Posted by JoAnn M. Drabble on 11/9/2018

Mulch Pile

When gardeners think of applying fall mulch, their thoughts typically turn to that extra layer that protects plants in cold regions from the ravages of a hard winter. But you can apply fall mulch just like you do in spring, adding enough to refresh what’s broken down. Many landscaping professionals actually practice—and prefer—fall mulching. Fall mulch works like spring mulch to retain soil moisture, suppress weed growth and protect bare soil from erosion. But it also accomplishes a few more things:

  • Fall mulch insulates soil, providing a warmer environment for the soil-food web, including earthworms and microbes. Warm soil means these organisms stay active longer into the cold season, improving your soil.
  • Fall mulch insulates plant roots. In coldest regions, soil may eventually freeze solid in the heart of winter, but in many areas, soil cycles through freezing and thawing all winter long. Those freeze-thaw patterns put stress on anything in the top few inches of soil, including plant roots. Mulch moderates the temperature swing.

4 Reasons to Practice Fall Mulching

  1. Mulch in fall to skip that job come spring. Every gardener knows spring is a busy time, and late fall typically offers a leaner to-do list of garden chores. Fall mulching frees up time next spring.
  2. Cooler weather makes tackling a heavy job like mulching more pleasant. You work up less of sweat when air temps hover in the 50-degree range.
  3. Cut back perennials for winter, and you create a clean bed surface that makes mulching a snap. There’s no dodging emerging bulbs, perennial shoots or seedlings. The bonus is that cutting perennial stems down in fall takes that chore off your spring to-do list.
    • Fall mulching gives you another chance to enjoy the Great Outdoors before winter weather ends your outside garden season.

4 Reasons to Skip Fall Mulching

  1. For best mulching results, you need to cut back perennial stems to 6- to 12-inch stubs so you can apply mulch evenly around them. Fall mulching isn’t for you if you like to leave perennial stems to provide winter interest and insect or bird shelter.
  2. If self-sowers play a large role in your plantings, skip fall mulching. That fresh layer could interfere with seed germination in spring.
  3. The biggest challenge with fall mulch is that you need to squeeze the job in on weekends, especially in areas that practice daylight saving time.
  4. In regions where snow starts flying early, you run the risk of having a snow-covered mulch pile if you don’t get it all put out before winter arrives.

The Dos and Don’ts of Fall Mulch

  • Do choose mulch that traps air, much like down in a winter coat. Trapped air provides insulation and warmth. Good choices include shredded leaves, weed-free straw and shredded bark.
  • Do aim to apply a 3-inch-thick mulch layer.
  • Do choose the right mulch for the job: a formal, eye-pleasing mulch like shredded bark for front yard beds, pine straw for acid-loving azalea, rhododendron, holly, camellia, hydrangea and fothergilla, and informal straw or shredded leaves for vegetable gardens.
  • Don’t apply fall mulch too early. Wait until after the first hard freeze, so you can cut back perennials.
  • Don’t layer mulch deeply over perennial plant crowns (the growing points). 
  • Don’t forget to anchor mulch in windy areas by covering it with wire fencing or chicken wire.

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Posted by JoAnn M. Drabble on 11/7/2018



If you have cool-season turf, like fescue or bluegrass, you are about out of time to renovate or overseed your lawn. However, if this is still on your to-do list, be sure your soil pH is around 6.0 to 6.5. A soil test from your county extension service can give you this information, as well as any additional nutrient requirements that might be needed, along with the appropriate amounts to add to your lawn.

However, these reports can take a couple of weeks to get back. Depending on where you live in the country, by then you may have missed your window for this season. Go ahead and add seed now if needed. You can add the required nutrients after you get your report. Keep new grass seed moist. You may have to water briefly several times each day until germination. Try to keep fallen leaves off the seeds without disturbing your seeds in the process.


It's time to clean up the summer garden. Many pests and diseases over-winter in old plant debris. Get it out of your garden and into the compost pile, as long as it is not diseased. Otherwise, have it removed from your property.

Hopefully you're growing some cool-season crops right now such as broccoli, spinach and lettuce. Floating row covers do a great job of providing a few extra degrees of heat and provide frost protection for those tender young seedlings. Most cool-season crops can handle cooler temperatures than you might imagine, and many taste even better after a few light frosts. If you've never had a fall vegetable garden, you're missing a real treat.


Fall is absolutely the best time of year to plant any tree and /or shrub. The soil is still warm enough for roots to actively grow and yet the demand on foliage growth is waning. Trees and shrubs planted now have months to develop a healthy root system before the heat of next year.

Be sure to keep your new plants watered. The drying winds of the cooler weather can quickly dehydrate plants. Check the soil moisture often, and water when needed. For new plantings, provide water once a week in the absence of rain.

Organic Gardening

Don't waste those fallen leaves. My single biggest job this time of year is rounding up all of my and my neighbor's leaves. As they say, one man's trash is another's treasure. My neighbors are glad to let me take their leaves off their hands.

I dump the leaves onto my grass, and run my mower over them. This shreds them into small pieces, which then get raked into my beds. They break down rather quickly and are a very good way to add organic amendments to my beds. They also pull double-duty, serving as that important layer of mulch over the winter.

Flower Gardening

Plant those bulbs, or at least store them in a cool, dry place like the refrigerator. In cooler climates, plant in October. In southern climates, the best time for bulb planting is in middle to late November. Tulips, daffodils, crocus, iris and hyacinths are all great choices for spring color. This is also the ideal time to divide perennials and plant perennial seeds for next spring.

That should keep you busy for the next few weeks. The best part is that next spring, our efforts will be rewarded with a garden that comes alive, looking better than ever and due in large part to the work we're doing now.

Posted by JoAnn M. Drabble on 9/19/2014

[caption id="attachment_974" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Is your home ready for winter? Here is a list of projects to get your home in peak shape!"]Fall Home Projects[/caption]   We all are sad to see summer go but while you are enjoying the leaves and pumpkin flavored everything, you can use this list of Fall home projects to get your home in shape for the winter ahead of us.   Caulking the Windows Want to keep your heat bill down? Of course you do. Caulking the windows can create an extra seal to prevent those nasty winter drafts from sneaking in.   Sealing the Driveway Sealing the driveway can mean the difference between a beautifully smooth driveway in the Spring or a cracked and damaged one. Over the winter, an unsealed driveway can have water and ice build up underneath the pavement causing frost heaves and cracks, even pot holes.   Reverse your Ceiling Fan Cleaning and reversing the blades on your fan will create an upward draft to more efficiently heat your home. Be sure to regularly clean your humidifiers throughout the winter as well to prevent spores and bacteria from infecting your home's air.   Roof Inspection Seems like common sense but a friendly reminder never hurts. Get your roof inspected now before there are layers of snow and ice hiding your loose or missing shingles and causing serious damage to your home over the winter.   Ready the Fireplace/Heating System This is one of those fall home projects that you need the professionals for but is very necessary. Have someone come and make sure your fireplace and/or heating system is ready for the winter before the temperature drops so you won't have to worry about it this winter.   Cover or Bring in Air Conditioners If you have an external A/C covering it will not only keep it safe from the elements but may prevent a draft as well. Window A/C units should be taken out so the window can create a proper seal throughout the winter months.   Prepare your Garden and Deck Just like your driveway, your deck may need some protection from the elements this winter. Check for any damages and consider a fresh coat of sealant. Bring in any planters and protect any bushes, topiaries, and garden beds accordingly.   Check for Peeling Paint If your exterior paint is chipping, it may leave the siding of your home vulnerable to water, ice, and snow. To prevent damage consider making some touch ups.   Hope this Fall home projects help you get your home in shape for this winter!  

Posted by JoAnn M. Drabble on 11/18/2011

Serving the perfect Thanksgiving Day turkey can give even the best cook holiday anxiety. Each year turkey hotlines get thousands of calls from distressed cooks. If you are hosting the holiday feast this year there are ways to get your Thanksgiving Day off the stunning success. Here are some tips to create the perfect turkey dinner. Start with the Turkey When ordering your whole turkey, allow at least 1 pound per person. If you love leftovers add 1/2 pound per person. Turkey Tool Box To have the perfect turkey you will need the right tools. Here are a few things you will want to have on hand: •Heavy duty roasting pan with rack •Trussing string •Aluminum Foil •Baster •Fat separator •Wire whisk •Sharpened carving set. •Meat thermometer Be Safe The most important part of cooking a turkey is to practice safe turkey handling. Here are some musts for turkey preparation: •Make sure that raw turkey or its juices do not come into contact with other foods. •Wash your hands, utensils and surfaces the turkey touches with hot water and soap. •Use a meat thermometer to check for the proper internal temperature. To Stuff or Not To Stuff? This comes down to a matter of preference but if you do stuff you will want to ensure to follow these important steps: •Estimate about one cup of stuffing per pound of turkey. •Add about 5 to 7 minutes per pound for a stuffed bird. •You will need to check the temperature of the bird and the stuffing before serving. The stuffing must register at least 160°F before it is safe to eat. •Never stuff the bird ahead of time. Stuff it just before putting in the oven. Turkey Cooking Tips There are lots of factors that go into creating the perfect turkey, here are some general guidelines: •Remove the giblets before seasoning and cooking. •Fresh turkeys must be refrigerated immediately. Frozen turkeys should be defrosted in the refrigerator for two days prior to cooking. Never thaw a turkey at room temperature. •Brush the bird with melted butter before roasting. This will help in browning and flavor. •Baste only at the beginning of the roasting process. •Cook your turkey on a rack. •Roast the bird with the breast side down for the first hour. •Use a meat thermometer for best results. The turkey should read 165°F when it is done. •Save the drippings for gravy. •After cooking, cover the the turkey and allow it to rest for about 30 minutes.

Tags: Fall   Holiday   Thanksgiving   Turkey tips  
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JoAnn M. Drabble