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From The Ground Up: Early fall chores

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By Judy Stevens, Iowa State University Extension

As the summer gardening season winds down, it’s a great time to get outside, enjoy the cooler weather and do some work in your yard and garden which will give you a head start on your 2017 Spring garden.

Now is an ideal time to plant trees and shrubs, they will have time to develop roots before they head into their Fall and Winter dormant stage.

It’s a great time to amend your soil with compost. Spread the compost atop your garden beds and work into the top several inches with a shovel or even a rake.

Pull weeds now in your garden so they don’t have a chance to reseed themselves. Only place weed seeds into your compost pile if you know your compost reaches temperatures high enough to kill weed seeds, if it does not do not home compost them.

When the leaves start to fall consider mulching them for your compost pile or using as mulch around your tender perennials.

Continue to mow your grass at a higher setting on the mower. From now until winter a 3-inch height is a great setting.

If you grew some nice coleus this summer in pots, take cuttings now to overwinter indoors. Many coleus varieties will grow roots when placed directly in a vase of water.

If you have sweet potatoes in your vegetable garden leave them in the ground until the weather gets colder, but harvest before the ground freezes. The cool weather converts the starch to sugar resulting in a sweeter potato.

If you have winter squash in your garden, don’t harvest too early. Wait until the skin can’t be punctured with your finger nail. Once it’s tough it’s ready for harvest, but do so before a freeze.

Do a garden walk around your house and take notes now on what you want to remember to plant next year. What worked, what didn’t work, colors you liked, etc.

Don’t trim spring blooming bushes now like lilac and forsythia, they have already set buds for next year’s spring blooms.

If you have house plants outdoors that will be coming in, examine them closely for insects. The best prevention for insects is an application of an insecticide soap followed by a shower with the hose. Just a few insects on a plant can multiply into a big infestation once they are in your warm home.

This is a great idea for next Spring, sanitize your flower pots now by soaking in a 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Fill them with potting soil and they’ll be ready to go for starting plants early next year. Most of all, savor the season outdoors. The colors, temperatures and the birds are to be enjoyed. Happy Fall!

For gardening questions, call the Linn County Extension Master Gardener Hortline at (319) 447-0647.

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