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Winter's on its way: Get your yard and garden ready before frigid temps arrive

October 9, 2013

Beets are one of several vegetables that benefit from the cooler weather that comes with fall.

Get your yard and garden ready before frigid temps arrive

Feeling overwhelmed by all there is to do before the first snow flies? Searching for an excuse to enjoy the last few days outside without a parka?

"With our shorter growing season, we Minnesotans need to take advantage of every nice day in our gardens and home landscapes," says Julie Weisenhorn, state director of the Extension Master Gardener program.

Extension's website is chock-full of gardening resources to help you prepare for Old Man Winter. To get you started, here are some essential tips from the experts:

Lawn care: Instead of scalping your lawn in the fall (a stressful condition for turfgrass), gradually reduce and maintain about a 2-inch height over the last few mowings. Extension turfgrass educator Sam Bauer recommends applying nitrogen fertilizers through mid-September, when absorption levels are most efficient.

Flowers: Division is a useful technique to help keep your perennial border healthy and neat. Cut or pull apart the root clumps, leaving two or three new shoots per segment. Plant the new divisions at the same depth as the old plant, water thoroughly, and keep the soil moist for several weeks. Good fall candidates include Asiatic lily, bearded iris, daylily, Jacob's ladder, peony, tall phlox and Siberian iris.

Vegetables: Many cold-tolerant vegetables actually taste better when grown in cool weather, when the frost "sweetens" them. Beets, brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, green onion, kale and peas can survive down to at least the high 20s. After harvesting, clean up plant debris and plant "green manure" (legumes, grasses and broadleaf plants) to keep away weeds, prevent soil erosion and add organic matter to the soil.

"Fall is a great time to cut back and clean up dead plant debris, which can harbor harmful insects and diseases," Weisenhorn says.

Visit Extension's Garden or Turfgrass websites for more resources.

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