Fall chores in the landscape

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Cary Sims
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is cw-sims@tamu.edu Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.

While we have been teased by some cool mornings and have the promise of more cool mornings in days to come, are you taking advantage of this time to transition into winter? This time of year is perfect for planning new beds, planting perennials, cleaning tools, closing down 2021’s garden, and gearing up for a great start to spring of 2022.

Cooler weather means working outside is not nearly as draining as working in the heat.  Homeowners have plenty of time to break new ground for a spring garden or build a new raised bed around the house.

Fall is the best time of the year to plant perennials. If you have access to potted trees, shrubs, or other perennials, putting them in the ground now will give them the most amount of time to get their roots established before our next hot, dry summer. Our summers are easily the hardest time of the year and waiting until spring to plant perennials will not give them the maximum amount of time to face the heat and lack of moisture that is a consistent part of our climate.

Metal tools should be cleaned, sharpened, and oiled before you put them up for the winter. Good tools are not cheap and should be cared for to insure a long life. Start by cleaning off any soil or rust that has accumulated. Use steel wool, sandpaper, or a metal wire brush to loosen and remove material. Coat the newly exposed metal with WD-40 or similar product. Mineral oil or vegetable oil are not recommended as they will deteriorate in a month or two and your tools need longer protection.

Next, get a file, whetstone, or other sharpening instrument to put a nice edge on the blade before final oiling and storage.  Everyone will think about sharpening shears, pruners, or loppers, but have you ever sharpened a shovel or hoe? Give it a try and you will find it easier to slice into the soil with those sharpened blades.

If you have wooden handles on your garden tools, take the extra step and apply a coat of boiled linseed oil on them before putting them away from storage. Linseed oil is a natural product that protects wood by repelling water. Raw linseed oil can be used but it is very thick and may take weeks to dry. Boiled linseed oil dries in a couple of days and is the product of choice by seasoned gardeners on their wood handles before winter storage.

You may have already mown your lawn for the last time this year. Once we get an additional rain in the coming weeks, you can then turn off your automatic sprinkler system. Your lawn will need some water in the winter season, but this if often more than supplied with our rainfall.

Be sure to add a pre-emergent herbicide to your lawn in the next month or so to stop those early spring weeds that invade so many lawns. There are several good options on the market. I like any product that contains Atrazine as it serves as a pre- and post-emergent herbicide that is very safe on our tender San Augustine.  There are more chores that other gardeners may chose to do, but if you get a start on these listed above, you’ll wrap up this year’s garden quite nicely and be ready for a great start next growing season

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