We are getting spoiled this fall. Dry warm days and only a touch of frost are easing us towards winter gently. There are lots of things we still have time to do in the yard.
The cold weather is coming so it’s probably time to get sprinkler lines blown out and all the hoses and timers drained. Shake the water out of the timers as it can freeze and destroy them. Deep soak any new plantings one more time before turning off the water.
Fall is one of the best times to get fertilizer on the lawn because it gets stored up in the roots and will give the lawn a kick in the spring. Use a good slow release fertilizer. Aerate your turf so the winter rains can get deep into the ground. Cut the lawn tall at the last mowing to help protect the plants over the winter.
Now is a good time to move deciduous trees. They are going dormant and their leaves won’t be making a demand for water from the roots. New roots will grow over the winter and be ready to take on dryness in the spring. Dig a flat, dish-shaped hole twice the width of the roots and no deeper than the root ball. Place the tree in the hole and back fill it with native soil. Be sure the point where the trunk flares out into the roots is above the ground level. Water the tree well. Unless you live in a really windy spot you shouldn’t have to stake it.
Garlic should be planted now for harvest next July. Break the garlic head into individual cloves just before you plant. Mix compost and fertilizer into the soil. Plant the largest cloves about six inches apart and two inches deep. Cover with soil and then a layer of shredded leaf or pine needle mulch. The mulch will help minimize swings in soil temperature over the winter. In early March check under the mulch for green shoots and uncover them. Don’t be surprised if they are yellow from a lack of light. They will perk up after a couple of weeks in the sun.
Make one more weeding pass through the garden. The cooler weather has allowed many weeds to flourish and getting them out now will save you hours of work in the spring. My focus this fall is a bunch of orchard grass that has invaded my perennial bed. There is something quite satisfying about pulling up its long white roots. Lay down a mulch of shredded leaves or needles over the freshly weeded area and you have one spring job done.
We still have time to dig and divide late summer and fall blooming perennials. This includes peonies that don’t like to be moved at any other time. Dig the plants, break them into manageable clumps and replant them. Peonies should be replanted at their original soil level. If they are planted too deep, they won’t bloom.
Pat Munts is co-author, with Susan Mulvihill, of “Northwest Gardener’s Handbook.” Munts can be reached at pat@inlandnw gardening.com.
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