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WHAT’S BLOOMIN’

Gardening column: Tidy up garden before winter

Friday, November 30, 2012 - 12:01 am

I checked with my garden this morning and the ground is getting colder and colder, so it is nearly time to cover those plants and bulb beds with leaf mold, straw or wood mulch.

It is also important to finish raking up the leaves from trees that were late in dropping them. When wet, leaves can mat down and provide safe havens for pests and disease. So to avoid that, do a little more cleanup now before serious snowfall.

I have noticed some ugly black spots on leaves from maple trees, which means there is a disease affecting those leaves — so I'll throw them in the trash instead of using them for mulch.

Here are a few things to do now before taking a gardener's well-deserved winter rest:

•Cut off and discard in the trash the dead stems and leaves around your peony beds. Doing this now will help avoid the botrytis blight that can affect them next season. Do this with hollyhocks as well — they are subject to the same disease as peonies.

•Prep the roses for winter by cleaning up all leaf debris.

•If you have fruit trees, rake up and discard dried fruit and leaves. Again, good sanitation methods will help you avoid many pest and disease problems.

•Be sure not to store apples and pears with root vegetables. Fruits give off ethylene gas, which can cause off flavors in your root vegetables.

•Inspect your evergreen trees for bagworm capsules. Pluck them off and destroy them to cut down on next year's pest problem.

•If you have a strawberry bed, now is a good time to mulch with straw. To keep the wind from blowing the straw away, you can lay small branches across the straw or cover with a strip of light-weight chicken wire.

•Cover newly planted tulip beds with mulch and lay a section of chicken wire over the area so that squirrels and other rodents cannot dig them up.

•If you feed the birds in winter, now is a good time to prep the feeders and plan how you will provide them with a water source.

•Clean up gardening power tools as well as shovels and hand tools before putting them away for the winter. They will last longer and serve you well for years with a little TLC.

•If you grew gourds and other members of the Cucurbita family (pumpkins, squashes, etc.), before tossing them, cut them open and save the seed. Place on a paper plate and let the seed dry thoroughly before storing. Store the dried seed in a cool, dry place, such as putting them in an old medicine bottle in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Then next season, in late February, early March, start the seed indoors.

•You can cut off the tops of your chrysanthemums now or let the tops work over the winter as protective mulch. Chrysanthemums have been considered tender perennials in our zone but can weather the freeze very nicely if given a mulch covering or allowed to keep their dried tops till spring.

Ford is an Advanced Master Gardener. Email questions to jaf701@frontier.com. You also can read her What’s Bloomin’ blog at news-sentinel.com. This column is the writer’s opinion.