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GARDENER’S CHECKLIST: Week of October 20, 2022

With frost now regularly knocking at our horticultural door, Ron Kujawski has the facts and the figures to help you protect your late crops and prepare for spring, to safeguard your house plants and set up your perennials for success in the coming seasons.

* Keep mowing, the lawn is still growing! I usually leave grass clippings on the ground after I mow, but at this time of year I attach a grass catcher bag to the mower. That’s because I not only want to collect the clippings but also the tree leaves that are shredded during mowing. This combination of grass clippings and shredded leaves makes great mulch for plants in the flower border. The mix may also be composted, as the nitrogen-rich green grass will balance the nitrogen-poor dried leaves and speed the decaying process.

Ron’s son Eric helps his dad by mowing the lawn during a recent visit. Note the grass-catcher bag attached to the mower. This allows the gardener to collect grass clippings and shredded leaves for use as mulch in gardens.

* Take advantage of the reduced prices on mums.  There’s not much time left to enjoy these plants, but if they were field grown they should be hardy enough to survive the winter with a little bit of care.  Plant them in full sun and keep them watered as needed.  When the ground freezes, place a mulch of straw or pine boughs over the plants.  The stems can be cut back in spring.

* Over-winter unplanted container grown trees, shrubs, and perennials by setting the containers into a garden trench, backfilling with soil, and then placing a 6-inch deep layer of straw, shredded leaves, or pine needles around the plants. This will protect their roots that would otherwise be injured from frigid temperatures if the containers are left sitting above ground through winter. Roots are far more sensitive to cold temperatures than shoots.

Container-grown plants such as these two dwarf Alberta spruce will be protected from frigid temperatures until ready for spring planting – if the containers are set in a garden trench and mulched before onset of winter.

* Plant daffodil, tulip, and hyacinth bulbs in the middle of perennial borders, rather than at the edges.  Next spring, emerging perennials will conceal the fading, often unsightly foliage of spent spring-flowering bulbs.

* Don’t fret about kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage that were exposed to frosts this week. These vegetables in the brassica family are quite tolerant of early autumn frosts. In fact, their flavor is often improved by exposure it.  Their harvest season may even be extended into December if protected with row covers.

Mounding soil now will allow for early sowing of peas and other spring crops.

* Till an area of the vegetable garden where early season crops such as peas are to be planted next spring. Then rake the soil into mounds. Should there be a wet spring, the mounded soil will drain quickly and allow for early sowing of seeds.

* Follow this rule of thumb when cutting back perennials in fall: if the leaves are green, leave the plants alone.  If the leaves are yellow or brown, cut them down.  If they are not green, yellow, or brown, you might want to have your eyes examined.

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