COMPOST YOUR LEAVES
It seems like you no sooner get the leaves raked up than there are more on the ground. Why not make this the year you compost those leaves instead of sending them out to recycle? Find an unused spot in the back yard (perhaps where you planted vegetables) and make a compost pile. Composting is really quite easy. It takes 3 ingredients besides the leaves: 1. water (Mother Nature will take care of that), 2. nitrogen (ammonium sulfate, manure, lawn fertilizer), and 3. air (turn the pile at least once a month with a fork or spade). Build your compost pile in layers, adding nitrogen as you go. It does not hurt to sprinkle a little soil into the pile to inoculate with micro-organisms. That compost will be great next spring to incorporate into your vegetable and flower plantings. It also makes good mulch around trees and shrubs.
Your lawn mower is one of the best ways to pick up leaves. Not only does it pick them up, but it chops them so they compost more quickly. If there are some grass clippings mixed in, so much the better. Nothing composts better than leaves and grass clippings.
FALL WEED CONTROL
There are many cool weather weeds which are sprouting right now. This is a good time to get after them before they get ahead of you. Because the soil is moist, most need to be physically removed or they will re-root. Why not add then to your new compost pile? There are also several weed killers which work especially well in the fall because plants are sending food manufactured in the leaves down to the roots. Roundup and similar weed killers which contain glysophate are absorbed through the leaves. They are not absorbed through bark. This is also a good time to kill wild blackberry and other brushy weeds. Crossbow and other brush killers should be applied before leaves are lost. Lawn weed killers are also very effective on dandelions and other broadleaf weeds this time of year.
TRANSPLANT SHRUBS AND TREES
Dormant season from now through March is the best time to move trees and shrubs from one location to another. If you would like some help moving overgrown or out-of-place plants, give me a call. This is also an excellent time to plant new trees and shrubs.
Beneficial Nematodes are microscopic warriors that kill soil borne pests such as flea larvae, cranefly, spider mites, fungus gnat, weevils, grubs, rootworms, cutworms, and many more. Nematodes search, find, and kill pests living in the soil. They are extremely effective, and will reproduce and spread to provide you with long lasting organic pest control. In addition to being effective they are absolutely harmless to people, pets, birds and other beneficial insects. Fall is a great time to apply nematodes in your yard. Beneficial nematodes and other beneficial insects can be purchased from Flora & Fauna Nature Company at 1005 NE Glisan St. in Portland (floraandfauna.org)
PICK YOUR GREEN TOMATOES
If they have not been frozen yet, green tomatoes will ripen in a cool place. 50 degrees is and ideal temperature. Garage temperature comes pretty close this time of year. You can even cut off whole tomato vines and hang them on a nail. Some of the food in the vines goes into the fruit so it ripens sweeter than off the vine. However, there is a big mess of leaves to clean up. Be sure to keep fruits spaced apart so rotting ones do not spoil the good ones.
STORING OTHER VEGETABLES
Winter squash, cabbage, carrots, onions, potatoes, parsnips, turnips and rutabagas, can all be stored in a cool location for several months. Squash prefers temperatures near 50 degrees. Root vegetables like cooler temperatures, and keep quite well at refrigerator temperature (around 40 degrees). Root vegetables except potatoes and onions store quite well in the ground. Cover with extra soil or mulch with leaves, compost or bark dust to prevent freezing.
LIVING AND FRESH CHRISTMAS TREES
Many Christmas trees are grown on large plantations in the Pacific Northwest and shipped to all parts of the country. In addition, we have many smaller choose and cut growers within easy driving distance of most metro areas. Cutting your own tree from one of these plantations ensures freshness. Using a water holding stand can also keep a tree fresh and soft for a month or longer.
Living Christmas trees, growing in pots, are sold in local nurseries. These trees can be planted outside after Christmas. However, remember that most tree varieties used for Christmas trees ultimately grow to a height of 50 to 100 feet. So they should be planted where they have room to grow.
PLANT BULBS INSIDE FOR WINTER BLOOM
Bulbs are still available in stores, many at marked-down prices. They can be planted outside until early December.
Paper white narcissus bulbs are pre-cooled and ready to be planted inside without any special treatment. Paper whites bloom in clusters of tiny, fragrant, daffodil-like flowers in either white or yellow. They are often planted in bowls or relatively shallow containers with just enough gravel or pebbles to hold them upright. They can be planted in deeper pots also. Just place the containers in a sunny area and keep them watered. They will bloom without any further treatment in about 4 to 6 weeks
Large or miniature amaryllis bulbs can be forced into bloom in large, 6 to 8 inch pots. Large amaryllis are generally planted one bulb per pot, and smaller miniatures 3 to a pot. This native South African flower has already been pre-treated and will bloom in 5 to 8 weeks after planting. If you have an amaryllis from last year, quit watering now and place it in a dark, cool place such as a closet for about 6 weeks. Then it can be brought into the light and will bloom again.
Tulips, daffodils, crocus, hyacinths and grape hyacinths are best for growing in pots with a cold treatment. The best tulips for forcing are the triumph strain which have medium height stems. Read labels or ask for the varieties which are best for indoor flowering. Almost any daffodil can be forced into bloom. Miniature narcissus or daffodils can also be grown in pots. Hyacinths are the most fragrant of bulbs. Single bulbs can be forced in a special hyacinth glass which has a lower chamber for roots and water and an upper one for the bulb. They can also be bloomed with several bulbs planted in a pot. It requires a 12 week treatment after planting in a cool dark place such as a refrigerator for bulbs to develop roots. Then they can be brought inside to bloom in about 3 to 4 weeks.