This is a second chance to read one of the most-read columns, archived
The days are getting shorter, the clocks have been turned and spring is
not far away. At least that's the way it is for all of us optimistic
landscapers and gardeners. We just have to get through winter first!
So, as fall turns to winter, let's take a quick look at some of our
last "outdoor activities." Some of these are mine and some are
suggestions and ideas from readers of this column. Remember, your
comments and questions are always welcome and can be very helpful to
your fellow readers. Contact me at email@example.com and I'll try
to get a personal response back right away. Here's a tip from a
reader who simply signed him (or her) self as Gerry, who picked up this
idea while surfing the 'Net.
Too wet to mow?
Gerry says that if you need to give the lawn one last mow, but the
grass is wet from a recent rainfall, don't give up too soon! Get a
length of rope or garden hose and stretch it across one end of the
lawn. (It would help to have someone hold the other end.) Simply drag
the hose or rope across the lawn to displace the water droplets that
will sprinkle down to the soil below. Wait a few minutes (maybe a
quarter hour) and the blades of grass should be dry enough for you to
A river runs through it...
A river - or even a small stream - can make a mess of your
basement. Right now would be a good time to check the grading around
your home's foundation to make sure it drains away from the house.
Check the grading every now and then during the winter because snow or
heavy rainfall can erode soil or cause it to settle (particularly in
flower beds close to the foundation). Water can then build up in these
indentations and is likely to seep through to your basement or crawl
space. Refilling or regrading these depressions will direct water
runoff away from your home's foundation.
Fruit tree clean-up
If you have fruit trees as part of your landscape, take a few minutes
to remove any debris that you might find under and around them. Look
for twigs and leaves, as well as the last remaining fallen fruit
(particularly under late-fruiting trees) which should not be left to
rot on the ground.
Insects and diseases can spend the winter months snoozing in the debris
and emerge in the spring to attack your fruit trees. Remove these
potential "bug motels" now and your fruit trees could have a
healthier head start next year.
The "Deadwood Stage"
Winter storms can cause serious damage to age-weakened trees... and
they, in turn, can cause VERY serious damage to your home! A lightning
strike or a heavy coating of ice can easily snap off a dead or dying
tree limb weighing a ton or more. And that can make a big hole in your
Unless the suspect limbs are easily accessible, this is a job for a
reputable tree surgeon who can tell you which branches need to be
removed and which could be trimmed back or "strapped" to give them
extra support. A sleigh on the roof on Christmas morning is one thing;
a huge tree branch poking through your bedroom ceiling is not so much
"Doctor, it's time for the transplant!"
Shrubs, plants and trees are entering their dormant cycle right about
now, so if you need to move one to a new location, this is the right
time. First, pick your new location and dig a hole big enough to
comfortably hold the root ball.
Then carefully dig out the root ball, being sure to retain as much of
the root system as you can. Before the root ball can dry out, place it
in the prepared hole, adding back some of the soil, along with some
compost, peat moss or manure. You can also add some fertilizer
specifically developed to encourage growth in transplants. Tall plants
might need staking until their roots take hold.
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 weekly e-mailed
newsletter, go to www.landsteward.org