Now that you have cleared off the coffee table and the kitchen counter from the holiday catalogs, the next pile will be gardening solicitations and more catalogs.  

Historically, this time of year was when gardeners ordered to get the hard-to-find seeds, perennial plants, and certain varieties of brambles and fruit trees. Given industry trends the last two growing seasons, it is going to be more important than ever to place all your orders as soon as possible.

Seasonally, questions to Extension though phone calls, visits to the office, and via email naturally slow down. It has consistently been colder so virtually all outside activities are done for the season. We do get some late season questions and the start of winter indoor related questions coming in:

By now, most of the outdoor gardening to-do list is completed, or nearly so. However, there are always things to continue or to help us prepare spring. 

flower bulbs

Watch the short video series on this topic

When it comes to bulbs, it can seem confusing when to do what in which season. In general, you plant spring-flowering bulbs in the fall, and plant summer-flowering bulbs in the spring. You divide spring bulbs in late summer, and you dig up summer bulbs in the fall. Now that fall is here, let’s look at this a little closer.

Gardeners have really enjoyed the great bloom show from our spring flowering bulbs in the past few weeks. No matter how bad the winter weather seems to get or how late we have a frost or snow, spring bulbs always seem to pull through for us.

There are still many activities in the yard that could be covered, but I am picking three timely topics to cover this week. They all have to do with one thing: soil.

The past couple of springs, we have not had the kind of weather for good early season vegetable gardening. This spring has been a lot better with enough drying time to actually get out there and get potato seed pieces in the ground, sow those early rows of spinach and lettuce, and put out cabbage transplants.

Spring is greening from the ground up. The thunderstorm with lighting last week jump started the lawns and turned them green just about overnight. Still, for some lawns, it may be awhile before you need to bring out the mower.

We all want to get out in the yard, do something good for the yard, yet there is all this late winter weather hanging on. The cold weather at night, frosty lawns, cold rains during the day or the frost on the ground can keep us from doing the things we want.

We can do other things besides trying to overseed the lawn, get the garden soil ready for vegetables or work up the ground where the annuals are going. For example, if you bought new flower or vegetable seeds, re-read the packet to be sure when it is time to start them indoors.

Fall Colors & Leaves: Three weeks ago, there was only a hint of fall color in the home landscape. In the last week or so, fall color has come a long way. All the red maple cultivars have developed good reds and lots of other trees and shrubs are showing strong yellows and golds. Very soon, according weather forecasts, we are expecting a hard freeze and that color show will end. The Master Gardener Help Desk calls continue to come in with questions about foliage being eaten and fallen leaves showing signs of disease.

We have had our first real taste of cold weather over the last few days. Maybe your tender plants escaped being damaged, but others were not so lucky with the forecasted temperatures in outlying areas of low 30s and even high 20s.

This has been a “warning shot” to get any houseplants and tropical plants indoors. Houseplants really do not do well with nighttime temperatures in the 40s anyway and why research recommends they be placed indoors before the furnace even comes on. This allows them to acclimate to lower light and humidity levels slowly.

Fall is for more than planting trees (although it is true that fall is a great time for that – see more below). Fall also is the time to do so many activities in the home landscape. These are not just weekend activities, but things that can be done in small bites, even on weekday evenings. Before you know it, that daunting work is finished! 

For the home lawn: