- Cover strawberry beds with 2" of straw. This will protect the plants from cold and winds, control weeds and warm the soil earlier in the spring.
- Clean up all fallen leaves from blueberry beds, then add a 2" thick layer of pine needles, straw or pine bark mulch around the plants. This will insulate the roots during the winter.
- Sharpen, clean and repair all hand tools before storing them.
- If rainfall has been light, deeply water all trees and shrubs before the ground freezes.
- Protect any half-hardy shrubs by surrounding them with a wire cage and cover them with a thick layer of dry leaves.
- Wrap the trunks of young trees to protect their tender bark from frost injury.
- If you haven't already, cut grass low to prevent mold from forming under snow cover.
- After the ground freezes, cover perennials with mulch; this will prevent frost-thaw cycles from heaving them out of the ground.
- Turn the compost pile and add water if it feels dry.
- Prune roses back to 8"-12" tall, mound compost around the bud union and cover with a rose cone.
- If you are planning to plant a live Christmas tree, dig the hole now before the ground freezes.
- Continue raking and shredding leaves to add to the compost pile.
- Mulch plants you want to overwinter with a thick layer of straw.
- Last chance to plant spring-blooming bulbs such as daffodils and tulips.
- If you didn't do it last month, cut back perennials, clean all beds of leaves and weeds and edge your lawn.
- Don't feed your houseplants through the winter, but give them as much light as possible.
- Clean the foliage of houseplants that will tolerate it (those with smooth, un-fuzzy leaves). Wash both sides. This removes the dust, which allows them to breathe better; it also gives you a great opportunity to check for insects.
- Make sure you allow your houseplants to dry out between waterings; they do not use as much water in winter as they do in the spring.
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You see them all over the place during autumn: bales of hay used as fall decor. But once all the pumpkins and scarecrows have been put away, what should you do with your bale of hay? (Hey, I made a rhyme!)
One option is: compost it. Hay is an excellent additive to the compost pile, and ideally, the heat of the pile will kill any weed seeds that might be languishing in the bales. Straw apparently breaks down even better than hay.
Hay and straw make great mulches and/or path covers too. First, though, break open the bales and let them sit outside for a couple of weeks.
This will allow wild birds to come in and munch on any weed seeds that might still be present. When spreading hay or straw bales on garden beds, be sure they don't stay too clumpy as you break the bales apart.
Lastly, hay bales left intact make great cold frames - a kind of mini-greenhouse - for housing tender plants during the colder seasons.
Simply arrange the bales in a tight square and place your plants inside, either right in the soil or in containers. A piece of plexiglass or an old window serves as the lid.
If you decide to give this easy cold frame a try, be aware that you must monitor the temperature frequently. Too much sun, and the plants inside will fry, so prop the lid open if necessary. When temperatures are going to drop below freezing, throw a blanket over the whole contraption and remove it when things stabilize.
No matter what, the hay will eventually break down, though, so keep an eye out for that - as well as the occasional mouse looking for a warm, fluffy place to spend the winter.
We will be returning to Standard Time on Sunday, November 4. Remember to set your clocks back to 1 AM on Sunday at 2 AM. Or just reset them Saturday evening and enjoy that extra hour of sleep!
Smoke detector batteries should be changed yearly; the change to Standard Time is also a great time to change the batteries in your smoke detectors. Properly functioning smoke detectors save thousands of lives every year.
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