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Fall is the time when the sun drops low in the sky and shadows grow long. Although the garden seems to be shutting down for the winter, it’s really time to prepare for next year’s garden by paying attention to garden sanitation and soil. The following is a list of tasks you might need to perform soon:
Fall sanitation is the key to disease reduction for next year. Throw away any diseased plant material. Do not put it in a compost pile. Leaving infected plant material on the plants or on the ground provides a source of inoculum for next year’s infections.
If grubs are a problem in your lawn, apply Dylox through the end of October to kill small, newly hatched grubs.
For those with fire ant problems, baits can be used whenever the temperatures are going to be 70 degrees or higher. Otherwise, a drench will be the most effective means of controlling this pest in the fall.
Start watching for winter annual weeds, such as hairy bittercress and chickweed. These weeds, along with other winter weeds, should be controlled now and throughout the winter before they set seed in the early spring.
Pecan scab has been a major problem this year. It is not practical for homeowners to spray for this disease. They are resistant cultivars, and existing trees will still produce during years when the weather is less favorable for pecan scab.
Soil and Site
Compost your yard waste! As you cut back perennials in preparation for winter, think about returning that bounty to your garden as compost. Compost is nature’s favorite fertilizer and soil conditioner. Recycle grass clippings, leaves, and healthy garden refuse with no evidence of disease.
Use shredded leaves as mulch. Fallen leaves contain lots of nutrients, but they decompose slowly. Help the process along by grinding up your leaves and using them in vegetable or flower gardens, rather than sending them to the dump. Don’t have a shredder? Rake the leaves into rows and run over them with a mower, preferably one with a bagger attachment.
Plant a cover crop in your vegetable garden. Legumes, such as clover and alfalfa, will enrich the soil by fixing nitrogen, and preventing erosion. The plants can be turned over next spring to decompose in the soil and provide needed organic matter.
Now is also the time to do a site analysis. Walk around the yard noting what needs to be worked on, cleaned up or removed. Mark these areas on a map of the yard so they can be worked on this winter.
For a natural, wild-looking landscape, toss spring flowering bulbs out on the ground and plant them where they fall. This will give an informal look to the garden next spring, as if Mother Nature herself planted your garden.
In the costal plain, garlic, spinach and onions can be planted now. Harvest won’t be until next spring. We are likely to have a frost by the end of November. Sometimes protecting tender vegetables will give you an extra week or two of harvest. Full-size tomatoes can be picked and ripened inside even if they are still green.