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Gearing down for cool season
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The growing season quickly is ending for the home landscape. Grasses soon will turn brown, trees will start dropping leaves and ornamental plants will stay in their current shape. Everything goes into the dormant stage — a clear signs of fall.
Here are some things that should be done now in preparation for the cooler seasons:
• Make certain all plants are well mulched. Use 3-5 inches of a mulching material, such as pine straw, pine bark or fall leaves, to help insulate roots from freezing temperatures.
• Start prepping your tender potted plants growing outdoors in containers for their annual trek indoors. Houseplants are very sensitive to cold or even cool weather. They should be placed inside your home and away from any heat source. Check the soil moisture daily because plants dry out rapidly inside a heated home.
• When leaves fall off the trees, put them in the garden. They can be tilled in immediately or left as a mulch to prevent weeds until spring. Four to five weeks before planting, till them in to allow them time to decompose before planting. Adding some fertilizer will help the leaves decompose. If you don’t have a garden to place the leaves in, then you can compost them in plastic bags. This is a simple technique — all you need to do is add water and place the bags out of any direct sunlight. The leaves should be composted enough by March to place around shrubbery as mulch or as a soil amendment for those troubled bare spots in the lawn that just won’t grow or sustain anything.
• Collect fallen pine straw to use as mulch. Pine straw is an excellent mulching material. It is inexpensive and easy to find. Remember to get permission if you collect the pine straw from someone else property. Another benefit of pine straw is that it normally will stay in place even during moderate winds and heavy rainfall.
• Pull old plants and compost them. Standing plants are havens for overwintering diseases and insects. Weed seeds normally are destroyed by the high heat of a compost pile, but there are a few exceptions. If in doubt, don’t add it to the compost pile.
• Remove staking materials, clean and store inside until next season.
• Clean and oil tools before storage. This will lengthen their life span. Drain the oil and gas from motorized equipment. Put a tag on the equipment to remind you to replace the oil before you crank it in the spring.
• Take soil samples and plan for next year. Fall is the best time of the year to soil test. There is a small cost for each soil sample, but the information you get is worth every penny. Soil samples should be taken to your local county extension office. The Liberty County office is at 100A Liberty St. in Hinesville.
There always is something to do with plant materials or in the home landscape. Doing a little bit at a time can make a tedious project more manageable.
Call or visit your local county extension office before starting a major project or doing something outside of your routine. The information or advice you get is unbiased and free of charge.
My next column will be a summary of answers to questions that you email me. Send me a message at and let the fun begin. You can call us at 876-2133 if the computer thing is not your cup of tea!

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