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Start your spring gardening now

Do yourself a favor and start your spring gardening right now. Take it from my firsthand experience — you don’t want to wait until spring to start cleaning up the garden. I learned the hard way and paid for it with a lot of extra work in the spring.

Start your fall clean up as soon as plants get to the point where they aren’t productive (vegetable garden) or look bad (flower bed).

In the vegetable garden, I have already started taking out tomato and cucumber plants that have quit producing. I have tomato plants left with a few tomatoes but with cooler night temperatures, the tomatoes are going to ripen just as quickly on the patio ledge as they are on the plant.

The biggest challenge this time of the year is keeping ahead of the weeds. Many of them are going to seed. You must remove these. Just look at the flowers and the seeds that are forming and think about all of the work you can prevent next season. Get rid of them now and save yourself a lot of headaches next season.

This fall, remove all of your annual vegetables in the garden. If you have space, compost the debris. Add compost or organic matter to the soil and till under either this fall or next spring.

Asparagus is a perennial vegetable and should be left alone in the fall. Cut the foliage back in the spring. This is a good time to control weeds in the asparagus patch. I hit them with glyphosate after the asparagus foliage turns gold.

Remove all annual flowers when they look bad. Some will last past a hard frost so again, I wait until they are no longer giving color to the garden.

I start cutting any perennials that have turned completely brown back to the ground now. The ones that I leave in the perennial bed are those that look good for the winter. This includes the ornamental grasses which last all winter.

Don’t get too pruner happy in the perennial garden, however, or you might miss another great season of color. For instance, daylilies have a great golden fall color as do Siberian iris. Many other perennials have a nice fall color and I leave them until the color is no longer good.

There are some perennials that you should not cut back in the fall and one in particular is mums. These tend to survive winter a little easier if the foliage is left until spring.

As far as fall care for trees and shrubs, there is really little to do. Remove any broken branches but save any major pruning for late winter. You can fertilize trees as the leaves begin to drop. The tree holds the fertilizer in the roots until next spring.

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