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Procrastinators still have time for outdoor projects

November 06, 2007|By JULIE E. GREENE

"Would you believe we're still getting tomatoes?" Norma Sayles said Thursday.

"As dry as it's been, this has been the best crop of tomatoes in years," said Sayles, president of Potomac Garden Club based in Williamsport.

Sayles, who lives in Halfway, also hadn't bothered to buy any mums because her geraniums were still doing well.

"I know everyone decorates with pumpkins and mums. My geraniums are still beautiful out front," she said.

This year's warmer autumn is mostly good news for homeowners and gardeners as it gives them more time to work on outdoor home and landscaping projects before freezing conditions set in, experts said.

With an average temperature of 61 degrees, October set a record for warmth, breaking the 1984 record of 60.5 degrees, according to www.i4weather.net, the Web site of Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer.

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Keefer reported the average high temperature in October was 72.1 degrees, 9 degrees higher than in 2006, when the average high was 63.1.

This season's warmth in the Tri-State area and much of the East Coast is due to the jet stream in the west and the drought that has affected the Southeast up into the Mid-Atlantic states, said Scott Stephens, meteorologist with the National Climatic Data Center in Ashville, N.C.

Evaporation and lack of rainfall associated with the drought contributes to the overall presence of high pressure and warmer weather, Stephens said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center is forecasting above-average temperatures this winter for the Tri-State area as well.

La Nia's cooling of equatorial Pacific Ocean waters means fewer storms and less rain and snow across the United States, Stephens said.

But it's the lasting autumn temperatures of which residents should be taking advantage.

· Plant bulbs, shrubs and trees

Bulbs, shrubs and trees can be planted before a deep or penetrating frost occurs, which is usually around Thanksgiving, said Annette Ipsan, University of Maryland Cooperative Extension educator for horticulture in Washington County.

· Apply broadleaf weed treatment

Longer life for flowers also means longer life for weeds, which means the pesky plants have had more time to seed this fall, resulting in a bigger crop of weeds in the spring.

Now is a great time to apply a liquid broadleaf weed treatment to perennial broadleaf weeds such as dandelions and plantains because weeds, like plants, are storing food for winter, carrying chemicals down to their roots, said Bob Kessler, a Franklin County, Pa.-based Penn State extension educator in consumer horticulture.

Deadheading weeds so they don't continue to seed also is a good idea, Ipsan said.

· Apply outdoor paint with latex

It might not be too late to apply latex paint outside, but it is for oil paint, said Bill Cosner, store manager of Lowe's in Hagerstown.

The key to painting with latex in the autumn is to wait for a day when a 70-degree high is predicted, Cosner said. Start painting around 10 a.m., when temperatures start warming up from the previous night. You also want a sunny day with low humidity to help ensure the paint dries quickly.

· Seal up houses and driveways

Caulking also can still be done and is good for keeping out pests such as stink bugs.

Some caulk will cure at temperatures as low as 40 degrees, Cosner said. Just read the label to ensure the brand you're buying will cure in cooler temperatures.

This also is a great time to seal the driveway since the blacktop doesn't get nearly as hot as it does during summer, Cosner said. But you might have trouble finding driveway sealer in retail stores this late into the season.

· Check for leaks and standing water

Look for problem areas such as gutters and spouting that are leaking or not directing water away from the house, said Lynn Little, University of Maryland Cooperative Extension educator for family and consumer sciences in Washington County.

You don't want standing water outside, causing moisture to be drawn indoors and potentially causing mold problems, Little said.

Even if residents can't get everything done before freezing temperatures set in, Little said, they can survey their property to see what still needs to be done and make a to-do list for the spring.

One of those items will probably be treating crabgrass which, with the warmer autumn, has had plenty of time to seed, Kessler said.

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