Getting ready for winter means better garden come spring

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With temperatures lowering we still have many chores to do at this time of year.

Start with applying a freshening mulch layer to our landscape at the same time we remove any weeds, trees and vines from the beds. By adding a new layer of mulch you are defining your bed lines again, giving that dressed-up look to your yard, helping to conserve moisture in the beds and providing some winter protection to the roots.

Next we need to be planting our winter flowers like snapdragons, calendulas, flowering cabbage and kale, stock, poppies, and perennials.

Wait until temperatures have dropped near the end of October or early November to plant pansies or violas. If we plant them too early while the temperatures are warm the pansies and violas stretch and do not develop a good root system to carry them through the winter. They will usually die in late December or early January, when they should go throughout the winter and into early spring.

Now is a good time to plant new shrubs as the soil temperatures should stay above 40 degrees all winter, allowing the roots to keep growing and expanding so when spring comes we will get more new growth, and if they bloom will provide more blooms the first year.

It is also a good time to take a soil test to check the pH of your soil and nutrient levels that are in the soil. If the soil test has a low pH you might need to apply dolomitic lime to parts of your yard to raise the pH so you get the most from the fertilizer you will apply in the spring.

It takes lime three to four months to start to affect the pH of your soil, so by testing now you will be getting ready for next year's gardening enjoyment.

At the same time the temperatures should be dropping below 82 degrees, and you can apply herbicides safely to your yard to kill leftover summer weeds and any winter weeds that are germinating at this time or shortly after.

Still keep an eye out for mole cricket activity, because they are still active this time of year. If you see small piles of soil appearing in your yard, and you touch them and they fall apart into loose soil, this is a sign of mole cricket activity.

If the soil breaks apart into chunks and you can pick them up and they look like little balls glued together, that is earthworm activity and is no problem.

Edward Poenicke is a retired Chatham County extension agent. This article is provided in collaboration with Lawn Doctor of Beaufort County

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