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Helenruth Schuette/Master gardener: Garden tips to ready for winter

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BEMIDJI — After the summer we’ve had — with hot temps and little rain — we should still depend on these time-honored tips from the Minnesota Extension Service to prepare for our Minnesota winter.

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Empty and clean outdoor containers of flowers or vegetables once the plants are no longer attractive or productive. Outdoor freezing and thawing cycles can crack or break almost any type of pot, especially if there’s soil in it. Add the soil to a compost pile or spread it around gardens. Once they’re clean and dry, store containers in a protected place such as a garage, basement or garden shed. I don’t always do this but I do tip my pots and get the soil to dislodge so the pots are less likely to crack over the winter. Likely the deep leaf mulch protects them from cracking.

Continue to mow the lawn as needed and rake fallen leaves so grass doesn’t mat down, which encourages snow mold to develop. Grass continues to grow and likes to see the sunlight. If the leaves are too deep, run a power mower over them several times. This chips them into little pieces that filter harmlessly through the grass to the soil, recycling a small amount of nutrients as they break down. Otherwise, use the leaves as mulch to protect bulbs and flowering perennials, or compost them.

Visit your local garden center to choose flowering bulbs to plant for spring display. Plant bulbs early in October if you haven’t already put them in the ground. Water them well every week to 10 days unless we get good rainfall. They need to develop roots before the soil freezes in order to come through winter in good condition. Once the soil surface freezes, often early October in our area, apply several inches of mulch to help prevent fluctuating soil temps and premature spring growth. Occasionally, different resources offer conflicting information about zone hardiness. A tulip rated Zone 3 in one reference and Zone 4 in another may be successful if planted in a microclimate with well-drained soil and straw mulch. So take a chance on it — you may have a pleasant surprise come spring.

Above all, at this time of year, enjoy your harvest, enjoy some rest from garden chores and enjoy planning for next year’s garden. To learn about more current information to help you with your fall gardening, check out this bimonthly University of Minnesota Extension website:

http://blog.lib.umn.edu/efans/ygnews/

> Think about purchasing a University of Minnesota Extension calendar for 2014: it will have lots of gardening tips and other information on horticulture in Minnesota. It is great for keeping records of rain and snowfall, temperatures and when you planted and harvested.

To find specific reliable information about gardening and other horticultural topics, go to the University of Minnesota Extension website

www.extension.umn.edu/gardeninfo/

> Local master gardeners will also answer your gardening questions via a voicemail service. Call 444-7916, leaving your phone number, name and the nature of your question. A volunteer master gardener will give you a call.

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