Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Amy Ivy: The Last of the Fall Chores

unnamedWe had such a long spell of nice weather this fall that I should have no excuse for not having gotten all my fall outdoor chores finished by now. But I suspect I’m not the only one with a few more to-do items on my list. Here are some tips and suggestions:

We are at the very end of the limit for getting spring flowering bulbs planted. Check your sheds and closets for any lingering bulbs that you bought earlier but still haven’t gotten in the ground. I have a little more garlic to plant as well. It’s late, but I’m optimistic the bulbs will have time to root in before winter. Dig up any tender bulbs that can’t survive the winter. This includes gladioulus, canna lilies and dahlias.

Let water drain out of your hoses and then coil them up for winter, I like to hang them in the garage rather than leave them in a pile. And don’t forget to turn off the water to any distant spigots you have. We installed a frost–free hose faucet near the back door which is very handy during the cold weather for for quick cleaning jobs.

You can leave the potting mix in large planters and window boxes for the winter but bring them under cover. Large ceramic planters, especially glazed pots of any size, can crack if water accumulates in them during freeze/thaw cycles so be sure to bring them under cover as well. Wooden planters won’t crack so you can leave them outdoors if they are too heavy to move but cover them to divert rain and melting snow. They don’t have to be kept at room temperature, a garage or shed is fine. Most people empty their planters by a third or half for the winter and mix in fresh potting mix the following spring.

We used to recommend fertilizing your lawn in late fall but the turf experts at Cornell are now recommending an early fall feeding instead, usually around the first half of September. That late fall application was often called a ‘winterizing’ feeding but researchers found the extra potassium in the mixture did not make a difference and that too often the application was made too late in the fall to be taken up by the plants. If you haven’t fed your lawn this fall, don’t worry. You can either feed it late next spring, around Memorial Day or best of all, early next fall, around Labor Day.

We are often asked how long you need to keep mowing your lawn into the fall. The best answer is as long as it keeps growing. It’s best if the lawn can go through winter at a just-mown height. If left too long, the floppy grass blades are more likely to form mats over the winter and you may have some patches of snow mold next spring. You can just rake these up and reseed, but try to avoid this step if possible.

Although carrots, parsnips and leeks can be left in the ground well into the fall, I like to harvest mine after they’ve had some cold weather to sweeten them up, but before they are damaged by hungry critters. Voles and field mice can cause a lot of damage to the crop you’ve been nurturing all season, so try to harvest them while they’re at their prime in the fall.

Photo courtesy of USDA ARS/Bruce Fritz.

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Amy Ivy is a Regional Vegetable and Berry Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture Program. Amy also often leads local foods production research funded by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program. She can be reached at 518-570-5991,

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