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A fair-weather gardener

Penn State Master Gardener, Warren Garden Club

I am definitely a fair-weather gardener. I do not like composting containers or cutting down perennials in the cold rain or what is worse in spitting snow. With this stretch of nice autumn weather coming up it is time, fellow gardeners, to start the process of putting our lovely gardens to bed for the winter.

First on the list is to clean out the storage building and the potting bench. A good broom or a shop vacuum will be the best tool for the job. After the floor is clean, I get rid of the dust and garden soil with a dry rag. Get ready to recycle anything that is broken or anything for which you have no use. Check with your municipality for a possible Fall Clean up week. Keep track of garden supplies as you clean. Sometimes you can run into a sale at the garden center and pick up a fertilizer or a new pair of garden gloves you will need in the spring.

Compost the contents of your containers. Once empty put them in the sun to dry. After they are dry use a stiff brush to remove as much of the soil as possible. When clean and dry, store carefully for spring. If you have to stack your containers place a strip of cardboard between pots to help prevent breakage.

Cut back your perennials to a height of about 4-6 inches. Do not fertilize. Your plants are getting ready for their season of rest. You can put a layer of compost over your plants. This is not a fertilizer but a soil amendment. It will give your plants a nice little boost in the spring when you start fertilizing.

Your lawn tractor, lawnmower and weed whip need to be winterized. Check your owner’s manual for directions. They need to be clean and ready for work in the spring.

The last thing to do is clean all your garden tools. Use a bit of steel wool to clean the tool and then wipe with a little household oil. Good tools if properly cared for should last a lifetime.

Spring will come again and as always there is a long “to do” list getting ready for the new season. These autumn tasks will make the list of spring chores a little shorter and there is a lot of satisfaction knowing all is put to bed properly. Unfortunately for we fair-weather gardeners, this all has to be accomplished on the last of these lovely warm autumn days.

Rebecca Norton Ryan is a Penn State Extension Master Gardener and member of the Warren Garden Club.

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