Great gardens require attention to detail now Preparing for spring

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By Hugh Earnhart

OSU Ext. master gardener volunteer

Although fall has arrived, there are still plenty of “good working days” left. A little attention to details now will provide for a more colorful and pleasant garden next spring. Here are some tips:

SOIL: A soil test is necessary to determine if you need to adjust the soil pH. Some plants like a more acidic soil, while other plants prefer alkalinity. With the high cost of fertilizer, do not guess – soil test.

RAIN BARREL: The best water for your garden is rainwater. Household water is often too high in pH and thus locks up nutrients. We are seeing the same problem when mixing products like Round-up, Weed-Be-Gone, Stump root, etc. Use good old rainwater collected from your roof.

PERENNIAL PLANTS: It is an excellent time to provide perennial plants with the vigor they need for next spring. Side-dress each plant with about 2 inches of compost; around the crown, not in the crown. Consider adding seaweed (kelp) to the mixture because it contains all the basic trace elements that a plant needs.

DIVIDE: Early fall is a good time to divide and replant perennials. Daytime temperatures are cool, and the soil is generally more workable, giving plants an opportunity to develop a root system before cold weather. If it is a dry fall, plants need about 1 inch of water per week until the ground freezes. Share any extra plants.

INVASIVE PLANTS: Attack invasive plants by pulling, although some may require the use of chemicals. While the ground is soft and the plants still want to grow, take advantage and rid your garden or yard of these weeds. If you don’t, they will sprout quickly next spring and delay your other gardening adventures.

PRUNING: Trees and shrubs need pruning after about one year of growth. They are easier to prune after leaves fall. This condition gives you a better vision of rubbing and cross-over branches, sucker growth, buds, etc. You will also have a much better view of the tree or shrub’s symmetry.

RAISED BEDS: Building raised beds for next year’s flowers and vegetables can be easy. They make it possible to have a garden where the soil is not appropriate. Raised beds drain quicker — thus you can plant earlier in the spring. The flip-side to that is that you have to have a more regulated watering program.

EDUCATION: If you have all your garden work finished, think about attending some lectures, a conference, or reading horticulture literature pertaining to your garden interest. It is amazing what one can discover or rediscover while listening to a speaker or reading a book or article about gardening.