Fall Gardening Chores
By Doug Hackbarth
Broadview Florist & Greenhouse
The best time to control and eliminate dandelions for next spring is now. The way dandelions work is that they bloom in the spring, produce seeds, then germinate into baby plants during the summer and fall. The application of weed and feed during late summer/early fall is the best way of getting rid of these and other broad-leafed weeds, as well as fertilizing your yard. Do not fertilize anything else in your garden, as it is time to allow your perennial plants to harden off just before the cold winter season.
Late summer is also the best time to go after grub worms as the Japanese Beetles that flew around during the summer, has finished laying their eggs and the young grubs are easy to eliminate at this time. You can use a lot of insecticide made for grubs for instant kill but for long term kill, you want to use a product called Milky Spore. Once established in your yard, milky spore keeps on working from one year to the next for up to 15 years. It is worth the few extra dollars but only if applied at the right time of the year…now.
Get ready to use a product that should only be applied during the dormant season. Dormant oil spray is one of the best insecticides/fungicides on the market, and very safe as it works by smothering rather than killing-by-poison, the problem host. But as the name implies, dormant oil should only be applied during times when your plants are in a dormant state or while going into dormancy (just after the leaves fall off the plant). A couple of applications are best. Once during the fall season, late October/early November and again during the winter, especially early March. But the key to success is that the temperature must be above 45 degrees at the time of application.
If you have any potted perennial plants that you want to keep alive for next year, you must do one of two things in order to protect them through the cold winter season. Either plant them in the ground, and do it now or find a spot to store them for the season. The best place for winter storage is an area inside that is not heated such as a storage shed or an unheated garage, and do not be in a hurry to put them inside just yet. These plants need to gradually get ready for the cold season ahead by going through cold nights and frosty mornings. I would suggest waiting until late November before actually bringing them inside for the winter. Just make sure that when you put them away, they have been thoroughly watered and do not put them in a place that receives heat after dark or they will want to keep growing.
One more simple chore that should be done just before winter is spraying your evergreen plants with a moisture-locking product such as Wilt-Pruf or Cloud Cover. This is especially important for plants planted on the west side of your house or those planted out in the open where the dominant winds can dry out the foliage and cause real damage. You can get these products in a ready-to-use sprayer but if you have many plants to spray, consider a concentrate and a hose-on sprayer.