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Fall Gardening Tips

So it's getting a little bit colder outside and the wind has that autumn feeling to it, so we're reminded of all of the tasks involved in cleaning up our outdoor gardens and getting them ready for winter. There is always a lot to do, from cleaning and storing your tools and accessories to preparing the ground for next spring.

Even though there is a lot to do, gardeners who have school-age children can really enjoy this time of year, because with the kids at school during the day, you have some extra quiet time to work outside (and it's not so dang hot either).

Of course, fall is the main harvesting time for most food crops. Tree fruits like apples, pears and plums are all ripe, and softer fruit crops such as blackberries and autumn raspberries need picking before the birds get them all. Unusual, tender crops such as grapes and figs are ready for harvesting too, and need to be picked before they're damaged by frost.

If you have late green tomatoes, you can hang them upside down in a greenhouse for them to ripen. If you have members of the brassica family or capsicum family you can do the same. Or if you like them green, then eat them as they are.

Keep picking your beans or they'll stop producing new pods. And as beans take nitrogen from the air, if you put their roots into the ground, either now or in spring, they'll help to inject nitrogen into the soil. This area will then be great for brassicas next year.

Root-type vegetables such as turnips, swede and carrots will keep you supplied with hearty, warm stews and soup during the upcoming cold winter months. Dig up potatoes and store in paper sacks or cardboard boxes, so that they don't rot. It's always a good idea to check them over for bruises and eat any spoiled ones first, as they won't keep for later.

And don't forget about the flower garden. It doesn't offer any rest for the conscientious gardener either. Less hardy plants can be carried into a greenhouse for some protection against the cold, but stronger and larger ones can be wrapped in several layers of fleecy material. Put together a simple wire frame around your palms and stuff it well with straw. Keep it dry and covered with a well ventilated waterproof bag.

Although some of us want a spotless lawn and grounds, don't forget that your wild neighbors like to visit your garden as well. Leave berry and seed producing plants in the ground until spring and let the birds and animals finish them off. Encourage helpful bees and insects to spend the winter around your property. They're your friends during the growing months, so be a good landlord to them during the winter.

Fall gardening can be very rewarding, even though it can involve some of your time and it isn't very glamorous. But you know that the work you put in now will certainly show next spring. You'll be sure glad then that you put in the effort now.

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