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Take time to spruce up the yard before winter

By MARY COLLISTER
Published September 19, 2003

I hope you have taken the opportunity to enjoy our fall-like weather and spend some time in your yard. The mornings have been especially pleasant, and I have spent a few doing some of the heavier yardwork. Some shrubs needed pruning, a few concrete stepping stones had to be moved and beds were readied for fall planting.

I've also taken the time to enjoy the garden. Find a cozy spot to sit and enjoy a good book or just relax for a few minutes. If you don't have a place to sit comfortably in your yard, now is a good time to decide where to place a couple chairs and maybe a small table. This will give you a location from which to enjoy all of your hard work.

As you're walking around your yard, look for spots in your beds to tuck a few fall vegetables. You don't have to prepare a separate bed for vegetables; many are happy living among your ornamentals. Some that do well in the ornamental garden include lettuce, radishes, carrots, bush beans, onions and tomatoes.

Just about any vegetable you might enjoy will probably flourish among the flowers. Some of the spreading vegetables, such as squash or cucumber, may take up too much room to be practical, but many of these traditional space hogs have more compact varieties available now.

To get a good crop of vegetables, make sure the plants receive at least six hours of sun a day. If your ornamental shrubs are large, they may cast too much shade for vegetables. Keep looking until you find a sunny spot. Vegetables will also benefit from a couple of fertilizations each season.

If you had annuals that made it through the hot summer months, they may be past their prime. Think about replacing them with fresh annuals or a few perennials. My beds have been rather "green" for a while now, and I'm looking forward to planting some color spots to liven them up.

If you're contemplating a major cleanup in your yard, keep in mind this is a good time of year to do major pruning. It's recommended that you never prune more than one-third of a plant at a time, but many of our hardy landscape plants can take a major whacking with little trouble. I wouldn't bother to fertilize; you don't want to force any more growth than we normally get this time of year.

Wait until late winter or early spring to fertilize. If you have compost, it's always a good idea to spread it around your planting beds. The low level of nutrients will be good for the plants and the organic matter helps build a good soil.

Fruit trees can use an application of horticultural oil now. I'll spray my peach trees out back soon. They take little pruning. If there are any crossed branches in the middle of the trees, they will be removed, but that's about the extent of it.

I plan on severely cutting back my blueberry bushes. I will add a few new ones, but will probably wait until early spring. After pruning, I'll water with a mixture of one-quart vinegar in two gallons of water. The plants like this acidic mixture. I mulch with pine needles each fall because the needles are acidic also. It's worth the little bit of extra care now so I will have a few berries to throw in my cereal and muffins next spring.

I'm looking forward to adding some color to the yard after I clean up, so that gives me the motivation to get out there and finish the task. Figure out something to motivate you and get out in your yard and make some improvements.

A neighbor who's moving away gave me about 10 containers full of impatiens, geraniums, catnip and ivy that have been on her pool deck. I trimmed them up and planted them in a flowerbed in the back yard. A small dose of fertilizer and some water will get them off to a good start.

It's impossible to list everything that needs to be done in the landscape this time of year. To keep from being overwhelmed, divide your chores into manageable sections and work a little each week.

- Mary Collister writes about how to garden successfully in Florida's climate and offers problem-solving tips for your home garden. Mail questions to: Mary Collister, North of Tampa, 14358-B N Dale Mabry Blvd., Tampa, FL 33618.

[Last modified September 18, 2003, 10:36:32]

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