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Chores for now for a better 2007 for lawn, garden

September 12, 2006|by JEFF SEMLER

Now that the summer is winding down, it is a good time to assess how the lawn and garden fared over the course of the season.

The frequent rainfall has provided mixed blessings - the added moisture has spurred lush, vigorous growth for many plants while favoring the growth and reproduction of insects and diseases.

There are several things home gardeners can do over the next several weeks to start preventing problems that may well recur in 2007.

My suggestions:

· Clean up and discard - Dead vegetation and fruits laying around through the winter give pests and diseases a cozy home. The eggs, larvae and spores will emerge with a vengeance next spring, unless they are evicted this fall.

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Rake and bag up debris as it occurs and cut down frost-killed tops of herbaceous materials for disposal.

· Protect and improve soil - Fall is a good time to test soil and add basic nutrients and lime, if needed.

In beds of annual plantings or crops, consider sowing a cover crop, such as winter rye, to protect the soil and return nutrients and organic matter when it is turned under in the spring.

Wait until the ground has frozen to put down protective mulch for perennial plants.

· If the lawn, flowers and vegetables did not perform well, consider reasons why. Were they grown in the proper soil and sun conditions? Were they varieties developed for disease resistance?

Review your growing practices to determine whether the plants are struggling with too little or too much care.

· Weed and feed lawns - The largest part of lawn weed control and fertilizing should occur in fall.

Make two or three applications of fertilizer for a total of up to three pounds actual nitrogen per thousand square feet of turf. Start in September and finish by Thanksgiving.

Broadleaf weed control products can be applied to established turf in the last half of September and into October. Now is a good time to cultivate and seed patches of the lawn killed by disease or insect damage.

· Plant trees and shrubs - Fall is an excellent time of year to plant most trees and shrubs. The cooler air temperatures reduce the loss of water from a new planting, whereas the relatively warm soil allows root development to continue.

Fall-planted trees and shrubs generally get settled in and ready to grow for the following season better than spring-planted. Be sure to look into the plant's ultimate size before you buy. Those cute little bushes could soon become gigantic monsters that will need removal long before their time if placed in too small an area.

Further information on these and other lawn and garden topics are available free or at nominal charge from the Extension Office at 7303 Sharpsburg Pike.

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