Our weather forecast predictions are suggesting a warmer November after having had a cooler-than-expected October. This is good news since most of our fall yard and garden efforts have been delayed.
One of the ongoing efforts has been to keep the lawn mowed, and now we need to contend with the leaves that recently have come down in great numbers in a short amount of time. There is very likely more than can be mulched and left on the lawn. Leaves bagged by the lawn mower are broken down and can be used as a mulch in the vegetable or perennial beds. Next spring, work them into the bed, adding important organic matter. Using the mixture of green cut grass and browning leaves makes a great beginning for a new compost pile or bin, as it has both the “greens” and “browns” needed. You can mix that in with the plant parts from bed cleanup, too, and don’t forget to keep mowing as long as the grass is growing.
If you have planted new trees, shrubs or evergreens this fall, be sure to follow up with the watering. Root systems continue to grow even if the above-ground parts seem dormant. This also applies to any perennials you planted or have transplanted. If rabbits and deer visit your yard, consider protecting those plants as well. Rabbits really enjoy our thin-barked ornamentals, and they will feed starting at the soil line up as far as they can reach. Deer feed from the top down and can completely destroy young tender plants.
Produce still left in the garden, especially root crops, can be harvested and healed back in at the edge of the garden for use later. A good trick is to heel in carrots, parsnips and potatoes in meal-sized groupings. A heavy layer of straw (a great use for that bale of straw you decorated with for Halloween) will prevent the soil from freezing over so you can use those vegetables well into the New Year usually.
You cannot have that spring bulb bloom show next year unless you plant them yet this fall before the ground freezes over. You can still find spring bulbs on clearance. Bulbs are typically planted two to three times their diameter in the soil. Water them in, too. Use some of that chicken wire you have left after protecting your trees and shrubs to cover the bed for the winter, as squirrels will help themselves. You can leave it on the surface or further down in the planting bed before you replace the soil.
There also a few things not plant-related, yet they need to be done. Be sure you remove the hose from the house and drain any water. Once you are done for the season, put the garden hose in the shed. Also, swap the location of the mower with the snow blower for easy access for that first big snowfall. Gasoline does not store very well anymore, so be sure to add a fuel stabilizer to the mower and snow blower. When you are sure you are done in the garden, don’t forget to clean and protect your gardening hand tools.
• Richard Hentschel is a horticulture educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties. Get more garden and yard updates with This Week in the Garden videos at facebook.com/extensiondkk/videos and the Green Side Up podcast at go.illinois.edu/greensideup.