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Skaggs: Garden chores abound in fall
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Halloween is here and Turkey Day is just around the corner. My, how time flies.

And while the holiday season is fast approaching, there are still a few chores for us outdoors. Here are a few tips and suggestions for your landscape and garden.

A November application of fertilizer is very beneficial to a lawn of cool-season grasses. It promotes root development without excessive top growth. With a strong root system, your lawn will be better able to withstand drought conditions next summer.

After several killing frosts have occurred this fall, cut back dormant perennials to about 3 inches above ground. After the ground is frozen, plants can be mulched to guard against displacement due to soil heaving. These steps ensure a successful show of plant foliage and color next season.

Spring bulbs grow best at approximately 55 F, so keep potted narcissus, tulips, and other bulbs away from vents or other heat sources.

Tulips and Dutch iris need to be planted in cold soil so they do not send up shoots before roots are established. If tulips are planted deeply, they will produce large, uniform flowers for many years. Deep planting also makes the bulbs less susceptible to mouse and squirrel damage.

As soon as chrysanthemums are through flowering, remove the stalks to within a few inches of the ground. This will help root development and make plants send out vigorous sprouts in the spring.

Remove all mummified fruit from fruit trees and rake up and destroy those on the ground. Also, rake and dispose of dropped apple and cherry leaves. Good sanitation practices reduce re-infestation of insects and diseases the following season.

When time or weather conditions prohibit plowing or cover cropping, you may wish to let your garden lie under a mulch of compost or leaves all winter to be plowed or tilled under in the spring.

When it comes to taking care of your houseplants, do not water them with softened water. The sodium found in softened water can accumulate in the potting soil and actually harm the plants.

Every year, I receive questions on when to prune fruit trees. Normally, I suggest pruning fruit trees in January, but actually fruit trees can be pruned at any time during the winter as long as the temperature is somewhere between 40 and 55 F.

Brown leaf edges commonly develop on some potted tropical plants when grown indoors. To keep these plants looking their best, use sharp scissors and trim away dried leaf portions, following the natural shape of the leaves.

Billy Skaggs is an agricultural agent and Hall County extension coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.