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Master Gardener Sue Morris: Time for fall cleanup

When doing your fall cleanup, do not compost plants that had powdery mildew. It's also time to wrap new trees to protect them this winter.

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Fall is an excellent time for lawn care. Warm soil and cool temperatures are perfect for reseeding, aeration, applying nitrogen fertilizer and treating for perennial broadleaf weeds.

This time of year the perennial weeds are taking up nutrients to go into winter so they more readily take up chemicals to kill them.

For those of you who want to get rid of the dreaded creeping Charlie, fall is the best time to treat it. Trimec is a chemical said to work well on creeping Charlie and won’t harm turf grasses when used according to package directions.

Fall is also a great time to plan for next spring. Raking leaves, cutting back dead foliage and flower heads — leave some for winter interest and wildlife — and picking up fallen fruit will help reduce pest problems next season.

Keep reading below the related content for more of this week's column from Master Gardener Sue Morris.

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If you had powdery mildew on any of your plants, dispose of that residue and do not compost as your compost might not get hot enough to destroy the mildew.

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While talking about powdery mildew, check your peonies for it when cleaning up the garden this fall. If your peonies look like they have been dusted with flour this summer, the likely culprit is powdery mildew.

We have heard this has started to be a problem in landscape plantings in recent years. It is a common disease problem on garden plants like phlox and bee balm. Many gardeners have grown peonies for decades without powdery mildew until recently.

Powdery mildew is a disease that causes a grayish-white coating on the foliage of peonies, lilacs, zinnias, roses, vine crops and many other plants. Submitted photo
Powdery mildew is a disease that causes a grayish-white coating on the foliage of peonies, lilacs, zinnias, roses, vine crops and many other plants. Do not compost any plant residue with powdery mildew as your compost might not get hot enough to destroy the mildew.
Contributed

It is unlikely to kill a peony plant but the spores are spread from plant to plant on wind currents. In the early stages of infection, powdery mildew colonies look like fluffy snowflakes resting on the leaf surface. These infections quickly expand to cover the entire leaf surface in powdery white to gray fungal growth.

Powdery mildew is more common in plants that are growing in shade or partial shade and have poor air movement — keep space between your plants. Planting peonies in full sun with good air movement around plants can reduce problems. September is the perfect time to move peonies if you are having problems. Mulch tender perennials with fallen leaves.

Keep watering trees, shrubs and especially evergreens until the soil freezes to minimize desiccation from dry winter winds.

Also if you have planted young trees, now is the time to wrap them for winter to protect them from animal and/or sun damage this winter. You can use plastic pipe or galvanized steel mesh fencing tall enough for deep snowfalls. Bury the bottom edge in the soil 2-3 inches to prevent rabbits digging underneath.

You can also wrap the trunk with burlap or crinkled paper tree wrap sold at nurseries for this purpose. Remove in the spring to prevent girdling the tree as it grows. It is good to do this before the weather turns cold and windy — because it makes it nicer for you when you are doing this task.

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Master Gardener Sue Morris has been writing this column since 1991 for Kandiyohi County newspapers. Morris has been certified through the University of Minnesota as a gardening and horticulture expert since 1983. She lives in Kandiyohi County.

Master Gardener Sue Morris has been writing a column since 1991 for Kandiyohi County newspapers. Morris has been certified through the University of Minnesota as a gardening and horticulture expert since 1983. She lives in Kandiyohi County.
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