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MASTER GARDENER: Ideas to try before fall goes by

Raking the leaves in your yard can often seem like the “Groundhog Day” movie, where the same event happens over and over — a new batch of leaves seems to appear day after day.

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October is here and that means we are officially in the fall season with gardening starting to draw to an end. Here are four tips for gardeners to try during the autumn season to help get their lawns and gardens ready for winter.

1. Keep watering; avoid pruning. Pruning is essential to promote plant health and it protects your trees and shrubs from insect and plant damage. Late winter to early spring is the best time to prune, just before the spring brings new growth to your plants.

Instead of pruning this fall, remember to keep watering through October. This will help the trees and shrubs to grow and allows grass plants to make and store food that helps them live through the winter and grow in the spring.

2. Don’t rake — mulch. Raking the leaves in your yard can often seem like the “Groundhog Day” movie, where the same event happens over and over — a new batch of leaves seems to appear day after day.

Instead, try mulching your leaves into one-half-inch pieces with your mower. Just let the pieces go back into the turf grass. The University of Minnesota Extension Service found that the mulched leaf litter doesn’t change the chemistry of the soil.

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It does increase the soil’s capacity to hold water and nutrients. The recommended procedure: mow over the leaves in different directions every couple of weeks so there isn’t a build-up of leaves.

3. Invite your plants (not bugs!) in for the winter. Before bringing your houseplants back into your home, make sure there aren’t any pests like aphids or white flies on the plants.

Put the plants into a bucket of soapy water or spray them to remove dust and bugs. Wash the tops and bottoms of leaves with soapy water and then rinse with water. The soil and the outside of the pots should get soapy water too so any pests will be killed.

If you still have bugs once the plants are inside, treat the plant with insecticidal soap. There are many commercial brands available through hardware, home improvement stores and online retailers.

Introduce the plants inside slowly so they will get acclimated to the indoors, just like the gradual introduction of the plants to the out of doors in the spring. Initially put the plant into a sunny spot and gradually move it into a less sunny, permanent winter location.

4. Overwinter your geraniums. Geraniums can be taken indoors by taking cuttings, potting plants, or storing bare-root plants in a cool, dry location.

It is recommended that this be done before the first frost, so if you protected your geraniums from the frost, this is the perfect time to introduce them to the inside.

The easiest way is to pot the plants by digging up the geranium, making sure that you have the root ball and place it in a large pot.

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It should be watered thoroughly, placed in a sunny area or under artificial lights and then watered every two weeks.

Because the plants grow tall, in March they should be pruned removing one-half to two-thirds of the plant so they will be ready for going outside in May. Information about cuttings and bare-root plants is available at extension.umn.edu/yard-and-garden-news/overwintering-geraniums.

These local garden articles will reach you each week throughout the gardening season, but gardening information can be found year-round by clicking on "Yard and Garden” at the University of Minnesota Extension website, www.extension.umn.edu, or by visiting our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Beltramicountymastergardeners.

Local Master Gardeners will respond to questions via voicemail. Call (218) 444-7916 and leave your name, number and question.

Related Topics: GARDENING
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