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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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For week of Dec. 10:

Take advantage of these dry but crisp conditions. It’s time to get out the rake!

* Rake leaves away from storm drains and keep gutters clear.

* Fallen leaves can be used for mulch and compost. Chop up large leaves with a couple of passes with a lawn mower.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they’re dormant. Without their foliage, trees are easier to prune.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Make sure to take frost precautions with new transplants and sensitive plants. Mulch, water and cover tender plants in the late afternoon to retain warmth.

* Succulent plants are at particular risk if temperatures drop below freezing. Don’t water succulents before frost; cover instead. Use cloth sheets, not plastic. Make sure to remove coverings during the day.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eaves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Plant garlic (December's the last chance -- the ground is getting cold!) and onions for harvest in summer.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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