The days are shorter than nights and the leaves are flying in the wind. Color of the prairie is brown these days.This is the time of investment of good efforts in your garden. It is the time to protect your landscape from the ravages of winter.

It is time to drag out the hoses and water your landscape. Whether you are watering lawns, garden beds or woody plants, apply enough water to soak in 8 to 12 inches. Water when the daytime temperature is above 40 degrees, there is no snow cover and the ground is not frozen. Irrigate early in the day to allow moisture to soak in before nightfall. Remember to unhook and drain the hose at the end of the day.

This is the best time to check the level of mulch around woody and herbaceous plants and to wrap the trunks of newly planted trees. It will help you protect plant tissues from the freeze-thaw cycles that damage both roots and stems. Depending on the size and type of mulch, go for 2-4 inches of mulching.Remember to keep mulch an inch from woody plant trunks to discourage animals from feeding on the bark. Plastic or cardboard wrap etc.

Fallen leaves are good to increase mulch in flower beds and vegetable gardens. Diseased, insect-infested or weedy plants with seeds should not be used as mulch or in the compost bin. Fungal spores, insect larvae and weed seeds can survive in or under dry plants and become the source for infection next year. But all other leaves are a great, cheap source of plant protection and organic matter.

Whole leaves are excellent organic mulch around shrubs and herbaceous perennials. Just spread a couple of inches of leaves in your beds to help maintain soil temperature and moisture this winter and reduce weed germination next spring. To harvest the leaves on the ground, just run your mower, with bag attached, over your turf areas. The shredded leaves make a great amendment for your vegetable garden soil. Be sure to irrigate the soil periodically this winter, since the microorganisms that decompose the leaf tissue need moisture to do their jo

Animal manure can also be added to your vegetable garden this time. It is good to apply animal manure into the soil in the fall and to keep it slightly moist to allow decomposition. Since manure tends to be high in salt, and our soil is often naturally saline, winter moisture can help leach salt out of the growing zone before planting season.

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