Chicago gardeners, frosts and hard freezes have occurred this week. It’s time to wrap up the outdoor gardening season. Fruits and vegetables, except root vegetables, need to be harvested first, and their foliage should be discarded or recycled for compost. Your lawn needs special attention. Trees and shrubs need to be pruned.
Apples, pears and other tree fruits should be harvested and stored until you have time to process them. Above the ground vegetables should also be harvested and stored. As you pick your tomatoes, drop the green ones, regardless of size, into a brown paper bag and store them in a cool place.
If you maintain your lawn yourself, reset the mowing height to a lower setting, but don’t remove more than 30-40% of the grass tissue. Opinions differ about dethatching, but it’s a good idea to rake the grass to remove leaves and other debris. Adding a fertilizer with a wetting agent plus sandy soil is beneficial. Before planting a new lawn or seeding bare spots, it’s wise to watch weather forecasts and wait for a rainy spell.
Fall pruning of trees and shrubs has a different purpose than spring pruning. Health and form are the main considerations in fall, but in spring health and growth are the key concerns. Examine your trees and shrubs; remove dead, diseased and damaged branches. Prune away lateral shoots and branches to the height of six feet for older trees. Remove damaged, wayward and weak branches on young trees to one-third of the tree’s height. Carefully prune branches too close to power lines. If necessary add mulch, but keep the mulch away from the trunk.
Getting your garden ready for winter is a process that takes several days.
Live long and well—garden.
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