By now most of our perennial garden and landscape plants are beginning the long process into dormancy for winter. Leaf color is changing and there are fewer and fewer blooms in the garden and die back is already beginning. On a drive recently from Chisago County to Lake Superior’s North Shore, I was struck by a noticeable dull coloring of leaves on the trees. The brilliant yellows and oranges we usually see, were instead almost brown and dried up looking. The effects of the drought are painfully obvious in many areas.

But there are still quite a few chores left to do in the garden and the mild weather is making that doable. For as long as you can, avoid cutting back the foliage on your perennials because they are still photosynthesizing which is feeding the crown and roots of the plants. And speaking of perennials, this is a great time to buy them with most being half priced. Just plant them, water well, and they will survive just fine over the winter. Often these plants have lived in their pots for many months and have become root bound so be sure to tease out the roots before planting. Same goes for any trees and shrubs that are planted this time of year. But especially for them, water them well on a regular schedule until the ground freezes which could extend into mid-November. This will ensure the plant will go into its dormancy well hydrated.

Make sure you’ve done a good job cleaning up your vegetable gardens so that any plant material is removed and not leaving behind any foliar diseases that can remain in the soil and could harm next year’s crops. I planted a new crop of Pea Pods a couple of weeks ago so keeping my fingers crossed that I get at least one picking before a hard freeze. My peppers are still going strong so I’ll go the safe route and cover them in case the nights get too cool.

This is also a good time to plant irises and any spring bulbs. With the bulbs, be sure to clean up any bulb skin because its one of things that attract squirrels who are more than willing to dig up all your hard work. If you are lucky enough to have white pine trees on your property, they are now shedding their old needles and these make a great mulch to use for winter protection. Shredded leaves also make a good mulch but wait until the ground freezes before laying the protective covering because the idea is to keep the frozen ground frozen. Consider a good winterizing fertilizer for your lawn and make sure you read the instructions as to when it should be applied as this is essential to its effectiveness. 

Avoid pruning trees at this time of year. You don’t want to stimulate any new growth that could die off in winter. Save the pruning on trees like oaks and maples until winter usually in late February and March. And one last tip….clean all garden tools now. Cleaning will remove any pathogens left behind from a season of use that could over winter and infect plants next year. Sharpen and oil tool so they are ready to go when the snow melts and the gardening begins again.

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