For Release December 14, 1999

Late Autumn Yard Chores

by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent

With the arrival of the winter solstice the middle of next week, autumn draws to a close and winter starts. With Christmas less than two weeks away everyone is busy getting into that holiday spirit. But more than likely thereís still quite a few odd jobs around the yard that need to be taken care of.

First of all, you can turn off the lawn sprinkler systems. Weíve had enough precipitation and enough cold weather that the turf is going dormant and future lawn watering is not needed. If, and thatís a big if, we experience a month with no precipitation you will want to drag some hoses out and water your evergreens. The lawns and deciduous trees and shrubs are in good shape until spring though.

If you did not get your lawn fertilized at all this fall, I would still try to get an application applied. That can be a standard fall treatment or a "winterizer", either one will work. What about weed control? Well, you can still apply herbicides, but with the cold weather weíve had, some of the weeds are not going to be easily controlled and effects of control will take much longer to be noticed. If you do apply a weed control product still apply it at a normal rate - do not apply more just because it is late.

A lot of homeowners like to give their lawns one last short mowing before they put the lawn mower away for the winter. I donít feel that it is advisable to mow shorter just before winter. You remove some of the important insulation that protects that grass plant. Itís okay to give one last mowing, just donít do it any shorter than you have been mowing.

While weíre talking about putting the lawn mower away, donít just shove it back into the storage shed or corner of the garage. Either drain the gasoline out of the tank or add a fuel stabilizer. This will make it easier to start next spring. Clean the mower and sharpen the blade before fall. Then you wonít have to remember to do it next spring when you need it again (which will be before you know it!) Refer to your owners manual for specific winter storage hints for any of your gas engine powered yard and garden equipment. Donít be afraid to make notes of what you did and when you did it. Then you can also write down items that may need attention before you get started next spring.

Winterizing hand tools is a good idea also. Clean all items extra clean. Sharpen hoes, shovels, pruning equipment or anything with an edge. Lubricate those hinges on pruning shears and apply a light oil coating to metal surfaces to protect against rust. Place this equipment where it wonít be in the way of any winter gear you might need, like snow shovels.

If you still havenít planted spring flowering bulbs, or if you just found a close out bargain on bulbs in some store, go ahead and get those planted now. They may be a little late the first spring, but theyíll be better off in the ground than hanging around your garage until next October. If you were planning to plant some grass and didnít get it done, you could still do it, but donít expect much until next spring. Truth is, you might be better off to store the grass seed until early April and plant then.

As for cleaning off the flower beds. You can do that now, but my personal preference is to leave all that old growth for protection. The old plants catch snow and leaves and provide insulation for perennials and water and nutrients to enrich the soil. Finally, roses. Weíve now had enough cold weather to start getting them dormant so itís finally time to get them mulched down and ready for winter.


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