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Timely questions about fall gardening

Julie Weisenhorn, Extension Educator - Horticulture

A Minnesota fall landscape
Even though the weather is cooling down, days are getting shorter, and plants are moving into dormancy, Minnesota gardeners are still concerned about employing best practices for healthy landscapes. Here are a few common questions that might help you put your garden to bed (and get ready for next year's growing season!)

Keep watering your trees and shrubs too - especially evergreens!

Q: Can I prune my shrubs roses now? How far should I cut them back? 
A: You can cut back your roses now. Remove 1/3 of the plant as a rule of thumb, but of course, if the plant is blocking a window, walkway, etc., then you may cut more back. Here is an Extension publication on caring for roses that includes winter protection for roses. Enclosing roses in fencing stuffed with leaves will protect the plant from winter desiccation and start the next growing season with more live tissue. The fencing can also help protect your roses from browsing animals.

Q: Is it OK to cut down my perennials before they turn brown? Also, is it still OK to transplant them this late in the year? 
A: You should leave perennials alone until they die back (turn brown and dry). As long as they are green, they continue to photosynthesize and build up carbohydrates in their roots for better growth next year. Best too to hold off transplanting till spring. Plants need more time to re-establish their roots after transplanting and it is easier to handle the plants prior to leafing out. Hint: If your perennials have sturdy stems with interesting seed heads (like roses, asters, coneflowers, black-eyed susan, etc.) consider leaving them in place to provide winter interest in your landscape.

Q: Is it too late to seed my lawn? 
A: It is too late for normal seeding. However, you could wait till mid-November and do dormant seeding. This is seed that will germinate in the spring. Here's an article on dormant seeding. Also, here is an excellent calendar for the upper Midwest that takes the mystery out of lawn care. There's still time to treat for broadleaf weeds too - especially creeping charlie. (for managing creeping charlie, look for a product with glyphosate and triclopyr). Always read and follow all instructions on the product label. The label is the law.

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