DIY and latest topics
DIY and latest topics
I’ve always breathed a sigh of relief when the daffodils start coming up because I know that spring is right around the corner. Fall is the best time to plant spring blooming bulbs. They need the winter cold to get ready to bloom. Bulbs get their energy from the foliage, so don’t cut it back after they bloom until it turns brown and dries out.
Crocus is a bulb planted in the fall that blooms in early spring often before any other bulbs. They grow only 4-6 inches tall and have small cup shaped blooms in yellows, pinks, blues, and white and show best when planted in mass. They will naturalize and create a large showing in future years. They like well drained soil and are planted 3-4” deep.
Hyacinths come in various sizes, colors, and flower formations. They bloom in early to mid-spring around the same time as daffodils. Flowers will open about 3 weeks after leaves start to emerge. Hyacinth bulbs can be forced indoors for enjoyment during the late winter months. Pot the bulbs in fall and chill them at 40-45 degrees for 12-14 weeks. Bring them out into a warm sunny room and you’ll have spring early.
Daffodils now come in a huge variety of colors from pure white to multi-colored. Plant them in the fall about 2-4 weeks before the first frost. Here in Montana, you will want a minimum of 3-5 inches of soil over the bulb to protect them from the snow and cold. Plant with the pointed end up. They look wonderful planted in drifts and will naturalize over time. Daffodils can also be forced indoors. Deer and squirrels tend to avoid daffodil bulbs.
Tulips are another bulb that has been hybridized to produce many varieties of petal shapes and colors. Tulips don’t like to be wet, so plant them in a dry area. If they are planted too early, they’ll send up shoots that might freeze. September and November before the ground freezes would be best. Squirrels love to dig up and eat tulip bulbs, so if they are a problem in your area, plant your bulbs in bins made for that purpose or put chicken wire or fencing on top of the bed and secure it with earth pins.
A little work now will pay off with spectacular color early next spring.
Take pictures of all your vegetable and flower beds before you start fall cleanup. Having a reference to where you planted everything this year will make rotating crops much easier next year. For flower beds, you may want to put in something new next year or plant the same thing again, and having a visual record makes remembering where everything was planted much easier.
Pull Them Out
Vegetables and annuals will soon be reacting to cold temperatures and when they are done, it’s important to remove them and put them in the compost pile or the trash. Taking care of this chore now rather than leaving it for next spring gives the soil time to recoup for another season. Plants left in the ground over winter are subject to pests and diseases that you’d rather not have in your garden.
When the beds are clean, it’s time to add compost. Resist the urge to till the garden. If you’ve built your gardens with dedicated growing beds and walkways, tilling only brings up weed seeds that will plague you all next year. Garden beds that are never walked on or compacted don’t need to be tilled. Tilling just leaves the soil exposed to harsh winter weather.
Cover the Cleaned Beds
Cover cleaned beds with some compost and/or manure, and mulch like shredded leaves, straw or hay, or green cover crops (see video below). You can plant annual rye or other green manure cover crops and just cut it back in the spring and plant right through it. This living cover puts much needed nutrients back in your soil.
Clean The Tools
Finally, clean garden tools, tomato cages, stakes, trellises and other objects used with plants in the garden. Using a mild solution of water and bleach will disinfect any fungus or disease that may have hopped onto your supports. For tools like shovels, rakes and hand tools, clean off all the dirt, rinse with water, dry completely, and rub a bit of oil over the metal and wood parts before hanging for the winter.
Organic matter that shredded leaves provide when added to your soil is packed with trace minerals that the tree draws up from deep in the earth. Leaves are one of the best sources for improving your soil whether for gardens or flower beds and fall is the best time to add them.
Chop Them Up
Shredded leaves break down much quicker than whole ones. You can use a mulching lawn mower to mow them into small pieces, or collect them and put through a leaf shredder, or use a leaf blower that also shreds leaves.
Leaves shredded into small pieces provide an increased surface area so microbes can do their work and it prevents the leaves from packing together and forming a mat that doesn’t let water and air penetrate to the soil. You can bag more shredded leaves than whole leaves.
Add to Your Gardens
Leaves can be added to bare soil in the garden or flower beds and worked in a little to help reduce the number of weed seeds that can take hold in the spring. A thick layer of leaves also provides winter protection to garlic, tender perennials and roses. Any shredded leaves left can be placed in plastic or paper bags and stored for use in the spring and through the summer.
Feed the Worms
I always keep some fall leaves to use in any new raised beds I build in the spring or to add to existing beds. The leaves encourage worm activity which aerates the soil and feeds the worms who dig small tunnels through the ground to allow air in and leave their waste to nourish my planting beds.
Store What You Don’t Use
Leaves can also be stockpiled to create compost for your gardens next spring. Every time you add food scraps to the compost pile, add a layer of dry leaves (food is the green stuff, leaves are the brown stuff). This discourages animals from invading your compost bin and provides the right mix for a hot compost pile. You can do this all winter if you save your shredded leaves.
A three-bin system works very well for composting and you can keep it going all year. One bin holds the green and brown material that is heating up so the material composts. One bin holds the shredded leaves for conveniently adding to the hot bin, and the third bin holds the finished compost. A little of the finished compost can be added along with the leaves when you add more food scraps. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compost
So, shred those leaves, cover all your growing areas with a thick layer, use some for your compost bin, and save some for next spring.
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