Ready, set and go....it's that time of year to prepare your garden tools for the next season. Have you got dahlias growing that are ready to be stored...what about pruning shrubs or planting garlic....read on and we will help you make the best of your time spent along with other tips to help you along. Leonard Perry shares his tips for this time of year...
Begin preparing tools for storage by cleaning them once you're finished with them. Wipe the soil off shovels, spades, and trowels using a rag or wire brush, then wipe blades with an oiled cloth. Make sure pruners are free from dirt and plant debris, and wipe down the blades with the oiled cloth. Empty any pots of dead plants and soil, adding the debris to the compost pile unless the plants were diseased. In that case, dispose of the plants in the garbage or a location far away from your garden. Rinse pots, or better yet, soak them in a bucket of water to which some bleach (one part to nine parts water) has been added. Soak for a half hour or so, then rinse well.
When the first frost blackens the foliage of dahlias (or if a hard freeze is predicted), cut off the stems about 6 inches above the tubers. Carefully dig the clumps with a spade or fork, and rinse them off. Let them dry out of direct sun and wind for a day (not too long or they'll begin to shrivel). Store the tuber clumps whole, or carefully separate the tubers from the stem, making sure to include any "eyes" (small, raised nubs near where the tubers attach to the main stem) with each tuber. These are the future sprouts. Store tubers in ventilated plastic bags filled with peat moss, vermiculite, or sawdust. Place bags in a box and keep them in a dark, 35- to 50-degree F location. Check every week or two to make sure they aren't too wet, or shriveling from dryness. Plant garlic now for harvesting next summer. Purchase garlic sold specifically for planting, locally adapted varieties from garden stores being best. Commercial, non-organic, supermarket garlic may have been treated to inhibit sprouting. Break the garlic head into individual cloves, keeping the largest ones for planting. (Use the small cloves for cooking.) Add compost before planting. Plant cloves about 2 inches deep, and 3 inches apart with the pointed side up. Try some different varieties to see which you prefer. Mulch the bed well with straw.
Photo courtesy of Alesa Dam
Avoid pruning woody plants now because it will encourage a flush of new growth that may be damaged by the upcoming cold temperatures. Instead, wait until late winter or early spring to prune most trees and shrubs. (Exceptions to this rule are spring-blooming shrubs, such as lilacs and rhododendrons, which should be pruned after flowering.)