Your fall landscape: Ten “do it now” garden tips (LandSteward Article)

The Plant Man column for publication week of 10/17/04 - 10/23/04 (741 words) ###
The Plant Man by Steve Jones
Your fall landscape: Ten “do it now” garden tips
The days may be getting shorter and chillier, but there’s still plenty to do in and around your landscape!
In fact, investing a little sweat-equity now can make next spring easier and more enjoyable, in many cases. Today, I’ll give you a few quick reminders about things you need to do before you finally call it quits for the winter.
Lawn Don’t put the mower away just yet. Take a look at your lawn and if it’s looking just a little shaggy, give it one last trim. It doesn’t need a buzz-cut but about 1 ½ inches should be okay.
Leaves Beautiful on the tree... a lot less attractive on the ground. Get out the leaf-blower, or better yet use a rake; it’s quieter and burns off some calories to make room for all that turkey in a few weeks! You need to get fallen leaves off your lawn if the grass is to come back strong next spring. Add the leaves to your compost, or shred them and use as free mulch.
Weeds Even though weeds might appear to die back as the winter approaches, that’s not a good reason to ignore them now! Nobody really enjoys the chore of weeding, but if you take the time to do so now, you will be removing literally thousands of weed seeds that would otherwise come back to haunt you next year.
Transplanting If you need to transplant a deciduous tree or shrub, a good time to do so is after the leaves fall and before winter frost hardens the ground. There will be less trauma at this time of year, while the plant is in dormancy.
Bugs n’ slugs If it’s been quite rainy recently in your neighborhood, chances are that slugs have moved in, too. Now is a good time to put down slug bait so you’ll have fewer hungry baby slugs to deal with in the spring. Take a look at your evergreen shrubs to see if you have bagworms. (You can find more about bagworms in a recent column. Go to and click on “The Plant Man” header. Look for the column titled “Readers offer helpful tips on garden pests.”) Pick off the bagworms and destroy them now to prevent new hatchings next year.
Fruit trees and bushes If you have fruit trees or bushes, look for dried-up fruit (sometimes known, appropriately, as “mummies”) and pick them off. They can harbor disease organisms that can live through the winter and attack next year’s crop.
HerbsIf you created a container herb garden as I recommended (see archived Plant Man columns at my web site) and you still have a few herbs out there, now would be a good time to harvest them and freeze or dry them. As well as cooking with them, you can use the dried herbs as part of a fragrant wreath or table centerpiece.
PruningIf any of your late-flowering trees and shrubs need pruning, do it while they’re dormant.
Soil samplesIf you’ve been thinking about getting a soil sample, now is a great time to do it! Have a sample analyzed to determine the pH balance of the soil and the balance of elements such as phosphorus and potassium. This relatively inexpensive test will provide you with important information before you spend the big bucks on plants next spring. The test results will tell you if you need to treat the soil to ensure good results. If you’re not sure how to take a soil sample or where to get it analyzed, drop me an e-mail at and I’ll help you.
Plan aheadIf you intend to plant new trees or shrubs in your landscape, plan their location now. When the leaves have fallen, you can get a clearer picture of where new planting would work best around your home. Take into account elements such as proximity to walls, windows, overhead cables, buried utility lines and so on. Determine the MATURE height and breadth of your proposed plants and how they will affect those elements.
Take advantage of some of these crisp, cool fall days to get some essential chores taken care of, and you’ll thank yourself next spring!
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to and for resources and additional information, including archived columns, visit
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