As the "active" gardening season is winding down, here are 15 tips and tricks from the Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners to help you have a fantastic fall and help kick start your 2014 garden:
1. Fall is the best time of year to plant/transplant trees and shrubs - the soil is warm and you get great "end-of-season" deals at the local nurseries.
2. Stock up on garden tools, supplies and equipment - as stores make way for snow shovels take advantage of the discounts on gardening supplies.
3. Use aluminum foil as a scrubber to remove rust and dirt from metal garden tools.
4. Pour about 1/2 bottle vegetable or canola oil into a bucket of sand and mix well. Push your trowels, shears, pruners, knives, etc. in and out of the sand 4-5 times. The sand cleans the dirt off, and the oil protects them from rust over the winter. Wipe with paper towels or garage cloths and your tools are ready for spring. The sand can be saved for future use and cleaning of dirty/rusty tools.
5. Use your leaves - do not rake into street where their nutrients may go down drains to the lake. Grind them up and use as mulch or for brown layers in your compost pile. Bag "extras" and store to use in the spring and summer.
6. Get free plants by dividing your perennials. Do your research in advance to determine which types of perennials should be divided in the fall and the best methods for doing so.
7. Seed vegetable gardens with a cover crop to help retain soil moisture, restore nutrients and prevent soil erosion throughout the winter. Turn them in the spring to add even more nutrients.
8. Bring some worms indoors: if you have an outdoor compost pile harvest a few worms by wrapping kitchen scraps up in a newspaper that you bury in the pile and dig out a week later. You will have a great starter package for an indoor worm bin!
9. Create your Spring beds now -now is the time to do any deep (8") rototilling so if you have a new spot that you want to have a garden in the spring now is the time to prep the ground.
10. Plant your garlic, onions and perennial rhubarb roots in October before the first frost.
11. Keep a fresh supply of basil in the fall by cutting long stems from basil in the garden (before the first frost) and putting them in water in glass containers on a window sill. The basil will actually root and grow giving new leaves into December.
12. Create a "lasagna" garden bed that you can plant next spring. Use newspapers or cardboard for a base layer followed by alternating layers of ground-up leaves, grass clippings and food scraps. Come spring you will have a new raised bed with beautiful compost/soil to grow in without ever having to till first.
13. Remove old, spent plants from the garden. Any plants that had insects or disease should be put in plastic bags and thrown out with the trash. Others can be composted.
14. Take a soil test and add any needed lime to the garden (if your soil is acidic) so it will break down and do its job by spring.
15. Add organic matter (compost, leaves, grass clippings) to improve the condition of the soil.
Now sit back, enjoy a cup of hot apple cider and wait for the seed catalogs to start pouring in.
The Master Gardener Program is one of many programs offered by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County (CCE-Chautauqua). CCE-Chautauqua is a community based educational organization, affiliated with Cornell University, Chautauqua County Government, the NYS SUNY system, and the federal government through the United States Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture. For more information, call 664-9502 or visit our website at www.cce.cornell.edu/chautauqua. Cornell University Cooperative Extension provides equal program and employment opportunities.
For more information on the Master Gardener Program, please contact: Betsy Burgeson, Master Gardener coordinator, 664-9502, ext. 204, or email Emh92@cornell.edu. "Like" the Chautauqua County Master Gardeners on Facebook for gardening news and information.