October Garden Chores
As the leaves change into their brilliant fall colors, and you awaken to a distinct chill in the air, you realize that winter is just around the corner. It’s time to put the garden tools away for the year, settle back, relax, and wait for spring to arrive, right?
In most areas of the country, you will still have many tasks to accomplish… even after the first frosts.
Here are a few gardening tasks and projects that you can do this month to help keep your garden looking it’s best for the rest of this season, and prepare for the long cold winter and upcoming spring.
- Tools and Equipment
- Growing Food
- Perennials, Annuals and Bulbs
- Trees, Shrubs and Ground Covers
- Indoor Gardening
Tools and Equipment October Upkeep
Garden tools add up to a large financial investment! Take care of tools so they need not be replaced. Bring all your gardening tools inside. Clean them off. With proper care, quality tools can last you a lifetime.
- Try hanging up your garden tools, such as hoes and rakes, when not in use. Insert a screw with an “eye” into the handle end of each tool. Place nails in a row on the wall, and hang up the tools.
- Clean and oil your garden tools for winter storage. Place some sand and some oil in a large bucket, then slide your garden tools in and out of the sand. This will do an excellent job of cleaning them, as well as applying a light coat of oil to prevent rusting.
- Buildings and wood fences should be painted as often as necessary to maintain an attractive appearance and preserve the wood. The cool, dry days of fall are an ideal time for this activity. The job will enhance the beauty, usefulness, and value of your property. It also contributes to community beautification and civic pride.
- Stakes and trellises should be dismantled and cleaned for storage. Brush rust from metal items and coat with oil. Discard rotting wooden stakes; those that are still sound should be cleaned and thoroughly dried before storing.
- Taking care of your garden hose this fall will save you from having to buy a new one next spring. Plastic hoses will crack if they are allowed to freeze with water in them. Drain the hose completely and coil it for more convenient storage off the ground.
- If your cold frame is not in use at this time, it may be appropriate to add soil to replace that taken away bytransplants. A mixture of two parts garden loam, one part sand, and one part compost or aged manure works well.
- During fall, demand for garden supplies is low, so keep an eye open for special prices on hand tools and power equipment to be given as gifts or used next year.
- If the soil is dry enough before the ground freezes, you can plow. Fall plowing allows earlier planting in the spring and is especially good for heavy soils since they are exposed to the freezing and thawing action of winter that helps improve soil structure.
Growing Food in October
Tomato season is coming to a close for gardeners in many parts of the country. But until frost hits, it’s time to harvest and enjoy fresh tomatoes, and perhaps preserve some of the bounty for winter eating. If you want to find out how to can, freeze and dry tomatoes, along with advice on preparing fresh tomatoes for use in recipes, you’ll enjoy the Web site Tomato Dirt. It includes information on both water bath and pressure canning and step-by-step advice on freezing whole, chopped, sliced and pureed tomatoes.
It’s hard to resist pumpkins…they bring out the kid as well as the decorator in us. If you are planning on carving a jack-o-lantern, then buy field pumpkins. Field pumpkins are larger and easier to carve. Pie pumpkins, which are smaller, have a tough skin that makes them hard to carve, but they would be great painted. If you are storing pumpkins and winter squash for your Thanksgiving dinner, then keep them in a cool area at around 50 degrees F.
- Harvest sweet potatoes after they have seen a night or two of frost. Cut the tops from the roots early in the day to prevent the bitter juices from the tops from moving down into the tubers.
- Spread manure on the rows where you will be planting early peas net spring. While there may be a bit of loss of nutrients from leaching, turn the manure under, but leave the earth rough and cover with straw to keep erosion at bay.. You will be able to plant peas during an early thaw by pulling the hay to one side.
- Jerusalem artichokes should have formed tubers, but you only need to dig enough for use right now. As soon as the soil has frozen, mulch the bed with a thick layer of leaves, this will allow you to dig up the tubers any time you need them. You can do the same with carrots in all but the very coldest zones.
- IF you see artichoke tubers are smaller in size, it is time to make a new bed. Transplant some to a bed of rich soil that is dug deep and set 18 inches apart.
- Cut back perennial herbs to encourage well-branched growth next year.
- Harvesting fruits and vegetables is the best part of growing them. As is often the case, you may have produced much more of certain type than your family can consume. Share the abundance of squash and tomatoes with friends and neighbors, and don’t forget about your local food bank or second harvest organization! Although most fruits and vegetables are best when eaten fresh on the day they’re picked, you can extend the season by freezing, drying, storing, or canning.
- Dig and divide congested clumps of rhubarb.
- Many disease-causing viruses overwinter in the roots of perennial weeds. Tomato mosaic virus overwinters in the roots of ground cherry, horsenettle, jimson weed, nightshade, and bittersweet; cucumber mosaic virus lives in the roots of milkweed, catnip, and pokeweed; bean mosaic overwinters in white sweet clover roots; and many cabbage diseases spread from wild members of the cole family. A good fall cleanup is essential. Don’t wait!
- Cut back raspberry canes that have grown too long, to prevent damage caused by winter winds.
- Some root crops, such as carrots, onions, and parsnips can be left in the ground in cold climates and dug up as needed. Apply enough mulch to keep the ground from freezing, and the crop will be kept fresh until it is needed.
- After you have finished harvesting your summer vegetables, plant a cover crop of clovers, cow peas, soybeans, or vetches for the purpose of plowing under next spring. These nitrogen producing plants will provide good organic matter and food for your garden over the winter.
- A plant or two of parsley taken from the garden and potted up will do well all winter if watered and set in a sunny window. Chives, sage, and thyme also can be maintained in this manner.
- Use dried stems of herbs to make fragrant wreaths and dried flower arrangements.
Lawns and Landscaping in October
Don’t retire the lawn mower when the growth of your lawn slows down this fall. As long as the grass continues to grow, it should be mowed.
- October is a good time to aerate your lawn. This will relieve compacted soils allowing air and water to reach the roots. You can rent a machine or do the job by hand with a tool made for this purpose. If you buy a hand tool, make sure it is the type that lifts out a plug, poking holes in the ground is not enough.
- Create a pleasant mini-climate around your house by planting trees and shrubs. The air is noticeably cooler around a house surrounded by tall, leafy trees than in a treeless yard.
- Turf grown on acid soil has been found more susceptible to winter kill, more prone to injury from applications of chemicals, and less reliable under adverse climatic conditions. To prevent such problems, have your soil tested regularly and apply lime when the need is indicated.
- Leaves from heavily wooded gardens can be beneficial to the garden and should not be burned or discarded. Instead, put them through a shredder and use as a mulch or add to your compost pile.
- Remove leaves from lawn to reduce lawn problems. Compost them or save them for next year’s mulch.
Perennials, Annuals, and Bulbs for October
Right now Spring may seem a long way off, and not really on your mind. Remember the feeling you got as
you went into your garden last Spring, and there it was… the first new growth of the new year…
Felt great, didn’t it?
With a little planting effort now, you will speed the timing of that first new growth by as much as a month.
During the fall months, after soil temperature drops below 60°F., the bulbs of spring flowering tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, Siberian squill, dwarf irises, Anemone, and crocus should be planted. Select healthy, disease free bulbs. Add bone meal or bulb fertilizer into the planting hole, as you prepare the soil.
Most spring flowering bulbs should be in the ground by the early part of this month, with the exception of Tulips which may be planted up until early November.
- Gladiolas, Dahlias and other tender bulbs should be dug before the ground freezes, after the tops are browned by frost, and stored in a cool, dark area. Allow to dry, clean off soil, and store in peat moss or vermiculite in a cool location free from frost. Dahlia and Begonia tubers should be stored in a box of slightly moist peat moss. Gladiola corms can be stored in a paper bag without additional packing.
- Be sure that new plantings and perennials which were divided and moved last month are kept watered if there has been insufficient rainfall.
- There is still time to set out winter pansies, flowering Kale, flowering Cabbage, and fall mums. Keep a little color in the garden for as long as possible.
- Geraniums, begonias, fuchsias, and other tender plants should be brought indoors or moved to a coldframe before the first frost.
- Watch your thermometer on colder nights. A windless, cold, clear night usually means a killing frost…. You can keep your Chrysanthemums and Asters blooming for quite a while longer if you take the time to provide a little frost protection for them. A small, simple frame covered with cheesecloth or an old bed sheet placed
over your plants on frosty nights, can add a month or more of garden blooms. (Don’t forget to remove the cover as soon as the danger has passed!)
- Mulching fall planted perennials will keep the soil warmer longer, allowing root growth to continue, however, the plants do need time to harden off for winter. Spread a thin layer of mulch after fall planting, and then add a thicker layer once the ground has frozen.
- Don’t forget to collect and save seeds of wildflowers to sow next spring.
- According to Ohio State researchers, cold water can destroy the ability of root cells to take in water and nutrients. Water below 50F was found to reduce leaf size, cause leaf drop, and eventually contribute to the death of potted plants. Those requiring frequent watering, such as spathiphyllum and ficus, are especially prone to damage and should not be watered with waterbelow 65F. Other tests show that warmer water (about 90F) actually stimulates growth.
- One of the most popular of the early spring flowers is the perennial Polyanthus Primrose (Primula x polyantha). Plant some this fall, and you will have a rainbow of colors when the weather breaks. Other plants that can planted early include Calendula, Iceland poppy, pansy, stock and sweet pea.
- Small imperfections, such as nicks and loose skin, should not affect the quality of most bulbs. Store bulbs in a cool area (below 65F) if unable to plant immediately.
- To achieve a more-relaxed, “natural” look, plant scattered clusters of early flowering bulbs, such as crocus, throughout your lawn. But, don’t mow the area until the foliage dies the next summer.
- Ferns can be planted or transplanted in fall.
- Calathea, a popular foliage plant, flourishes in low light and over a wide temperature range indoors. It may be called ‘the second-chance plant’ because if you forget to care for it for a few weeks, just water well, trim off the damaged areas, and watch for new shoots to emerge in about a month.
- Be sure to clean up from around your perennial flowers, such as rose and peony. If left on the ground, leaves and stems can harbor diseases and provide convenient places for pests to spend the winter.
- Hyacinths have an oil in the bulbs that may make some people itch. Wear gloves when handling these bulbs or wash your hands with cool water and soap immediately after planting.
- It’s not unusual for some spring-flowering bulbs to send up a few leaves in the late fall or early winter. The bulbs will remain safe over the winter and will still produce flowers next spring.
- Move and divide crowded perennials. Arrange for swaps with friends and neighbors.
- A variegated variety of Vinca minor with its evergreen foliage will provide colorful greenery in window boxes during the winter.
- Cut down stems and foliage of herbaceous perennials when the leaves begin to brown.
- If you have a sunny area to naturalize with small, flowering annuals, sow seeds of sweet alyssum or Johnny jump-ups. They will come up this fall or early spring and bloom extra early next spring. Both are very hardy and self seed readily to maintain the natural area.
- Add mulch to your perennial border. A 1-inch layer of weed-free straw or chopped leaves will help conserve soil moisture, protect the root system, and reduce plant loss by soil heaving during the winter.
- Allow a few of the seeds of your favorite delphinium and hollyhock to ripen on their stalks. When mature, plant the seeds at once in a garden bed where they will grow into husky little plants that survive the winter well.
- A lily bulb is never dormant; it must be planted as soon as it is received. Have beds prepared ahead of time.
- As you clean out the flower beds, mark the spots where late starting perennials will come up next spring to avoid damaging them while working in the beds.
Trees, Shrubs, and Ground Covers in October
Throughout the fall and winter months you can plant or transplant both evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs. During these months of dormancy you can do your shrub and tree moving with only minimal shock to the plants.
In fact, fall is the best time of year for moving plants. Transplant deciduous trees and shrubs when they are dormant. Evergreen trees or shrubs, however, may be transplanted earlier in the fall, before they go dormant.
- Tidy Up Around Fruit Trees…
No one likes worms and other pests in their fruit trees. A simple clean up now can dramatically reduce the number of pests that return next year. Just pick up and destroy any fallen fruit, branches, and leaves. Worms and other pests feed on this fruit and debris, overwinter in the soil, and emerge in the spring to lay eggs and start the cycle all over again.
- Old, fallen leaves contain the disease inoculum for next year’s plant infections. If you have disease-infected plants, prune out infected branches in the late fall and winter when the disease-causing organism is inactive. Remove any infected debris from around the plant’s base and dispose of it.
- Looking to put some outstanding fall color into your landscape? Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica ‘Henry’s Garnet’) deserves the attention it attracts. It is a medium-sized shrub that spreads by rhizomes, ultimately forming a large stand if left unchecked, loaded with 2 to 6-inch-long racemes of fragrant, white, late-spring flowers lasting two to three weeks. Virginia Sweetspire prefers a moist, fertile soil, but is adaptable to full sun or part shade; has no major disease or insect problems; and is tolerant of low, wet sites.
- Plant trees at least 6 feet away from sidewalks and concrete pools, so growing roots do not crack the concrete.
- Start a family tradition by planting a tree or shrub in honor of a holiday, birthday, or anniversary. While celebrating the special occasion, you can also beautify your landscape and improve the air quality around your home.
- The next time you plant a tree, allow a child to hold the plant upright while the hole is filled. Years later, the tree will be a great reminder to the individual that he or she was so much smaller – or bigger – than the tree when it was planted!
- For an elegant, dramatic effect in your garden, plant a dwarf Japanese maple (Acer palmatum Dissectum’) near a water garden. This small, slow-growing tree has an artistic branching pattern and intricately cut leaves that will provide some shade for fish while adding beauty to your water garden.
- For those trivia buffs out there — What is ‘spoonwood’? Native Americans used the wood of mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), commonly known as ‘spoonwood,’ to make eating utensils.
- When selecting trees for fall color, keep in mind that color is more strongly influenced by genes in the plant than by the environment. Trees selected in the fall when they are in full color can be expected to produce the same colors in future years. Red Maple cultivars that display outstanding colors include ‘Red Sunset,’ ‘October Glory,’ and ‘Autumn Flame.’
- You probably can name some annual and perennial flowers that are attractive to hummingbirds, but do you know some common trees visited by hummingbirds? Here is a brief list from The Dawes Arboretum: buckeyes and horse chestnut (Aesculus spp.), crabapple (Malus spp.), hawthorn (Crataegus spp.), silk tree (Albizia julibrissin), Siberian pea shrub (Caragana arborescens), and tulip poplar (Lirodendron tulipifera).
- The top of a shrub’s or tree’s roots should be flush with the ground, so the planting hole should be no deeper than the root ball.
- To minimize the look of open spaces between new shrubs, plant a low-growing ground cover, such as bugleweed or winter creeper.
- Your trees and shrubs have begun to harden for the upcoming cold weather. To encourage this, remove mulch from around the stems of shrubs and trees.
- Transplant shrubs and trees safely, the professional way, by wrapping the root ball in a large piece of natural-fiber burlap. Secure the wrapping with 4-inch nails. Then move the balled and burlapped plant to its new location. Be sure to remove the wrapping from the root ball.
- Because October and November are generally considered the best months to plant trees and shrubs, garden centers and nurseries usually stock a good selection of woody plants at this time of year. Select some accent plants for your landscape that will provide autumn colors. Trees that turn red include dogwood, red maple,
sweet gum, and red or scarlet oak. Shrubs with red fall foliage include viburnum, winged euonymus, and barberry.
- The particular shade of orange, red, or purple fall color that is developed by the pigment anthocyanin in leaves is related to the acid or alkaline condition of the sap of the plant. If the sap is acidic, the color will be orange or red. With neutral sap, the pigment turns light purple. When the sap is alkaline, a dark
purple or blue color is evident.
- Conifers that have poor color or weak growth may respond to fertilizer applied between mid-October and mid-March.
- While you can still identify them easily, prune dead and diseased branched from trees and shrubs.
- Light pruning of both needle and broadleaf evergreens is recommended in late fall to encourage a strong framework to help the plant overcome any snow damage. Remove any weak or crowded branches.
- In deciding on new trees or shrubs to plant around your home,remember to select varieties with a mature height to fit the desired location. This will greatly reduce pruning and other maintenance in the future.
- To protect young trees against deer damage, there are a number of deterrents you can try. Remember, deer will become accustomed to any object, so alternating items will help. Hang bars of strong-scented soap, mesh bags filled with human hair, paper bags of dried blood (bloodmeal), or strips cut from white plastic bags on trees that are likely to be attacked. Chemical deer repellents also can be applied. Be sure to reapply any chemicals after two to three weeks of normal weathering.
- Make a note of plants displaying outstanding fall colors as you drive along city streets and the surrounding countryside. You may wish to incorporate some of them into your own landscape. Fall color often can be enjoyed for much longer than the plant’s flowers in the spring. For this reason, it may be more desirable
when selecting trees and shrubs for landscape use to plan greater emphasis on their fall features.
- If your climbing roses are in an exposed location, tie them up firmly with broad strips of rags so the wind will not whip them against the trellis and bruise the bark.
- Use cold frames to over winter cuttings of trees and shrubs and perennial seedlings started in mid- to late summer. Bulbs prepared for forcing also can be stored in cold frames until time to take them indoors.
- It is too late this year to prune roses because they would become subject to winter injury. However, the rose garden should be raked and cleaned to prevent black spot and other diseases. Additional mulch should be added after the ground has frozen.
- Water evergreens thoroughly before the ground freezes. Evergreens continue to lose water by transpiring during the winter, but when the ground is frozen they cannot replenish the water.
- Pick bagworms from evergreen shrubs. This will eliminate the spring hatch from overwintered eggs.
- Do not become alarmed if your yews, pines, arborvitae, and junipers begin to shed their interior needles. It is natural for them to do so at this time of year.
- White pines are shedding their older needles now. Rake them up and use as mulch on azalea, rhododendron, andromeda, and camellia.
- In fall and early winter, don’t forget to water new trees and shrubs to increase winter hardiness. Continue until the ground freezes.
Indoor Gardening October
Plants Coming In From The Cold… The longer your house plants were allowed to remain outside in the fall, the more shock they will go through when they are finally moved indoors. If you haven’t brought them in yet, do it now!!
Once chilly overnight temperatures become the norm you will need to bring your winter houseplants back inside. When you do, make sure to check them for pests. Simply rinsing the plants’ leaves, and soaking the pots in water for 15 to 20 minutes will drown most soil-dwelling pests. Also, clean the windows where plants will be placed. It can dramatically increase available sunlight and make for a much healthier plant!
- Christmas cacti need special care now to produce flowers in December. Buds will form when temperatures are between 50 and 60F, or if the plant is exposed to at least 13 hours of complete darkness each night. Putting them in a spare room is well worth the extra effort it may take for the spectacular display of blooms that is sure to follow.
- Poinsettias need to be kept indoors in a spot where they get ten hours of bright light and fourteen hours of total
darkness, each day. Room temperatures should be around 65 to 70 degrees for the Poinsettias, but cooler (around 55 to 60) for the Christmas cactus.
- Continue to watch for insect or disease damage and take the necessary steps to control the problem.
- Plant fresh grapefruit or orange seeds in a well-drained, sandy soil, and you will soon produce attractive, green-leaved plants.
- Cacti and other succulents, such as jade plants and sedums, do best in a sunny south or west window during the winter. They can tolerate cool temperatures, but you may want to move more-tender foliage plants away from cold windows.
- If you use plastic pots instead of clay ones for your house plants, you won’t have to water as much or as often. Clay absorbs soil moisture, minimizing the dangers of over watering, but it does require that you be more attentive to watering chores. To reduce water loss from clay pots, nest them in decorative glazed or plastic planters.
- When you cover up the furniture with drop cloths to give your interior a new coat of paint, move your interior gardens to another room for several days. Even the very low levels of mercury contained in wall paint to retard mildew can produce enough toxic fumes to severely hurt such sensitive plants as Dieffenbachia and weeping fig.
- House plant growth slows as the days get shorter and light intensity is reduced. This means that they will need less frequent watering and fertilizing until next spring. Too much of either in the winter months can cause weak growth.
- House plants need to come indoors before they are damaged by the cold (below 50F). First be sure to check them for pests. Rinse the plants’ leaves, and soak pots in water for 15 to 20 minutes to drown most soil-dwelling pests.
- For healthy house plants, always use pots that have a drainage hole. If you have an attractive pot with no hole either drill one in it, or pot your plant in a smaller ordinary pot and set on top of some pebbles inside the pretty one.
- Poinsettias are short-day plants and need special treatment to have them bloom for Christmas. Keep the plants in an area where night temperatures are around 60F and protect from artificial light at night. Control day length by placing the plant in a dark area at 5 pm and removing it at 8 am. Do this for 11 weeks. Start
now for Christmas blooms. In addition to this treatment, be sure to provide them with adequate water, fertilizer, and night temperatures to get a healthy display of color for the holidays.
- For easy, small-scale propagation of African violets and other tender cuttings, soak peat pellets, squeeze well to remove excess moisture, and set cuttings in the top of the pellet. Place in a small plastic bag with a stick or label inside to keep the plastic from touching the cutting. Seal the bag fairly tightly. Place it in bright light, but not direct sun. When a good mass of roots has formed, pot up the pellet.
Miscellaneous Gardening Reminders for October
You are probably sick of hearing it… but get those slugs!!! The fall rains have once again gotten
slugs and snails moving through the garden. Eliminate a lot of slugs and prevent them from reproducing again this fall. Result: Fewer slugs next spring……
- When removing disease-infected plant parts or debris, do not place refuse on the compost pile. The disease pathogens will live in the compost pile and can be transmitted with the application of compost to other garden beds, unless compost temperatures reach above 180F and decomposition is complete.
- Late-fall tilling can help control insects, such as corn borer, corn earworm, cucumber beetle, squash bug, and vine borer, because it exposes overwintering insects to winter conditions. Italso makes spring soil preparation easier.
- Someday, it will be possible for plant taxonomists to classify plants with incredible precision. Research is progressing on DNA printing for various plant cultivars to allow positive identification of a cultivar, as compared to the subjective methods now used.
- When temperatures start dropping, be sure to check for any chemicals that should not freeze. Move them to a safe storage place where temperatures do not fall below 40F. Frozen liquids can break jars and split plastic containers, spreading concentrated chemicals within reach of children or pets.
- The birds will soon begin their winter migrations. Give them a helping hand by providing them with some food for their long journey. No one likes to travel on an empty stomach, and you may even persuade a few of them to stick around for the winter, if they know they have a reliable food source!
- One last effort at weeding will help to improve the appearance of your garden throughout the winter. Any weed which you can eliminate from the garden this fall will possibly prevent thousands of weed seeds from
sprouting in the garden next spring!
- Researchers at the Wye Research Farm in Maryland are making some interesting discoveries. They have found the peak time for nitrogen movement through the soil is in the winter months, rather than in spring or summer when most nitrogen fertilizers are applied. With peak movement of water-polluting nitrates being from October through December, it pays, both in respect to the environment and to improved soil conditions, to plant cover crops that recover nitrogen from the soil. There is still time to sow a winter wheat or rye cover.
- Clean your gutters and downspouts to remove fallen leaves and other debris. Plugged gutters can cause serious damage to your home as well as your garden when the winter rain and snow arrives.
- A good way to shell sunflower seeds is to rub them across an old washboard. If the sunflower heads are large, break them into two or three pieces to get a better grip on them and rub them on the board as if you were washing clothes.
- Prepare for Thanksgiving bouquets by cutting chrysanthemum stems before heavy frosts. Remove all leaves, and plunge stems into a pail of water leaving only the blossoms exposed on top. Store the flowers in a cool garage or cellar where they will not freeze. Make flower arrangements five to seven days before the holidays.
- Do not apply quick-acting fertilizers while tilling the soil during the fall. Otherwise, the nitrogen will leach away beforespring. Materials that release nutrients slowly into the soil, such as rock phosphate, can be worked into the soil in the fall.
- Fall is an excellent time for taking soil samples in your lawn and garden. Soil tests will measure the acidity or alkalinity of the soil and the levels of some of the major elements required for plant growth, such as phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium.If lime is needed, now is a good time to apply it.
- In folklore, woolybear caterpillars are used to forecast the severity of the winter — the more black on the woolybear, the colder. Conduct your own research to see if it works. Though these insects feed on a variety of garden vegetables, they are not present in large numbers and are not pests of any particular plant.
- Pebbles or crushed rocks make an attractive mulch and don’t attract rodents the way organic mulch can. With a combination of rocks and a barrier layer (such as 3 or 4 sheets of newspaper, 4 mil. black plastic, or one of the new weed barrier fabrics) underneath, weed control is assured for up to two years. Use impermeable barrier layers (solid plastic) in situations where no plant growth is desired. Around shrubs or trees, use a permeable
weed barrier (landscape fabric) that allows air and water to reach the roots of desirable plants.
- Pine needles are like good building insulation — full of air spaces. They insulate the soil and make an ideal winter mulch for perennial flowers, small fruit plants (especially strawberries), and acid-loving shrubs and trees. Pine needles prevent alternate freezing and thawing that may heave shallow-rooted plants out of
the ground, a problem especially serious with heavy soils.
- Treat magnolia and beech leaves for dried flower arrangements in a mixture of 1/3 glycerine and 2/3 warm water. Crush stem ends and place them in a jar of the mix for three weeks to produce a rich, glossy-brown foliage.
- Mulches applied too early can do more harm than good. A mulch is used to keep soil temperatures constant and prevent frost heaving, not keep it warm. Therefore, it is best not to mulch until the soil temperature has reached 32F.
- The bitter, golf-ball sized fruits of the trifoliate orange (Poncirus trifoliate) may have some uses after all. Sections of the fruit in hot tea have been reported as tastier than lemon, and the entire fruit makes an attractive, miniature pomander when studded with cloves and covered with spices.
"Tickle the earth with a hoe, it will laugh a harvest."
~ Author Unknown
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