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Patty Craig; A Slice Of Time

Last week, we had some beautiful October weather. It’s time to begin closing down our gardens and plan for next year. I’ve been doing a mental inventory of what needs pruning or trimming, which garden-related chores still need to be completed, and wondering whether to add more spring bulbs.

First, I have been told that pruning is a fall activity; however, that is not correct. On Today’s Homeowner website, an article, “When to Trim Trees and Shrubs” (, provided the following pruning guidelines:

-“Conifers: Prune in late winter while fully dormant.

-Nonblooming Trees and Shrubs: Prune in late winter while fully dormant.

-Summer-blooming Trees and Shrubs: Prune in late winter.

-Spring-blooming Trees and Shrubs: Wait until immediately after they bloom. They are the exception to the rule, but you still should prune them as early as you can.”

The author explained that at any time of year, a homeowner may trim back a small tree, lightly shape hedges and conifers, or remove dead or diseased branches. Gentle trimming does not seem to harm bushes and trees. Thankfully, this year pruning is not on my personal to-do list.

Second, The Old Farmer’s Almanac posted an article entitled “Preparing Your Garden for Winter: Overwintering Plants & Other Important Fall Gardening Tasks” by Catherine Boeckmann ( Boeckmann listed several garden chores to do before winter, including the following four:

-On a mild day, run your garden hose up over a railing or over a shed to remove all the water. Then roll it up and put it away.

-Mow your lawn as late into the fall as the grass grows. Grass left too long when deep snow arrives can develop brown patches in the spring.

-Drain the fuel tank on your lawn mower or any other power equipment. Consult the owner’s manual for other winter maintenance.

-Scrub down and put away your tools. Some folks oil their tools with vegetable oil to avoid rust.

These four tasks seem important. Although I have never drained fuel tanks, I may yet learn.

Third, it’s time to plant spring bulbs! According to UK Cooperative Extension Service’s “Spring Flowering Bulbs for Kentucky Gardens” by Robert G. Anderson (, our spring flowering bulbs, like crocus, daffodils and tulips – my personal favorites, may be planted between October 15 and Thanksgiving. Choose a well-drained site for the bulbs. Anderson also advised:

“Start by cultivating and cleaning the planting site. Small sized bulbs (about 1 inch) should be planted in holes 5 inches deep and 1 to 4 inches apart. Large bulbs (2 inches or more) should be planted in holes 8 inches deep and 4 to 8 inches apart. These planting depths will help protect the bulbs from frost, animals and physical damage due to hoeing. Thoroughly loosen the soil under the bulbs and mix in one handful of bone meal per square foot (1 oz/sq ft). Place bulbs upright in the hole (generally pointed side up) and cover bulbs with half of the soil removed from the hole. Water the bulbs thoroughly and replace the remaining soil. Fertilize the soil surface with 10-10-10 (N-P-K) at a rate of 3 to 4 pounds per 100 square feet. Cover the bed with 2 to 3 inches of mulch and water thoroughly again. If the fall weather is dry, water the area as needed.”

I needed Anderson’s advice years ago. I don’t believe I’ve ever fertilized and watered bulbs. If I had, perhaps I’d have more bulbs to show for my efforts. Thankfully, I still have plenty of time to add a few more crocus, daffodil and tulip bulbs to my yard.

Gertrude Jekyll said, “The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies” ( As this gardening season ends, I’ve had pruning or trimming, garden-related chores yet to be completed, and which spring bulbs might be added on my mind. And yes, I’m already thinking ahead to next year.


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