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Five ways to save labor in the fall garden

This is a good time to plant several spring-
blooming bulbs in a large container.
(Photo: Debbie Arrington)
Cut down on work, increase enjoyment with these tips

Gardeners work hard enough. Labor Day should include some rest and relaxation. The less work, the more time to smell the roses and enjoy your efforts.

With that in mind on this holiday, here are five ways to save labor (and time) in the landscape this fall:

1. Mulch, mulch, mulch! This simple step saves moistures, cuts down on weeds and helps plants cope with fluctuating weather. Use organic material (straw, leaves, bark, etc.) and mulch adds nutrients to the soil, too.

2. Make use of fallen leaves. All those leaves that will soon be coming down make excellent mulch. Instead of raking them up, use the lawn mower to chop them up. Then, spread this mulch around trees and shrubs.

3. Use bigger pots. The larger the container, the less frequently it needs watering. It also makes a greater visual impact and allows plants more room to grow.

4. Choose lower-maintenance, slow-growing plants. Tired of pruning hedges? Constantly edging borders? Mowing the lawn? Transition your landscape to plants that need less fuss and snipping.

5. Dig once, plant a lot. Fall is planting season for daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and other spring-blooming bulbs. Instead of planting each bulb separately, dig a wide hole to the depth needed and plant several bulbs together. This same idea works for annuals and such cool-season vegetables as lettuce. Dig a single trench, then plant a whole row. This method also allows for working compost, bone meal or other amendments into the soil all at once instead of little hole by hole.


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Garden Checklist for week of April 14

It's still not warm enough to transplant tomatoes directly in the ground, but we’re getting there.

* April is the last chance to plant citrus trees such as dwarf orange, lemon and kumquat. These trees also look good in landscaping and provide fresh fruit in winter.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden needs nutrients. Fertilize shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash.

* Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias.

* Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom.

* Mid to late April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce seedlings. Choose varieties that mature quickly such as loose leaf.

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