This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

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October 31, 2007
 

Save Your Milk Duds...
Today is Halloween and we have been busy this week trying to get costumes ready. I always seem to wait until the last minute. Of course, I often get little help from those I am trying to get a costume together for. After the all important question of, "What would you like to be?" the answer never seems to come easily. I might hear "Well I haven't decided", or "Let's just go to the store and look around." That is like listening to nails on a chalkboard. Right, let's just go to the store and look at video games, baseball cards and Halloween costumes. I have fallen for that line more than once in my lifetime. Nevertheless it always seems to work out in the end but we are often throwing something together on the morning of Halloween. Not only do I procrastinate in the garden but in my personal life as well.

The weather will be great for the ghosts and goblins running about the neighborhoods this evening. The air is chilly but not too cold and it is nice and dry. Excellent for a successful night of trick-or-treating. Lots of leaves swirling around, lit pumpkins on door steps, kids of all ages out and about. Halloween is fun. The kids love it so it is hard not to be excited by their enthusiasm. Everyone be safe and save all of your Milk Duds for me. (They're my favorite).

~ Shelly  

Late Season Seeding...
Last week we talked about the fact that it's too late to put down grass seed. If you didn't get seed down but need new grass you currently have two options:

  1. Dormant seeding can be successful in areas not susceptible to erosion. Anytime after Thanksgiving and through March you can lay grass seed with the expectation that it will germinate and grow when spring arrives.  Wintertime precipitation coupled with the soil's freeze/thaw cycles will aid in proper setting of seeds.
     
  2. Sod can be used successfully during almost any time of the year that the ground isn't frozen.  The trick is getting it established.  The secret is water.
    • Keep it soaked the first week.  It should be so wet that you cannot walk on it.
    • Keep it wet the second week.  It should be very squishy under foot.
    • Keep it moist the third week.  Water lightly every day.
    • Make sure it gets about an inch of water per week thereafter until it's established.

Christmas Tree B & B...
It may seem a little early to be thinking about Christmas trees but if you are considering a live, balled & burlapped tree that will be planted after the holiday you should start planning now.  It's time now to choose the planting spot and, more importantly, dig the hole for it.  If you wait too long the ground may be frozen by the time you think about it again.  

After you dig the hole (preferably twice as wide as the tree's root ball) fill it with leaves or straw to protect against any early freezing. You might also cover it with plywood if the hole presents an injury or accident risk.  Keep the dirt from the hole in a garage or shed so you have some loose soil to use during planting.

Time For Trees...
And speaking of trees.. now is a great time to plant one (or more).  While the visible part of the tree will be dormant, the roots will remain active and growing through the winter.  This assures that the tree will be well established and ready for spring and summer next year.  Need help?  Just read our newest feature article, Planting Trees...

Belated Bulb Burial?
Generally, we like to plant hardy bulbs in October to give them enough time to root before winter. But it is certainly not too late to plant them now. As long as the soil temperatures are above 40 degrees F bulbs should continue root development. Soil temperatures across our area last week averaged in the upper 50s to lower 60s.

Although many of the best bulbs have probably already been purchased, garden centers may still have a good selection. Be sure to select large, firm bulbs that have not begun to sprout.

Source

Seed Saving Savvy...
After you have collected seeds from your favorite flowers and vegetables be careful how you store them.  The two words that best sum up the right conditions are "cool" and "dry".  A seed is actually a living infant plant with a limited amount of food to sustain it until it germinates.  Warm storage temperatures may let it consume too much food and damp temperatures may encourage mold or bacteria to use some of the food and kill the plant.  Dry seeds in a paper envelope will not trap moisture, and kept in a cool and dry place, will survive well so you may plant them next year.

Source

Long Live Geraniums...
If you want to keep your garden geraniums over the winter you would do well to treat them as houseplants.  Before they get damaged by frost cut them back to about half their original size.  Using only the healthy, insect-free plants individually pot them up using dry potting soil.  Water them thoroughly and as needed to keep them somewhat moist (not wet) through winter.  Pinch back the tips of shoots once or twice to promote branching and prevent weak growth.

Mow/Mulch Those Leaves...
The trees are rapidly dropping their leaves and it is important to prevent a heavy layer of leaves from building-up on your turf before winter. Heavy layers of tree leaves will shade the grass and can actually smother and kill grass before fall is over. Also, tree leaf cover favors a damaging winter turf disease called snow mold.

The easiest way to dispose of leaves is to simply mow them into the turf. Regular mowing during the fall will chop the leaves into small pieces and allow them to filter into the turf. Research at Purdue University Extension and other universities shows that tree leaves can be mulched without any detrimental effects on the soil or turf. In fact, leaf mulching may help improve the soil. Mulching leaves with a mower is much easier than raking, blowing, and/or vacuuming the leaves like so many of us do. Plus it disposes of the leaves without filling up our landfills and saves our cities thousands of dollars in disposal costs. What's not to like?

Finally...
"To take a spade or a spading fork on a crisp fall day and without undue haste or backbreaking effort to turn over slice after slice of sweet-smelling earth can bring rich rewards to the gardener who fully understands just what he is accomplishing."

~ T.H. Everett

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