You'd think I'd learn someday to not be surprised by our Rogue Valley autumn weather. But it seems that every year I'm forced to snap to attention by our sudden weather changes.
"Come on," says Mother Nature, "quit lollygagging, and get those fall garden chores done, before I really get serious!" So out comes my checklist, partly written and partly mental, to see whether I'm ready for winter.
Planting of shrubs and trees done? Check. This is the ideal time, because new plants aren't stressed by heat and have time over the winter to develop a good root system. The same is true for perennials that I want to move.
Daffodil, crocus and tulip bulbs in the ground? Check — although I can do that right through December, most years.
Dahlia, begonia and gladiola bulbs dug and stored? Check. Because I've had a hard frost in my yard, it's OK to dig and store them now. I used to skip this chore until the year I lost all my dahlias because it was so wet and cold that they rotted in the ground. Lesson learned.
Stored produce such as tomatoes, squash, apples and onions inspected for signs of decay? Check. I do this weekly so that any fungal problems can be kept from spreading.
Final weeding done? Check. They are easy to pull now, but if they have seeds on them, I put them in the garbage instead of the compost pile. I "cold compost," so it doesn't get hot enough to kill weed seeds. If weed seeds fall on the ground, I'll use a corn gluten material in early spring to prevent them from sprouting.
General plant debris removed from garden area? Check. Slugs, snails, mice and other pests love to winter over in this stuff. So, I'll remove it, compost it and replace it with a layer of chopped leaves for the winter.
Fall-bearing raspberries cut back? Check. Not only do I cut mine back to about an inch above ground level, I pull out suckers and canes smaller than a pencil so that my raspberry rows are no more then 12 to 18 inches wide.
Artichokes, asparagus and perennial herbs cut back? Check. They will be treated to a nice blanket of mulch for the winter, as well.
Hoses, water pipes and irrigation pipes protected from freezing? Check. Oh, how I hate broken water pipes!
Leaves and pine needles raked, chopped and spread around as mulch over any bare ground? Well, no. I'm still working on that. I know that if I don't shred them in some way, they will mat, not decompose very well, and not let the rain reach the soil, thus defeating the purpose. So I'll run the lawnmower over them, put them in a plastic garbage can and attack them with a weed trimmer, or maybe I'll go to that good sale I saw advertised and get a little shredder.
And the last item on my list is to attend the class listed below. See you there!
Coming up: Master Gardener Phil VanKeuren will teach a class on tool care for the home gardener from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6, at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, 569 Hanley Road in Central Point. VanKeuren will cover proper tool care, sharpening and storage of garden tools. He'll also discuss what to look for when buying tools. The cost is $5. Call 541-776-7371 for information.
Carol Oneal is a past president of the OSU Jackson County Master Gardeners Association. Email her at email@example.com.