Fall garden fix-its now save problems next spring (Plantman Article)

The Plant Man column for publication week of 11/13/05 - 11/19/05 (691 words) ###
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.
Buzz cut 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.
Getting pruney 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 snipped-for-privacy@landsteward.org 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 floor.
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 snipped-for-privacy@landsteward.org For resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed newsletter, go to www.landsteward.org
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