A GROWING CONCERN: End of year chores to check off

WELL, HOPEFULLY YOU all had a happy (if not the most strange) corona Thanksgiving.

By now, the tryptophan from all the Thanksgiving turkey and subsequent leftovers should be wearing off.

We are now at the beginning of late autumn, less than a month away from the official start of winter and the longest night of the year, the winter solstice Dec. 21.

With that in mind and with the holiday season bearing down upon us, here is your to-do list for the end of fall and the year.

1. The leaves

Now that most of the leaves have left the trees, be sure to go out and deal with them.

Left out wet, they can cause you to slip and break an ankle.

For your perennials, ground cover, shrubs, bushes and even your lawn, left out wet leaves can cause death or severe rot — which will cause death.

Leaves are also the absolute best material for your compost pile, so pick them up and reuse them next year.

2. Perennial cleanup

Listen carefully: I see more perennials ruined by folks cutting back too early in the year.

But almost as many are destroyed by people who leave old wet, rotting and molding, infested foliage on the plants too long.

Start inspecting your plants now, and as the perennials die back or rot away, prune the appropriate mess.

However, keep what’s good, green or woody because many perennials need that cover against the sun, wind and cold of winter to survive.

3. Weeds

This month and for the next several weeks, new weeds will emerge.

Get rid of this early advance scout team now before they bivouac and multiply, taking over next year.

Now that the ground is wet and they are young and easy to pull, do so or they will root in, takeover and reproduce very early next year.

4. Prune/shape your evergreens

Using the trimmings or not, you have learned what and how to prune your conifers, so now is the time.

The holidays are here, and it will soon be next year, but your evergreens should be pruned this year, do so quickly before time runs out.

5. Plant bulbs

I promise this is my last time mentioning it, but the problem is that I still see so many outlets and big-box stores with remaining spring bulbs at clearance prices, so buy them and plant them now. Spring-flowering bulbs the best possible plant for our unique Olympic Peninsula weather, and we can all use more color in our yard in late winter and spring.

6. Plant, plant, plant

With the advent of the monsoon season and coupled with our very mild weather, late fall is an ideal time to plant most perennial items.

I have a huge semi-truckload of trees due in soon, and I’m actually transplanting and dividing perennials.

Be it roses, vines, berries, fruit trees, shrubs, bushes or trees, plant away right now, and be sure to use plenty of bone meal.

7. Lime

Remember, our soils are naturally acidic, so add lime to all bulb beds, flower beds, roses, orchards, deciduous trees, and especially your lawn.

The ensuing rains will leech in the lime down into the soil.

Then re-apply in May, and it will give your plants perfect pH. Do not, however, lime your evergreens, ferns or other acid loving plants, for this is detrimental.

8. Mow low

One or two times each and every year, I actually advocate an extremely low cut — in fact, as low as you can possibly go without scalping the lawn.

This will remove all old, worn out blades and open up the lawn for the over-seed.

9. Over-seed

The best golf courses, sports fields and botanical gardens all over seed their lawn areas twice a year — once now and again in March.

By doing so, you deprive habitat for new weeds to sprout, while increasingly promoting a lush lawn.

The seed will easily fall between the short mowed grass blades, and the omnipresent rains will water the seed in.

10. Fall fertilizer

Autumn is a critical time for many of your plants.

Next year’s leaves, flowers, roots, buds and survivability are all being determined this fall and winter.

Fall fertilizer program ensure good root growth, healthy flowers and fruit, and vitality. So fertilize the lawn, trees, bulbs, perennials, orchard and all your plants for guaranteed better results next year.

11. Add Mulch

Now that the rains have arrived, mulch away in order to lock that moisture in for next year.

Mulch also insulates and regulates the soil temperature, which is advantageous for your plants.

My favorite trick is to mulch over weeds because that kills them at this time of year.

12. Put up lights

Come on, it’s beautiful and everyone appreciates it.

Hang some lights, even if it is just one strand around a window, or move the Christmas tree in front of the window for all to see and admire. It is such a joyous thing to do and lights up our darkest days.

13. Stay well all

As the weather continues to darken and dampen, the health risk continues for many, if not most of us, while we patiently await the vaccine “cure”.

Your yard and plants need your care but most importantly — all your loved ones need you more!

Gardening is secondary to life so please … stay well all!


Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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