The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Late Season Garden Activities

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
Extension Educator, Horticulture
slmason@illinois.edu

We have had plenty of warm days this fall. We can't use weather as an excuse for not getting our chores done. You could try the dog ate your gloves, you can't find your garden shoes, Mars is too close or a meteor fell on the lawn mower. Good luck with that.

I get the most questions about when to do what, so now you can't use that as an excuse.

Vegetable garden - Clean plant remnants from the garden. Start a compost pile with all the leaves and garden debris. Compost disease material or flowering weeds separately. Spread compost, manure or shredded leaves on the garden.

Take a soil sample to a soil lab. To take a soil test - Put a trowel-full of soil from 6-8 different areas in the garden into a clean bucket. Mix thoroughly and get the final one cup sample from the mixture. If parts of the garden are specialized into blueberries or have different histories such as where the burn pile was, sample these areas separately. Any needed amendments such as sulfur to lower the pH should be applied now.

Trees and shrubs - Fertilize trees and shrubs if not done in the spring and soil tests reveal need. Trees and shrubs can still be planted. Be sure not to plant too deep. Trunk flare should be apparent when planting. Make sure evergreens such as pines, yews and rhododendrons are well watered. As long as soil isn't frozen evergreens should receive about one inch of water every two weeks through rainfall or irrigation.

Roses - After roses are completely dormant, usually late November, clean around bushes, removing any diseased rose leaves. Pour well drained soil or compost down through the center of the plant to a depth of 8-12 inches. After the soil is frozen, add 6-8 inches of wood chips or shredded leaves over the mound. Or forget all this and buy hardy roses.

Strawberries - Strawberries should be mulched before temperatures go below 20 degrees F which is generally around mid- November. Use a loose mulch of clean wheat straw. Since some straw tends to be full of seeds which translates into a strawberry bed full of grassy weeds next year, pull the straw apart in the lawn first or in some other area where the seeds can fall and won't be a problem. Apply 2-4 bales of straw per 1000 square feet of bed to a depth of 3 to 4 inches.

Flowers - Perennial flower beds can be mulched, but not too early. Plants should be completely dormant before mulching usually in mid to late November. Mulch should be loose such as wood chips, pine needles, pine boughs or shredded leaves.

For a beautiful display of spring flowers, it is not too late to plant flowering bulbs of tulips, daffodils and crocus. Ideally bulbs should be planted as soon as possible, but they can be planted up until the ground freezes. Select large firm bulbs. Large flowers such as tulips and daffodils should be planted 8 inches deep. Small bulbs of crocus and grape hyacinths should be planted 3 inches deep.

Lawns - Fertilize a final time after the last mowing usually later in November. University research has shown that late fall fertilization instead of early spring fertilization can minimize lawn disease problems, promote color retention in the fall and encourage early green-up in the spring.

Download our Landscape Maintenance Calendar written specifically for central Illinois.

Mail those Master Gardener applications in today. In Champaign County the deadline is December 5, 2005. Check out our website for applications and information on the classroom or online training program.

Click here to find a University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener program near you.

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