Fall chores make spring garden a winner (3)

Shaping Up the Lawn

Fall is, by far, the best time to seed a lawn, or patch up an old one. In most climates, the ideal time for sowing seed and for early growth of seedling grass is between the last part of September and the early part of November. This is the time nature itself selects for seeding. Fall grass seedlings will be vigorous for the following spring and will be better able to withstand the heat and weeds which come in summer. If your lawn is thin and has bald spots, “thicken” it with grass seed in fall. Mow your lawn right up until snow flies or cold winter sets in. Forget the notion that tall grass survives the winter better. Tall grass going into the winter will be susceptible to various fungus diseases such as mold and/or helminsoporum.

Lawn Mower Care

It’s a safe bet that 9 out of 10 CR readers have a lawn mower in the garage with a dull blade. When you get ready to put that lawn mower away, do this 1) Put in a new spark plug. They cost only about $1.50 and can save you a ton of tugging next year. 2) Unhook the wire to the spark plug,(*) take the blade off and have it sharpened for next year. Dull blades cause “gray” lawns by beating the grass off instead of cutting it. 3) Change the oil in fall instead of waiting until a busy spring rolls around. 4) Drain the gas out of the tank. It can turn into varnish-like material and cause problems in spring.

House Plants

Fall chores make spring garden a winner02

Fall’s no time to neglect house plants. If you kept yours outdoors in summer bring them indoors. Keep them isolated for a couple of days and check them for slugs, snails, white flies, and other pests. You might spray them with a homemade spray formula you can mix right in your own sink with common household ingredients.

To make: mix one teaspoon of liquid detergent (dishwashing type such as Palmolive, Ivory, Joy, etc.) with one cup to one quart of plain tap water. Shake this mixture vigorously to emulsify and pour it into a spray or pump bottle. Use at 10-day intervals to check white flies, spider mites, and aphids. A lot of people use Murphy’s oil soap (liquid) diluted at a rate of 1/4 cup to a gallon of warm water. Spray it on top and undersides of foliage.

Potting Soil

Fall is a good time to re-pot most house plants. A good soil mixture for most house plants is made up of one part sphagnum peat moss (or compost), one part sand, one part garden loam, and one part perlite or vermiculite. Many “store bought” black potting mixes are not satisfactory as they may be pure muck and not drain well. If your plants are tall and gangly, prune them back and start new plants from cuttings rooted in a vase of soupy perlite.

Quick Tips

* Pull weeds before they self sow. Crabgrass alone can self sow 10,000 seeds per plant. * Catch clippings to compost, or let them lie on the lawn. One acre of lawn receives 40 lbs. of free nitrogen from clippings. * Don’t be a slave to your lawn. A few weeds won’t harm it. The mower will keep them down. * A properly located shade tree can cut down on your fuel bill by as much as 30%, acting as a windbreak. It takes twice as much fuel to keep a house warm at a temperature of 32 degrees and a wind of 12 miles per hour, as it does for the same temperature and a wind of three miles per hour. * Don’t be intimidated by pruning rules. It’s better to prune than not to prune. But be a barber not a butcher. * Order seed catalogs and curl up with one this fall or winter when the weather’s bad. * Study other people’s plantings and copy them. Ask questions of your neighbor or garden center clerk. * Take advantage of the new low-growing, beautiful annuals for borders, window boxes, and pots. The selection is the best ever. * If you are new to gardening, it’s better by far to have a few showy productive plants than to raise a lot which take a lot of care. (*) It’s important to unhook the wire to the plug before you loosen the blade. It’s possible for the mower to start when you turn the blade and cause serious injury.