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By Judith Wojcik Ashley
UGA Cooperative Extension
Gardeners who chose not to grow cool season crops may be getting restless as temperatures drop and the growing season comes to an end. Well, a gardener’s work is never done. Here are a few garden chores that can be accomplished over the next few months:
Test your soil
Now is a great time to test soil. Developing and maintaining productive soils begins with soil testing. Whether it is for your lawn, flowerbed or vegetable garden, North Carolina State University soil test results will reveal the soil’s pH and nutrient status. Follow the test’s recommendations for improving soil in your spring garden.
This is also a good time to turn garden soil over. Do it the old-fashioned way and use a shovel. One garden shovel full-lifted and turned is the equivalent of one Christmas cookie; well, almost.
Do you have an abundance of leaves on your property? Chop them up and add them to your garden as mulch or work them in to improve the soil’s organic matter. Unchopped or shredded leaves can also be used, but they tend to mat down and will not break down as rapidly. Leaves can also be added to your compost pile to provide a carbon element.
Speaking of compost piles, work off some of those delicious holiday desserts by grabbing a shovel or pick and giving your compost pile a thorough turn. This will speed the decomposition process and add needed air and circulation to the pile.
Inspect and repair tools
While you have that shovel or pick handy, look at it closely. Does the handle appear to be rotting or cracking? If the handle is beginning to crack or turn gray, sand it down and apply a coat of marine or outdoor varnish to preserve the life of the handle.
Is the shovelhead showing rust or wear? Take the time now to clean, sharpen and repair your garden tools and you will be glad when spring rolls back around. Remove caked on dirt with a wire brush and rinse and dry tools thoroughly.
Apply lubricating oil to any working parts on pruning shears or saws, and sharpen the blades. To sharpen properly, place the tool in a vise and sharpen away from the tool’s head, on the push-stroke side only.
Proper storage and care of gardening tools will extend their life. Rusty or dull garden tools are not effective and in the case of pruning tools can actually damage the plant by making jagged cuts.
Don’t let this happen to your tools. Keep them out of the weather in a shed or garage in a neat and orderly fashion. This will not only save you a lot of frustration when it comes time to use them, but your storage space will be maximized, making room for that latest and greatest gardening tool.
Day in the Yard
The Cooperative Extension is once again offering “A Day In The Yard” course for people wanting to increase their knowledge of yard/garden maintenance in this zone but not having the time commitment required of a master gardener.
The cost of the class is $75. Proceeds from the class benefit the Brunswick County Master Gardener Association. The class includes six 2-1/2-hour segments utilizing presentations and handouts. Each class is taught by a master gardener, who might even be your neighbor. The course is offered multiple times in the spring and fall of each year at the Cooperative Extension Training Center in Bolivia.
The next scheduled classes will be from Feb. 13-March 20. All classes begin at 9 a.m.
Send your gardening questions or comments to: Brunswick County Master Gardener Column, P.O. Box 109, Bolivia, NC 28422, or call 253-2610. Enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope if requesting information or a reply. Answers may be printed in this column.