In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
Finished homemade compost should be added to the garden this fall.
Get a Head Start on Spring Chores
Although many outdoor gardening activities come to a near standstill at this time of year, the wise gardener takes time to get a head start on the spring rush.
Garden and landscape cleanup should be a priority and completed by month's end. Now is a good time to take advantage of fall sales on gardening supplies and equipment. Fertilizers, hoses, sprinklers and various garden tools are often closed out, and this offers quite a savings. If you purchase granular fertilizers be sure to store them in a cool but dry place, preferably off the garage floor. Moisture will cause fertilizer to cake up.
Whether you garden in a miserable, heavy clay soil or dry, sandy soil, fall is one of the best times to get your soil conditioned. You can improve the structure and texture of clay, sand and granite-based soils by adding organic matter. Organic matter will add the humus soils need to bring them back to life, teaming with micro- and macro-organisms. Homemade compost, well-rotted manure, sphagnum peat moss, shredded leaves, dried grass clippings (from lawns not treated with weed killers), or combinations of the above are some good sources of organic matter.
Applied in the fall and incorporated to a depth of six inches or more, compost will blend with clay, sand or granite-based soils to improve structure, nutrient holding capacity and moisture retention. If possible, add a generous amount of organics, from two to three inches spread over garden beds. Then rototill or mix with a spading fork so it is blended with your native soil. You don't have to rake it smooth, but can leave the soil in a rough form. This allows the clods to capture the natural moisture from rains and snow. Additionally, the alternate freezing and thawing that occurs over winter results in a "mellow" soil so early crops can be planted.
As long as weather conditions remain mild and dry, fall cleanup should include a close inspection of shrubs, trees, evergreens and perennials. Be on the lookout for colonies of aphids hidden in protected areas of plants. They can be easily and effectively controlled with a forceful spray of water or a homemade soap spray.
Check around the landscape, especially perennial beds, for any noxious weeds and tree seedlings. Canada thistle, bindweed and emerging tree seedlings are almost impossible to get rid of if they become established. Now is the time to pull or dig them out, removing roots and all.
Mild weather also alerts the "tourist bugs" to find their way into our homes. Clover mites, boxelder bugs, root weevils and elm leaf beetles are a few pesky intruders. Clover mites are minute, reddish or brownish eight-legged creatures, smaller than a head of a pin. They enter the house through the smallest cracks around windows or doorways. They don't bite or feed on household furnishings, but if smashed they can leave a stain on draperies or light colored carpets. Just vacuum them up.
Most nuisance insect pests, including spiders, can be prevented from coming indoors by spraying a barrier around the foundation, under crawl spaces, in window wells and around wood piles. If you use a pesticide, always read and follow all label directions and precautions exactly.
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