Master gardener offers 6 autumn gardening tips

Leaves covered in frost
Leaves are covered in frost on November 13, 2011 at the "Planten un Blomen" park in Hamburg, northern Germany

As October comes to a close, Minnesota gardeners should be out putting the final touches on their properties to ensure they survive the harshest winter months, said master gardener Julie Weisenhorn on The Daily Circuit.

It's important to review what survived in your garden in the last year and make plans for next year for better results. Weisenhorn also said it's important to empty rain barrels to prevent ice from cracking them and to clean out other water elements in your garden.

Weisenhorn offered some other tips for late-autumn gardeners.


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• Don't forget to keep watering your plants in the fall.
"They have to make it through the winter and we have such dry, cold winters that you have to really be sure you're setting those plants up as best as possible going into that winter," she said.

Keep watering trees and plants as long as the water is draining freely. If you reach into the soil, you should go about palm-deep and still find wet soil. If the soil is dry the next day, give it more water.

• If your bulbs didn't bloom this year, blame the squirrels.
"Squirrels are notorious for eating those bulbs," she said.

Weisenhorn said it's important to bury the bulbs at least 6 inches into the soil and water them well before the ground freezes.

• It's too late to prune.
"Pruning will sometimes kick a plant into production and it will start to put out leaves and small branches," she said. "You really want to just let the plant go dormant now for the winter and then prune it later next year."

Fruit trees should be pruned when they are dormant, usually in late winter or March.

"When you open up a wound on a plant, you invite all sorts of pathogens and pests," Weisenhorn said. "Right now, we're recommending you wait to prune when the plant is dormant and then the plant can heal over before the pests become active in the spring."

• If your sugar maple didn't change color this year, try watering more in the next year.
Weisenhorn said leaves with a brown edge suffered from drought stress. If the leaves are still green, there's a chance they could still change this season.

Beech trees
Colored leaves can be seen in the tree tops of beech trees in the Schlaubetal near Bremsdorf, eastern Germany, on October 24, 2010.

• Considering a new tree for your yard next spring? Look into beech trees.
"It's a native tree to Minnesota, very underused," she said. The tree has a nice smooth bark and produces strong fall colors.

• Plant evergreens away from roads.
Evergreens have a tough time withstanding the winter spray of salt from vehicles and plows, Weisenhorn said. She recommends planting them at least 10 feet from a property line.


Protecting Your Garden From Winter Weather
Advice for gardeners on protecting plants, winterizing roses, and making leaf mold. (Better Homes and Gardens)

Preparing Your Vegetable Garden for Winter
One thing that most gardeners will agree upon is that it's worth the effort to clean out all the old annual plants. (Mother Earth News)

20 Tips to Prepare Your Garden for Winter
If you have winter crops such as leeks, kale, parsnips, or Brussels sprouts, put a generous amount of mulch around them to help protect them from the cooler temperatures until they are ready to harvest. (Yahoo)

Preparing Your Garden for Winter Wildlife
Most people tend to tidy their gardens in autumn, but often take this to the extreme. They blitz them, removing most of the shelter for wildlife and leaving overwintering invertebrates homeless in the process. You can help wildlife by leaving as much tidying up as possible until the end of winter, and doing so can make your garden look more attractive, too. (Discover Wildlife)