The Garden Patch: Get ready for winter – Osage County Online | Osage County News

The Garden Patch: Get ready for winter

031614-garden-toolsI know we talk about a lot of different stuff in this column, but let’s touch on winterizing tools this week. It’s not difficult and can save you a good deal of money and frustration later on! So, let’s get with it …

When it starts getting to be fall (or early winter) and we start to feel that cool air of the season, we often think of winterizing our lawn and garden equipment. BUT, we gotta do more than think about it! Rototillers, lawn mowers, string trimmers – all those things we put to so much hard work during the summer need a comfortable rest.

The first step is to clean your tools completely. Get all the loose dirt and debris, grass clippings and whatever else off your tools, it doesn’t need to “winter” there. Get rid of it! Now’s a great time to do a thorough cleaning. Look for places where dirt has built up, that’s where rust will start. If you find some loose paint, a little touch up will be in order. And don’t forget to put a little oil in areas to help prevent further rust, also. While you’re looking your engine over, look for loose nuts and bolts. Check all of them. Help avoid big problems next spring.

Care for your faithful lawnmower

You’ve done a lot of work with your lawnmower this year and it more than likely served you very well. But remember, before you put it away, it will spend a long, lonely winter in the shed or garage or wherever. Get it clean!112114-LAWNMOWER-01 Get those grass clippings out from underneath – you know they’ll just cause rust. Got some out-of-sight paint loss (like underneath)? Coat the area with WD-40 or just a little bit of oil. And don’t forget to get the mower blades sharpened and rebalanced. Do it now – everyone will be too busy to help you on your schedule come spring!

AND, the most important part of caring for your lawn and garden equipment is caring for the engine and carburetor. There are three ways you can do it. You can run the engine until it’s completely out of gas, or you can go out and start it every 30 days all winter long. Or, you can use a stabilizing agent – it keeps your gasoline from turning into a sticky, shellacy stuff that clogs your carburetor. Add this according to directions, then fill your gas tank completely. But you don’t want to run the engine with this mixture, so put a piece of colored tape over the gas cap to remind you to drain the tank completely next spring. You don’t want to run the mower with that stabilizer in it!

There’s a good way of disposing of the gas that you drain out – pour it into a can then empty it into your car or truck and then dilute it with another 15 or 20 gallons of gasoline. That way, it will burn off and harm nothing.

Remember, winterizing your power equipment means cleaning it, tightening up loose nuts and bolts, preventing rust and keeping the carburetor in good running condition so it starts on the first pull next spring!

Yard cleanup

How about fall lawn care to cut down on next spring’s problems? A good fall cleanup will greatly reduce the odds for problems next year in rose, daylily, fruit, vegetable and annual flower beds.112114-Leaves-&-Rake-01 It can also head off one of the cold-weather diseases that kills lawn grass, according to Ned Tisserat, horticulture disease specialist for K-State Research and Extension.

Fall’s dead leaves can harbor many diseases and as an example, unless you remove dead tomato leaves, septoral leaf spot may be waiting around for nest year’s crop. The same is true for rose leaves and black spot. Iris and daylily debris can foster both borer populations and leaf spot diseases. With annual flower- and vegetable-producing plants, dead roots can be a problem carrier, too. Pull the entire plant from the ground and dispose of it! And … don’t forget to rotate your annual plants to avoid carrying over an infection!

If you doubt your composting abilities or equipment, get rid of debris by burning (where it’s legal) or sending or taking it to the dump. OR mulch or otherwise break up the debris and then plow it deeply into the ground. Then spread a 3-inch mulch layer over the area. That way, you’re getting rid of bad stuff and improving soil texture at the same time!

Furry pests?

Got moles? No, the kind that live in the yard! Moles are small mammals that spend most of their lives in underground burrows. They are similar in appearance and size to shrews and112114-MOLE-16meadow mice and may occupy the same habitat. They are seldom seen by humans; when seen, they are frequently mistaken for mice or shrews. Only one species – the eastern mole – lives in Kansas. The most conspicuous features of the mole are the greatly enlarged paddle-like forefeet and prominent toenails, which enable the mole to literally swim through the soil. The legs are strong, the neck short and the head elongated. Moles lack external ears and their eyes are so small that at first glance they appear to be missing.

Moles seem to possess a natural shrewdness and ability to sense danger and can be somewhat challenging to trap. Besides trapping, moles can be discouraged by repellents, toxicants and fumigants. Consult your local garden supplier or horticulture agent for additional details on ridding your property of these pests.

That’s it for this week, folks! I’ve enjoyed being able to share a little of your valuable time and sincerely hope that you’ve gleaned something from the above that is of either interest or assistance to you! I always learn a lot from researching material to write these columns – hope you have a benefit, too! So … till next week!

stevehallerSteve Haller, of Osage City, a K-State Research and Extension Master Gardener, writes The Garden Patch, featuring gardening ideas and tips for gardeners in northeast Kansas. In his words: “I am not a horticulturist. By education I am an economist. By experience, I am a marketing guru from a local to an international scale. Gardening was taught to me by my grandfather and my Mom, and I’ve been doing it since World War II was going on.”

Steve can be contacted at [email protected], or leave questions or comments below.

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