Pacific Northwest

October, 2006
Regional Report

Last Chance to Plant Bulbs

Add more spring color to your yard by planting bulbs. Tulips, daffodils, alliums, and crocuses are readily available now, as are other more unusual bulbs. Be sure to improve the soil before planting by adding organic matter and a sprinkling of bone meal or another phosphorus source to encourage flowering.

Remember to Water

Once the weather cools, we often forget that our plants still need water. In areas that freeze hard in the winter, late-season watering is especially critical because roots will be unable to take in moisture when the soil is frozen. Be sure your gardens are well irrigated shortly before the soil freezes, whether by deep, soaking rains or by your irrigation system.

Tidy Up Those Garden Beds

In the perennial bed, cut back plants to a 1-inch stub after a hard freeze. This will eliminate many insect and disease habitats while still marking the plant location for your spring work. Remove all weeds before seeds mature. If frost heaving is a problem in your yard, mulch perennials with 4 to 6 inches of coarse organic material after a hard freeze. It's not the cold that causes problems, it's the alternate freezing and thawing that pushes the roots out of the soil.

Aerate Lawns

Established lawns will benefit from fall aeration. When soil is moist but not saturated, aerate with a hollow tine coring machine, leaving the cores laying on the surface (subsequent rains will dissolve them). Fall timing for this operation is ideal, since aesthetics are not as important now as in the spring. Fall and winter moisture will soak deep in the aeration holes, encouraging deep roots.

Protect Tree Trunks

Special winter protection may be required for young trees. The trunks of fruit trees and others with thin bark should be protected from rodent damage with trunk collars. I like the white, spiral-type collars since these also reflect the sun's heat, which can cause bark splitting in late winter and early spring.

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