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Finalizing fall garden work

Amazingly, we haven't been treated to a hard frost yet, even though it is Oct. 26 as I write this. Each day is a treat before the harsh season of winter sets in.

Amazingly, we haven't been treated to a hard frost yet, even though it is Oct. 26 as I write this. Each day is a treat before the harsh season of winter sets in.

We are also lucky that the window has widened for us to do last-minute chores.

In the vegetable garden, root crops remain. They are safe where they are now, but only for a short time. It could snow a lot and there might be considerable difficulty digging through snow to harvest them.

Dig out those carrots, beets and leftover potatoes now. If it is a cool, sunny day, it is fun to do and to see how large a crop you have been given. In fact, many of these little jobs are enjoyable.

I assume you have covered your roses or that you are in the middle of doing it. Should you cover other plants? Newly planted perennials might be covered as insurance if you aren't sure how hardy they are.


How about chrysanthemums? I have about given up trying to carry mums over winter. Still, there are a few that are hardy. My sister has a small button mum called Baby Tears, which is perfectly hardy.

How should you protect mums? You can do several things. One is to cut the tops down, dig up the clumps and plant them close together in a protected spot. Of course, if you have a cold frame, you can winter them in the frame with other tender plants. If you don't have the inclination or the energy to dig your mums up, leave the tops on to catch snow and hope they survive. You can cut off the tops in the spring.

If you wanted to transplant small shrubs and trees, now is the safest time once the leaves have dropped. Prune back some of the top to compensate for some of the roots that have been removed.

Pull out dead annuals and place them on the compost pile (unless, of course, they were diseased - then put them in the trash). From the vegetable garden, you can place tops on the compost pile except for tomatoes and potatoes. For some reason - I am not sure why - they can carry diseases.

For compost that is ready to use, place some in the perennial borders between the plants.

If you have tulip bulbs that you haven't been able to find a place for, some gardeners plant them between plants in rose beds. The bulbs will bloom before the roses leaf out in the spring and the roses will hide the ripening foliage later.

If you grow herbs such as chives, dig up some for the kitchen window (after the foliage has died down), and place them close together in a container about an inch below the surface of the soil. Water well and place in a cool spot for about two weeks. Then bring them to light and room temperature and the bulbs should begin sending out spikes of foliage that can be clipped off during the winter to season salads or soup with their mild oniony flavor.

If you grow sunflowers, try roasting your own seeds. After cutting off the heads, hang them upside down in a warm dry place. Shell out the seeds and soak them overnight in saltwater. Dry them and roast in a 200-degree oven for three hours or until crisp.


I believe we mentioned digging gladioluses and dahlias recently. Both should be cured two weeks before being placed in storage. You can dust glads to prevent infestations of thrips before putting them in storage. If you garden organically, you can soak them in a solution of a tablespoon of Lysol in a gallon of water. Let them dry before putting them in a shallow box for the winter. After dahlias are cured, place them in plastic bag and check them often during the winter. If one or more show signs of getting soft, leave the bags open a time, and if they show signs of shriveling, sprinkle a very few drops of water in the bag.

Tuberous begonias should be allowed to cure after digging if they were grown in the open ground. If they were grown in pots, allow them to cure in the pots. Then take them out of the pots and store them as you would dahlias.

You should then be all set for winter.

But do take a couple of rounds through the yard and check very carefully to be sure nothing tender is still outside. Quite a few gardeners have inadvertently left something out there and then in the spring sadly learn it was lost to the cold.

Collins is The Forum's garden columnist. Write to her by mail at The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo ND 58107, or direct e-mail to her at dorothycollins@i29.net

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