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.



Make an inexpensive decorator floor with wallpaper!

Image result for wallpapered kitchen floor

About 20 years ago, when I was a young remodeling contractor, I had a customer who wanted an old mansion remodeled. This old house was from the turn of the century and had servants’ quarters, five bathrooms, six or seven bedrooms, several fireplaces, etc. The owner, although a little eccentric, knew what she wanted and was willing to pay whatever was needed to get it.

To my extreme surprise, one of the things she wanted was a wallpapered kitchen floor. When I questioned her she told me that her father had done it in her childhood home years earlier, and it had held up as well as linoleum. She said he had put several coats of spar varnish on it for durability. Of course, years had changed the finishing technology and we used a polyurethane for the coating, but the rest was still the same. The pattern she picked matched the wall and was very striking.

After removing two layers of old linoleum, we put down a quarter-inch layer of plywood to even out the rough surface that remained. Then the seams had to be filled and sanded smooth. (Any good lap and leveling compound will do.) Once the floor was perfectly smooth we had to prime it.

There are several good products on the market today that we didn’t have then. One is a wall prep that is almost clear, dries quickly and can be rolled or brushed on. This will make the surface suitable for wallpaper.

A Fabric Backed Vinyl Wallpaper wall decor

Your selection of wallpaper is important. The most durable is a fabric-backed vinyl, however any vinyl-coated paper can be used. Prepasted papers are not recommended. It is very hard to control the water and sometimes there is too much paste on it, other times there is not enough. I find that a good premixed paste works best. Ask your wallpaper store clerk for a recommendation on which one to use for your particular paper.

Try to visualize your pattern on the floor. Center the first strip so that the last strip at the wall on each side will be about the same. Nothing looks worse than a pattern that doesn’t match the walls. Borders can be added at the edges or cut into the center. Place the pasted border over the wallpaper where you want it and very carefully cut through both layers–both border and wallpaper. Then remove the excess wallpaper from under the border. Repaste and smooth the border in place using a seam roller. (Remember a seam roller should be used on all seams to set them properly.)

Sponges or squeegees can be used to smooth the paper onto the floor. After the floor is completely dry (this may take more than one day), apply your first coat of urethane. Allow this coat to dry before applying your second coat. The more coats you apply, the more durable the finish and the longer your floor will last.

Then tackle the ceiling

Prepare the ceiling as you would a wall. To mark off the first plumb line, measure 1/2-inch less than the width of your paper to create a half-inch overhang on the wall to prevent gaps. Cut each strip of paper four inches longer than needed, so it will overlap onto the walls.

Mark plumb lines as you go. Using a chalk line may be easier than holding a level upside down and drawing a pencil line along it. However, you will need a yardstick to make sure the line is plumb.

Apply paste and fold the paper accordian-style. Line up the first strip with the plumb line and smooth down the first section along the line, gently pushing paper into the corner and edges of the ceiling. Have a friend hold the remaining folds of paper up with a broom while you work your way across the ceiling.

More wallpapering hints are available from Storey’s Basic Country Skills, by John and Martha Storey, available from the Countryside Bookstore, W11564 Hwy. 64, Withee, WI 54498; 800-551-5691. $24.95 plus $2.50 P&H.

Measuring tips

Image result for wallpapering the floor

Measuring for wall paper quantity can be done by multiplying the length by the width of your floor and dividing by 24 or 36. Twenty-four square feet is the amount in a single roll of vinyl coated paper, 36 sq. ft. in a fabric backed vinyl paper. Depending on the type you select, the quantity will be very low. Allow a little extra if the pattern you choose is a drop match; an extra roll or two is a good idea anyway. Flaws are prevalent in wallpaper, so check each roll before you start–you may save yourself a headache. Wallpaper stores will replace rolls that haven’t been used, but you’re out of luck if you already pasted it.

Fall chores make spring garden a winner (2)

Fall Cleanup

You can do a lot to prevent insect and disease buildup by giving your garden a good fall cleanup. Pull up vines and stalks and chop them up fine for the compost. This exposes over-wintering stages of insects and diseases and helps cut down on them for next year. If you’ve got the time, spade, fork, or plow the vegetable garden in fall to expose dormant stages of insects.

Sow a Cover Crop

The term “cover crop” refers to a temporary planting made to add organic matter to the soil. Cover crops hold nitrogen and other nutrients that might be lost during the winter. Their tremendous root systems loosen heavy soils, whereas the added humus will help hold the particles of sandy soils together. If you have plenty of garden space, rotate 1/3 to 1/2 of it into a cover crop for a full year. These “green manure” crops, a good substitute for barnyard manure, include oats, buckwheat, clover, and ryegrass. You can sow these and let them grow right up until freezing weather, then spade or plow them under the following spring.


Don’t hesitate to cut back perennials that are lanky and overgrown. Some are weedy and seedy, so cut them before they self sow.


Fall is bulb planting time. The subject is so vast we cannot cover it here because there are both indoor (non-hardy) and outdoor bulbs. You can learn a lot from a good, well-illustrated bulb catalog about the best varieties in your area. For outdoor plants, a good rule of thumb is that bulbs should be planted twice as deep as they are round. Don’t hesitate to write us if you have any problems for the fall care of bulbs.

Protecting Your Trees

Fall Planting

Nurseries are plugging “fall planting” as a way to save a year on growth, and to achieve better results than spring planting. If you plant evergreens or non-evergreens in the fall, make sure the plants are well watered, then mulched. Any plants going into the winter with a dry soil will surely perish from the effects of wind and sun. Soak them well. It’s a good idea to use a wrap around trees to prevent winter scald.

Water Loss

Many people think summer is the only time to put on a mulch, but winter mulch is also useful. One reason evergreens experience “winterburn” or “winterkill” is strong, drying winds in winter or early spring. All evergreens lose water through their leaves from winter winds. When water lost from the leaves cannot be immediately replaced, drying out and browning of leaves takes place. Even though water is present in the soil, it may be frozen solid, and therefore unavailable to plant roots. The secret is to keep evergreens well watered right up until the snow flies.

Fall is a good time to apply a winter mulch to help retain moisture in the soil and prevent rapid temperature changes at the soil line. Put two or three inches of straw, peatmoss, cocoabean shell, buckwheat hulls, wood chips, or sawdust around the base of your shrubs. Anything you have available for a mulch will work, but you should never let evergreens go into the winter with a dry soil. Give your plants a good soaking, then apply the mulch, to trap the water in.

Another idea homeowners like is “wilt-proofing” or spraying evergreens with latex concoctions found in garden centers. These seal the pores and stop water loss. These materials are also called anti-desiccants or anti-transpirants, and are available under several trade names. Spray the top and bottom sides of leaves in late fall. Trunks of established trees can be painted with a cheap grade of latex paint, to a height of six feet. The paint reflects the sun’s rays and prevents unequal expansion, leaving cracked bark, especially on the southwest side of the trunk. This is called “Southwest injury.” Paint the bark, using the paint full strength.

Newly planted evergreens, or those in exposed windy or sunny areas can also be protected by a burlap “tent” or screen. Burlap wrapped around four posts driven into the ground does a fine job of protecting the plants from drying winds. There are new loose-weave “landscape” fabrics which may be substituted for burlap as long as they are able to withstand the rigors of stormy weather. Never wrap evergreens with plastic sheets. These trap the heat in and cook the foliage on sunny days. Even holes punched in the plastic are not enough to let the heat escape.

Evergreens next to a white house are hit twice b the sun’s rays. First, they are hit directly, then again as the sun’s rays bounce back from the white surface. Burlap or latex sprays lessen this type of injury.

Evergreens facing the west, and those next to a road, can get wind and salt damage. Salt burns cause browning, especially on the west side. This can be prevented by using burlap screens. Brown areas at the base are usually due to “dog burn.” Put a wire guard around the evergreens now to prevent dog burning. Water from leaking eaves can cause ice to form on evergreens, and the ice acts like a magnifying glass when the sun hits, scorching the foliage in cold weather. Damage shows as a bleached or strawlike color. Fix your gutters and make sure they are unplugged. Leaves can block the openings and cause water to splash over.

There’s another chore you can do in fall to prevent winter-killing. Make sure your evergreens, especially Taxus (Japanese Yews) do not catch rainwater. These evergreens are extremely sensitive to “wet feet” and will die, often within 36 hours, if water remains around the roots.

Fruit Trees

Fall is an ideal time to plant fruit trees, and to trim them. Rabbits are a real problem for young fruit trees. Protect your trees in fall by wrapping the trunk in aluminum foil or hardware “cloth” (screen). Make sure you go up two or three feet if you live where there are heavy snows and down about two inches into the soil to keep out voles (repeat, voles) and other rodents. Deer are a real problem in fall. If deer, rabbits, woodchucks, squirrels, and other animals bother your plants try this repellent: 2 whole eggs (can include shells); 2 cups coarsely chopped green onion tops; 2 cloves garlic (or garlic powder), 1 tablespoon red pepper (chili or cayenne), 2 cups water. Place all in a kitchen blender. Run on high speed until everything is liquefied. Pour into 1 gallon plastic bucket with 1 shaved cake of yellow laundry soap (found in supermarkets and sometimes called “fels Naphtha”). Fill with lukewarm water and stir. Splash by hand (wear a rubber glove) over plants. Reapply after heavy rain and every week or two. Once dry, it has no smell to humans.