Western Mountains and High Plains

October, 2008
Regional Report

Avoid the Urge to Prune Trees

Autumn is not the best time to prune trees and shrubs. Pruning wounds take time to "heal" or close and tend to dry out more in fall and winter. Wait until late winter or early spring to prune most trees. Of course, dead and broken branches can be pruned out at any time. To avoid the "bleeding" of sap with birches and maples, prune after the leaves expand.

Lift Summer-Flowering Bulbs

Soon after the frost has killed back the tops of tender summer-flowering bulbs, lift and store bulbs, tubers, or rhizomes. These include dahlias, tuberous begonias, gladiola, cannas, calla lilies, and caladiums. Store them in wooden boxes or Styrofoam coolers filled with sphagnum peat, sawdust, or vermiculite. Keep at above-freezing temperatures in the garage or crawl space.

Plant Bulbs in Groups

Plant tulips in clumps of twelve or more for the boldest effects. Water new bulb plantings and cover with an organic mulch. It's important to continue watering new plantings when fall and winter conditions are dry. This can be done every 4 to 5 weeks in extended dry spells and when the soil is not frozen solid.

Clean Up Flower Beds

Remove dead annuals to prevent the overwintering of disease organisms and insect pests. Rake excess leaves off the lawn and run through a chipper/shredder. This makes an excellent source of organic matter to add to the compost pile or use as a mulch over perennials and in shrub borders.

Add Organic Matter to Soil

Prepare planting beds now for earlier planting next spring. Simply hand-dig new beds in autumn, working in a generous supply of compost. Leave the soil rough to collect winter moisture; plus, the freezing-thawing action will break apart clods.

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