University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Fall News Article

Charlie Nardozzi, Senior Horticulturist
National Gardening Association, and
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
Cleaning and storing tools, cleaning and storing pots, and cleaning bird feeders are some of the gardening activities for this month.
Clean the soil off shovels, spades, and trowels using a rag or wire brush, then wipe blades with an oiled cloth. Make sure pruners are free from dirt and plant debris, and wipe down the blades with the oiled cloth.  Now is a good time to sharpen blades so they'll be ready for spring.  Use sharpening blocks or stones available at complete garden and hardware stores.
Empty pots of dead plants and soil, adding the debris to the compost pile unless the plants were diseased. In that case, dispose of the plants in the garbage or a location far away from your garden. Rinse pots, scrubbing soil and salt residue from fertilizer off with a brush.  Soaking for a few minutes in a mild bleach water solution (one part bleach to nine parts water), then rinsing well with water, will help disinfect pots.
Clean bird feeders before winter bird feeding begins.  Old or moldy seeds in the bottom of feeders can harbor diseases that may harm birds. Scrub with a brush and rinse thoroughly. Disinfect with a bleach solution as you do for pots.
Spread a thin topping of compost on the lawn after you rake up leaves, and rake again to settle the compost. If some areas aren't growing well, it might help to core aerate before spreading compost. If you do this in spring and fall, you can gradually rejuvenate a tired lawn.
Spread winter mulch once the ground has frozen. If you mulch too soon, it will keep the soil warmer longer, which can delay dormancy in plants that you want to go dormant so they aren't caught by surprise when winter arrives.
The exception to late mulching is bulb beds.  After you plant bulbs, spread mulch on top to help keep the soil warmer longer to allow for more root growth this fall. Roots will continue to grow until the soil temperature drops below about 40 degrees F.  If you have bulbs, but haven't gotten around to planting yet, do so soon.  It is definitely better to plant now rather than wait until spring.  Or you can plant in pots to keep cool, then force into early bloom in spring.
Continue watering evergreens, as well as newly planted trees and shrubs, until the ground freezes. Evergreens continue to lose moisture through their foliage all winter, so keep soil moist as long as possible to send them into winter with plenty of reserves.
Paperwhites are those narcissus bulbs with fragrant white flowers often seen during the holidays.  You'll find their bulbs for sale now.  Choose a container with no drainage holes, fill it with gravel, and set the bulbs so the top third pokes above the gravel. Add water until it's just
below the base of the bulbs because the bulbs will send down roots into the water. Or, plant the bulbs in a shallow container filled with potting soil. Place the container in a cool (50 to 60 degrees F.), bright room. Plants should bloom four to six weeks from the planting date.
Other gardening activities for this month include storing mowers properly for winter, and decorating with gourds, grape vines, corn stalks and similar seasonal plant materials.

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