The Plant Man column
for publication week of 10/17/04 - 10/23/04
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
www.landsteward.org 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
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
email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and for resources and
additional information, including archived columns, visit