spark plug, replace oil and air filters, sharpen the blades, tighten nuts and bolts, and clean the mower deck.  Are you sorry you asked?

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