The Plant Man column
for publication week of 11/13/05 - 11/19/05
The Plant Man
by Steve Jones
Fall garden fix-its now save problems next spring
Here's what you DON'T want to say next spring: "I wish I'd
taken care of that in the fall!" To avoid giving yourself a
dope-slap a few months from now, follow this fall fix-it checklist.
The last of the leaves
Promise yourself not to put away the rake and the leaf blower until all
the leaves have fallen from your trees. It's tempting to allow the
final leaves to form a carpet over your lawn, but even though grass
"rests" over the winter, it still reaps benefits from sunlight. A
final raking now will pay dividends in the spring when your lawn comes
back fresh, green and perky.
Okay, the lawn doesn't need that "jar head" look, but a final
trim is a good idea. Set the blades to cut the grass to a height of
1.5" to 2". While you're at it - and if the rake is still handy
and your back can stand it - rake off that dry tangle of "thatch"
one last time.
Can't take no mow
When you decide you've run the mower for the last time, carry out a
few maintenance must-do's before you put it to bed. Run the engine
until the gas tank is empty. Why? Because gasoline that is allowed to
sit in your mower over the winter will become gummy, making it much
harder to start in the spring. Slightly less important but still a
good idea: drain the oil reservoir and fill with fresh oil.
If your deciduous trees and fall-flowering shrubs are beginning to get
out of hand, now is a good time to prune them, if you haven't done so
already. It's better not to prune evergreens or spring-flowering
plants in the fall.
It's for the birds
Don't leave it too late to hang your birdfeeders and get them filled
with seed. Establish your yard as a feeding station early in the season
and you'll enjoy flying visitors all winter. If you're using an
established feeder, be sure to clean it out thoroughly before filling.
Mold and debris need to be completely removed to avoid contaminating
the new chow. There are some excellent birdfeeders available now, if
you're in the market for a new one. Send me an e-mail at
email@example.com if you would like some shopping ideas.
Put away the toys
If you love gardening and landscaping, then tools are your toys. Admit
it: you treat yourself to a new one from time to time! It's just
about time to put the tools away until the spring, but before you do,
take a few minutes to give them the once over. Knock off crusted dirt
and wipe clean. Using a cloth, lightly coat the metal parts with
vegetable oil and wooden handles with linseed oil. A good tip:
Thoroughly wipe the handles afterwards to prevent them getting sticky
during the winter. I found a really comprehensive online article with
full details on cleaning and caring for every type of garden tool. The
site is http://www.bmi.net/roseguy/gtcare.html and you can simply click
on a direct link when you visit my Web site www.landsteward.org and
find the link in this column under the Plant Man heading.
Avoid the hose-cicle!
Don't forget the garden hose. Disconnect it from the spigot and try
to drain out as much water from the hose as possible. Water expands
when it freezes, and your hose is likely to split if you leave it
outside with water still in it. Ideally, put your hose on a reel and
store it in a garage or shed. Once under cover, hanging the hose reel
on the wall or placing it on a bench is preferable to leaving it on the
In case you're wondering... yes, there have been times when I've
given myself that dope slap and said, "I wish I'd taken care of
that in the fall!"
The Plant Man is here to help. Send questions about trees, shrubs and
landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org For resources and additional
information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed newsletter, go