Welcoming autumn's arrival

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The gardener's year seems to wind down with the arrival of autumn. But, for avid gardeners, that may not be the case. If you aren't quite ready to put away your gardening tools yet, there are several ways to put them to work during this beautiful time of year.

If there are some warm microclimates in the yard, try planting some cold-tolerant flowers and plants to provide color during fall and into the winter. Ornamental kale and cabbage are multicolored, with purples, pinks, whites and greens.

These plants do well in the cold and add beautiful splashes of color to a cold-weather landscape. Johnny-jump-ups and pansies will last until the snow covers them and sometimes beyond in sunny spots. Primroses also handle cold quite well.

In autumn, a gardener's thoughts also turn to spring, because it is bulb-planting time. When considering which bulbs to plant - tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, narcissi, and so many other beautiful flowers - don't forget to also plant some tasty selections like garlic, shallots and onions. These hardy bulb vegetables will be ready for harvest at the end of spring and into the summer.

It's also time to prep your flower and veggie beds with a thick layer of organic material after you clean out the leaf, flower and plant litter. Compost, humus, leaves, lawn clippings or mulch will protect the soil and slowly add nutrients as they break down through the winter.

Add a layer of mulch around all trees and shrubs out to the drip line of the plant. Cover up the graft, that lumpy bit at the base, on all your roses to protect them from drying out and splitting through the sun, drought and freeze cycles of winter.

Don't forget to winterize your sprinkler system by the end of October, unless the weather stays warm. Plants, especially trees, will need a deep watering as the weather cools down. While the temperatures remain in the high 70s, they may still need watering once to twice a week, depending on their maturity. Lawns can be watered less and less.

Finally, you may need to bring potted plants indoors to keep them blooming and producing through the upcoming winter. But before you do, wash them off, particularly the undersides of leaves, to prevent garden pest hitchhikers from invading your home.

Also, thoroughly wash the outsides of the pots, including the bottoms. Better yet, change out the soil in the pots and reduce the possibility of bringing pests indoors even further. Anyone who has been plagued with whitefly inside the house knows the wisdom of these extra precautions!

I like this time of year. The cooler temperatures and beautiful fall colors make me want to work outside for hours. Enjoy it!

For more information, e-mail skellyj@unce.unr.edu or call me at 887-2252. You can "Ask a Master Gardener" by e-mailing mastergardeners@unce.unr.edu or call your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office. Check out many useful horticulture publications at www.unce.unr.edu.

• JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.


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