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Fall Garden Tasks

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This election year even gardening is bound to have political overtones. Political correctness can be carried a bit too far. It is no longer acceptable to tell someone they are a poor gardener or to tell them they have a “brown thumb.” "Horticulturally challenged” is now the politically correct term. If you feel horticulturally challenged each spring, resolve to do as much of your gardening this fall as possible. Trees and shrubs and turfgrass can easily be planted now, but the real stellar spring performers are the bulbs and the flowers. Fall is an important gardening time. Many activities can be done now that will have a significant impact on next year's garden. These include: fall planting, fall fertilization, insect control, disease control, and weed control. Significant reduction of other pests (including slugs and snails) are also important. Their control is outlined in this newsletter. In the fall, soils are usually warm and dry and most gardening tasks can be accomplished without interference from weather. In addition, many activities are less pressing because of pruning, planting, and other spring activities. Garden cleanup is an often overlooked and neglected tasks but is important to alleviate the gardening crunch next spring. It is not necessary to wait until frost or snow falls to begin garden cleanup. After the corn is harvested, cut down the stalks and shred them or chop them into pieces with shovels and turn them back into the soil. Many other warm season crops will stop producing long before frost. Till these back into the soil unless they are diseased in which case the plants should be discarded. Likewise, discard any weeds that have gone to seed. Small plants can be incorporated back into the garden by mowing them with the rotary lawn mower. For most home gardeners incorporating the garden residue is a more practical way to maintain soil organic matter than seeding a cover crop. Although major pruning should be delayed until next spring, moderate trimming on evergreens will not harm them. You should also take cuttings or make divisions of plants that you are trying to save. Adventurous gardeners may want to try to start sowing some annual plants that will start growing early next spring. After temperatures cool down substantially, plant peas, lettuce, radishes, spinach, and chard. The seeds may remain dormant and sprout with the first warmth of spring or the tiny plants may overwinter and grow quickly when conditions become right next spring. Corn flowers, larkspur, Johnny jump-ups and annual poppies can also be seeded this fall to get a jump on the gardening season. Larry A. Sagers Regional Horticulturist Utah State University Extension Thanksgiving Point Office

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