Plant Lovers’ Almanac: There is still time to prepare the garden for winter – Akron Beacon Journal

plant-lovers’-almanac:-there-is-still-time-to-prepare-the-garden-for-winter-–-akron-beacon-journal

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As is the custom here in Northeast Ohio, things are getting chilly out there! However, if you are behind on doing some garden work, there is still time as long as the soil isn’t frozen.   Soil test. Fall is a great time to do a soil test.  A soil test should be done every three years and done at the same time of the year (if you have done one in the fall in the past, do the next one in the fall also). The labs aren’t as busy this time of year and it will give you time to plan for next spring. Planting spring flowering bulbs. While it would have been a little more comfortable to plant tulips and daffodils a few weeks ago, it can still be done until the soil freezes. If you are just now purchasing, select those that are firm. Plant at the depth recommended on the packaging. Planting garlic. Like spring flowering bulbs, there is still time to plant garlic. Separate the cloves, plant 2 to 3 inches deep with the pointy end up, 4 to 6 inches apart. Cover with a couple of inches of mulch (straw works very well) to insulate the cloves and prevent weed germination. Rake the mulch off in the spring.  Dig up tender bulbs. If you haven’t yet, this needs to happen ASAP. Dig up your cannas and dahlia, clean them and store in peat, vermiculite or wood shavings. Dahlias can be divided in the spring if you don’t have the time now. Check throughout the winter for rot. Check the moisture level in your soil. Even though we have had some rain in the last week, it was a rather dry fall and plants depend on fall water reserves to survive the winter. Dig down 8 inches; if the soil is dry, water thoroughly. This is particularly important for newly planted items and evergreens. Adequate water will help your trees and shrubs tolerate winter winds and winter stress.  Cover landscape and veggie beds with shredded leaves. Fall weather came a little later than usual this year and we now have a wealth of dried leaves. Chopped leaves are a great material to cover vegetable gardens. Pile and run them over with the lawn mower to create smaller pieces. Consider leaving a small portion for ground dwelling pollinators that would be smothered or trapped if covered. Covering the garden with shredded leaves prevents erosion, adds organic matter, helps manage winter annual weeds, and provides food for soil borne organisms. Once the ground is frozen, use chopped leaves around perennial plants to further insulate and protect from heaving. Add extra protection. Sometimes as gardeners we push the zone limits. Plants and shrubs that are susceptible to winter damage such as some types of hydrangeas and roses may benefit from being wrapped in burlap or surround them with chicken wire and fill with leaves. Check regularly throughout the winter to make sure that four-legged friends haven’t found a new home. Resist the urge to cut everything back. Many of our native pollinators overwinter as adults or larvae in plant structures, particularly hollow stems. Birds and other wildlife depend on seed heads and withered fruits for food sources in the winter months. Plus, these dried plant structures add winter interest. Disease and damaged plant structures can be removed now. It will be easy to distinguish between dead and new shoots in the spring.   Wait to prune. It is almost always better to prune most plants in the late winter or very early spring. This avoids open wounds where pathogens could enter or tissue damage from extreme cold. While the weather will be cold this weekend, it will be tolerable if you dress properly.  And if you have finished your garden prep, get outside to one of the local parks, get some fresh air and enjoy the splendor of fall in Ohio. Jacqueline Kowalski is the Summit County Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Educator for the Ohio State University.  For questions on local foods, food production or other garden-related questions, contact her at [email protected] or 234-226-6633.   
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