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Published on 12/27/12

Fall garden or not, there are plenty of winter gardening chores

By Judy Ashley for CAES News

Gardeners who chose not to grow cool season crops may be getting restless as temperatures drop and the growing season comes to an end. Well, a gardener’s work is never done. Here are a few garden chores that can be accomplished over the next few months.

Now is a great time to test the soil. Developing and maintaining productive soils begins with soil testing. Whether it is for your lawn, flowerbed or vegetable garden, University of Georgia soil test results will reveal the soil’s actual nutrient status. Follow the test’s recommendations for ideal soil in your spring garden.

Compost leaves

Do you have an abundance of leaves on your property? Chop them up and add them to your garden as a mulch, or work them in to improve the soil’s organic matter. Unchopped or shredded leaves can also be used, but they tend to mat down and will not breakdown as rapidly. Leaves can also be added to your compost pile to provide a carbon element.

Speaking of compost piles, work off some of those delicious holiday desserts by grabbing a shovel or pick and giving your compost pile a thorough turn. This will speed the decomposition process and add needed air and circulation to the pile.

Inspect and repair tools

While you have that shovel or pick handy, look at it closely. Does the handle appear to be rotting or cracking? If the handle is beginning to crack or turn gray, sand it down and apply a coat of marine or outdoor varnish to preserve the life of the handle.

Is the shovelhead showing rust or wear? Take the time now to clean, sharpen and repair your garden tools and you will be glad when spring rolls back around. Remove caked on dirt with a wire brush and rinse and dry tools thoroughly.

Apply lubricating oil to any working parts on pruning shears or saws, and sharpen the blades. To sharpen properly, place the tool in a vise and sharpen away from the tool’s head, on the push-stroke side only.

Proper storage of gardening tools will extend their life. My worst nightmare is when my son “borrows” my lopping shears to clear a path in the back woods. Weeks later when I am looking for them to prune that overgrown Cleyera, I find them rusting in the dirt on that new path in the back woods.

Don’t let this happen to your tools. Keep them out of the weather in a shed or garage in a neat and orderly fashion. This will not only save you a lot of frustration when it comes time to use them, but your storage space will be maximized –- making room for that latest and greatest gardening tools on your Christmas list.

Judy Ashley is the University of Georgia county Extension coordinator in Walton County.
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