We are well into autumn and, at last, tree and shrub leaves are showing their true colors. Nights are nippy to cold, but the days are delightful making for ideal weather to finish late-summer projects and prepare the garden for winter. And, for next spring.
Remove annuals past their prime. Collect their seed and scatter now or in the spring for new plants. In their place plant in-bloom perennials and cold-weather annuals.
Rose flowers are being replace by rose-hips, their seed pods of bright red and orange that remain throughout the winter unless eaten by the birds.
When cutting back perennials for the winter think of how they will look in the winter, frosted or covered in snow; and what protection they will give small wildlife and birds. While few grasses add color other than beige, more importantly they add motion that gives life to the garden when all else it frozen in place. Cut some grass plumes for wreath decoration now and the rest of the plant 6-12' above ground level in March.
Clean the vegetable garden of spent and diseased plants, and weeds. Turning the soil now will make it easier in March.
Inventory chemicals and safely dispose of those out-of-date. As chemicals age their potency changes making it safer to dispose of them. Sharpen hand tool blades, remove any rust, and oil hinges.
Make an appointment to winterize the riding and push mowers. Or, after the last mow of the season, change the oil, add new and run for a few minutes. Drain the gas or run it until it stalls; or add fuel stabilizer to a fuel can, mix, fuel the mower and run the mower for 10 minutes.
Thoroughly clean the mower deck particularly underneath. Winterize other equipment that is fuel operated.
THINGS TO DO
"Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn."
- Elizabeth Lawrence, actress, 1922-2000
Garden - Water newly planted roses weekly unless they have received an inch in the last week. Continue through January. Remove annuals once flowers begin to fade.
Houseplants - Order flowering house plants for holiday color. Include in the usual plants to decorate for the holidays, in-bloom azaleas, dianthus, gardenia, and fragrant plants lavender and scented geraniums. All can be planted out in the spring.
Detach the garden hose and completely drain. Store in a protected area such as garage and drain each time it is used to avoid water in the hose freezing resulting in a cracked hose. Replace the faucet connection with a quick-release connection for ease of attaching hose when needed.
Lawn - Mow and rake as needed. Rake dry leaves under shrubs for a light-weight winter protection. Purchase a leaf-bag holder, filling the bag using "Big Hands" or other hand-held "rakes." To protect your back when raking leaves toward you by pulling the rake toward you as you walk backwards.
Trees - Cull out bird-planted seedlings once leaves have dropped. Cut a few inches above the trunk base and completely coat trunk from the cut to the ground with liquid brush killer. Share buckeye and Kentucky coffeetree seeds with Whitehaven Welcome Center. Travelers love to take them as souvenirs.
Vegetables - Soil test for next year's planting. If pumpkins are bitter, that indicates too much nitrogen or too little water. Recycle Halloween pumpkins into the compose pile, or a corner of the garden for a surprise patch of volunteers. Cut asparagus tops and mulch, and chives to the ground. Chamomile, lavender, sage and tarragon like winter protection from row covers or evergreen branches. Herbs that look puny need more natural light.
Jan. 31-Feb. 2, Antiques and Garden Show, Nashville.
Feb. 14-16, Tenarky Mid-winter Rose Show, Franklin Cool Spring Marriott, Franklin, Tenn.,
Feb. 27-March 1, Nashville Lawn and Garden Show.
Contact Carolyn Roof, the Sun's gardening columnist, at firstname.lastname@example.org