It might be tempting to hibernate indoors when the temperatures drop, but if you want your lawn or garden to look great this spring, there are a few “chores” you need to check off on the ol’ October “to-do” list:
Spring bulbs: Keep planting spring flowering bulbs until the ground freezes. Crocus, daffodils, and tulips should be about three times deeper than the diameter of the bulbs. Add peat moss, fertilizer, and bulb dust to the soil as you plant; then give them a good watering.
Veggies: It’s time to get tomatoes out of the garden when temperatures fall below 50 degrees F. At this point, fruit stops ripening. Continue ripening tomatoes indoors. Stored at 70 degrees F, green tomatoes ripen in about two weeks; at 55 degrees F, they need about four weeks. Pull out any diseased foliage, and turn the soil over with peat moss or clean compost.
Leaves: Continue mowing your lawn until the grass stops growing. When you mow, go over leaves several times—using a mulching blade—and let pieces decompose into the lawn. According to Bob Mugaas, turfgrass specialist and horticulturist and program director of the University of Minnesota Research and Outreach Center, “The lawn should look like it was raked when you are done. If there are still piles of shredded leaves, be sure to rake them off of the lawn surface and either compost them or use them as mulch in other parts of the landscape. Leaves can also be removed from the lawn by picking them up using the mower’s bagging attachment (if it has one) and composted or redistributed as mulch cover in another part of the landscape.” Another good reason to mulch or rake? Slug control! When the ground is clean and tidy, it reduces their habitat.
Ponds: What should be done with the fish in outdoor ponds? Will they survive the winter weather? According to the experts at Aquascape, Inc., “If you simply make sure that your pond is at least 2 feet deep, the proximity of the earth to the pond’s surface will not allow the latter to freeze any deeper than 8 inches. That leaves 16 inches for the fish to lounge around and basically hibernate over the winter. You do need to keep a hole in the ice using a floating heater or aerator to allow for the exchange of gasses (CO2 for oxygen). Other than that, your fish will do just fine in the pond, all year-round. Supplemental oxygen can also be supplied by running your waterfalls, adding a bubbler, or using the pump to churn the water near the surface.” Keep leaves and debris out of the water by stretching a net across the surface.
Weeds: Use a weed killer that contains a pre and post-emergent herbicide on stubborn weedy plants. Candidates include dandelion, crabgrass, and clover. In fall, plants will shift the chemical to the roots, where they’re trying to store energy for the long, cold winter. If you manually pull the weeds, burn them. Composting weed seeds is just asking for trouble.
Fertilizer: There’s still time to apply a fertilizer to your lawn in order to “green it up” for spring.