Chores for the fall gardener

By Dawn Pettinelli - UConn Home & Garden Education Center
- posted Tue., Sep. 13, 2011
- Contributed Photo

Just a few more outdoor tasks remain before we can turn our attention later this season to more urgent matters, like holiday shopping! Although the days have started to take on an autumnal chill, a little time spent out in the yard will be sure to warm you.

Finish cleaning up the gardens. Gather up tomato cages, stakes, bean trellising and the like and store for the winter. Had a problem with squash vine borers, Colorado potato beetles or corn earworms this year? Turn over the areas where these crops were planted. Overwintering larvae will be exposed to predators and the winter cold, reducing their numbers.

Give your garden tools a wash before storing, and coat the metal parts with oil to prevent rust. Rough wooden handles will benefit from a rubbing with linseed oil. Let them sit in a warm place for a few days after applying the oil, so it can soak in.

If the lawn is too high, mow it one more time before winter. Run the gas tank dry, clean the blades and disconnect the spark plug before storing. Rake any leaves off the lawn to discourage snow mold. Shred them with your lawn mower and use as mulch, or compost them. Simply piling leaves in an unused corner of the yard will also supply you with lots of rich leaf mold.

There’s still time to get spring flowering bulbs into the ground. As a rule, bulbs are planted approximately three times as deep as their diameter. For instance, a 1-inch diameter crocus bulb would get planted 3 inches deep. Cover late bulb plantings with mulch or evergreen boughs, so the ground will take longer to freeze, enabling them to produce more roots.

When purchasing bulbs, pick up some freesias, if available. Pot them up, 12 to an 8-inch pot, and set in a cool, sunny spot. Their heavenly scent will perfume a whole room. Freesias tend to be a little leggy, so set three 12-inch stakes around the pot and encircle it with green yarn or ribbon. They’re not difficult to grow, as long as you keep them below 60 degrees F. Don’t bother saving the bulbs. Just enjoy them while they last.

Check all houseplants that spent the summer outdoors for insect pests. Often populations of spider mites, aphids or mealy bugs take off in warmer indoor temperatures. Plants may take a few weeks to adjust to indoor conditions. Give them a little grooming and as much light as possible.

Loosely tie evergreens to prevent splitting from ice and snow. Erect a burlap windbreak around marginally hardy evergreens and those in exposed sites. Purchase an anti-desiccant and spray broad-leaved evergreens, as well as fall-planted, needle-leaved ones at the end of the month. This will protect them from drying winter winds. Canes of hybrid tea and grandifloras roses can also be sprayed.

Finish cleaning out containers and empty bird baths and other water storing receptacles. Store in a dry place. Bring in small cement statues. Exposed to ice and snow, cracks can form in the cement.

Lastly, jot down a few notes about this year’s garden. They will give you a better perspective when the 2010 catalogs start rolling in. If you have questions about what to do in the November garden or on any other home and garden question, call (877) 486-6271, visit the UConn Home & Garden Education Center’s Web site at or call your local Cooperative Extension office. 

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