Winterizing Garden Equipment

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With fall here and winter on its way, we need to begin cleaning up our gardens. Fall cleanup does not end in the garden, for longevity of our gardening equipment, we need to clean it up and prepare it for winter months as well. If we take the time to cleanup our equipment and store it in the best locations, our tools can be an investment to help us in the garden for many years.

100_0852The first step is to clean up your vegetable gardens when you are done with them for the year. Remove tomato cages and clean them up for storage in a garage or shed to help them last for multiple years. Remove all plants and compost them or put them in the trash if they had problems with insects or diseases this year. Till up your garden this fall and incorporate manure or compost to help with organic matter next year. After tilling, cover the bare soil with some type of mulch to avoid wind erosion of topsoil, grass clippings or straw will work well for this and it can be tilled into the soil next spring.

When completed with hoses for the year, be sure to drain them of any water. Then coil the hose and hang it on a hook or in a hose reel station for the winter months. You can always get the hoses back out during the winter on warm days to water trees and shrubs if the winter is dry, just be sure to drain them when done watering in the winter months.

Flickr image courtesy of Jennifer C. per CC license
Flickr image courtesy of Jennifer C. per CC license

When finished using any tools, be sure to clean all debris off of them. Scrape off caked on mud with a wire brush or steel wool. Sharpen pruning tools so they are ready to go next spring. Apply a light coat of an oil to prevent any rusting from occurring. These tools are best kept in a garage or a shed and out of the harsh winter elements to help them last longer.

For sprayers used during the season, the best cleanup would be a triple rinse. Rinse out the sprayers three times with water to remove any pesticide residue from the container. It may also be a good idea to clean nozzles and screens with soapy water. If the pesticide sits in those nozzles over the winter it will be difficult to clean them out next spring so that the equipment may be used again.

*Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended of those not mentioned and no endorsement by University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension is implied for those mentioned.
*Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended of those not mentioned and no endorsement by University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension is implied for those mentioned.

Pesticides and fertilizers can be stored for future use. Store all pesticides in their original containers with the label still attached. Store them in a cool, dry location where they won’t freeze, as this can be harmful for the product and the container. Do not allow granules or other dry pesticides to get wet.

As for power equipment, be sure to follow instruction manuals on care and servicing requirements. As a general rule, clean out grass clippings and other debris from underneath the lawnmower deck and clean all caked on mud from the tiller prior to winter storage. Also, sharpen lawnmower blades and check to see if the air filter needs to be changed at this time so they are ready to start mowing next spring. Be sure to turn off the equipment and disconnect the battery prior to any work done to avoid injury or other accidents. It is best not to store gasoline through the winter as it does not ignite easily making those machines work harder to use it.



The trees are beginning to turn beautiful fall colors, the leaves are beginning to fall, and scary movies are starting to come back into the theatres. This must mean Halloween is on its way.

The best part of Halloween, to me, is the pumpkins. I love the smell of a freshly carved pumpkin and the look of the carved pumpkins on my front steps lit up for Halloween night. Pumpkins can be used for a variety of things throughout October and November and they can be grown in your garden right in your own backyard.

Pumpkins are a member of the cucurbit family of garden plants, which includes cucumbers, squash, gourds, watermelons, cantaloupes, and zucchini. We can use them for eating, roasting the seeds, and carving for a Halloween decoration. We can also store them and use them for Thanksgiving decorations.

Flickr image courtesy of Robert S. Donovan per CC license
Flickr image courtesy of Robert S. Donovan per CC license

If you grow pumpkins in your garden, it is now time to begin harvesting them, if you haven’t already started. Pumpkins can be harvested when they are mature in color and when they have a firm rind, when your fingernail does not puncture the rind when lightly pushed into it. It is best to remove all pumpkins prior to or within 1-2 days after a killing frost. Cut pumpkins off of the rind leaving 3-4 inches of stem on the pumpkin to help them resist organisms that lead to decay.

After the pumpkins are harvested, they should be cured to last longer in storage. Leave pumpkins in an area where they receive 80-85 degree temperatures with 80-90 percent relative humidity for 10 days. Pumpkins will store if not cured, but they will store longer, up to 3 months, if they are cured first. After cured, they are best stored in areas of 50-55 degree temperatures.

It is best to use the correct pumpkin for the task, such as using a jack-o-lantern pumpkin for carving and a processing pumpkin for making pies. Both types of pumpkins can be used for either activity, but they work better if you get the right type for the task at hand. However, you do not want to carve a pumpkin and use it for Halloween and then use it for making a pumpkin pie. A carved pumpkin is a perishable item, therefore cannot be used for baking or cooking if it has been left out, after being carved into, for more than 2 hours.

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Many people are concerned about the length of time a carved pumpkin will last on their front porch. The problem is that there isn’t a good treatment to get them to hold that carving for very long. The best idea is to wait until no more than one week before Halloween until you carve your pumpkin. It is best for the carving if you can do it as close to Halloween as possible. Another thing that will help with longevity of a pumpkin for Halloween is to ensure that you purchase or pick a pumpkin in good condition. Avoid pumpkins with soft spots, signs of decay, short stems, and other signs to show that decay has already begun in the pumpkin. If decay is already present in the pumpkin before you carve into it, it will ruin your carving that much sooner. If the weather is warm outside, store the pumpkins in a cool area until Halloween to keep the carving intact. Hopefully all of these tips can help you grow a great pumpkin and have a great pumpkin for Halloween. Happy Halloween!

Plants for Shade

Fall is finally here. We can look forward to cooler weather, more things to do in the lawn and garden, and football. Fall is a great time to plant a tree. When planting that tree, remember to plant it correctly and utilize the correct plants and mulches underneath the tree.

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Trees are vital to life. They change Carbon Dioxide into Oxygen for us to breath in. They are also a great advantage to our landscapes. Trees give us shade to reduce our cooling bills, block winds to reduce our heating bills, increase the value of our homes, and make us happier. Research has proven that hospital patients with a view of greenspace heal quicker than those without a view of landscaping.

When planting a tree, choose one that is well suited for our environment and for your particular needs of the tree, i.e. shade, flower, fruit, height, etc. Remember to check for clearance as that tree will grow, read the label for mature height and check for power lines and other objects that would impede the natural growth. Dig the hole to be twice as large and only as deep as the rootball that your tree has. Remove all burlap, twine, and wires from the rootball and backfill around the rootball with the soil that was removed for the hole. Water the tree in well after planting and if staking is used, make sure that it is loose around the tree and it is only left on for one growing season.

Even though trees are great to have in our landscapes, they can cause problems to the turfgrass growing underneath. Turf is not the best option to grow under heavy shade of trees as it constantly faces pressure from weeds and diseases and thins out quickly and often. Shady areas of your landscape do not have to be the part of your landscape that you have to constantly deal with, it can be a place to enjoy shade tolerant plants and escape from the sun on hot days outdoors.

There are many great plant choices for shade. To determine what will grow best in your shade location, you need to know just how shady the site is. You need to know when and how long the area is in sun and when and how long it is in shade. It might be necessary to re-visit the site several times during the day to document when and where the sun is received as the day progresses.

Just knowing that the area is in shade during the day does not give us enough information to know which plants will grow best in the area. It is also important to know whether the sun a plant receives is in the morning or in the afternoon. The intensity of the sun in these locations would differ greatly. For example, plants such as azaleas, holly, and clematis grow healthier in morning sun than they would in afternoon sun, even if the total hours of sunlight were the same.

Great choices for plantings of shady areas include the following

Shade perennial Collage


  • Anemone
  • Astilbe
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Bergenia
  • Columbine
  • Foxglove
  • Coral Bells
  • Jack-in-the-pulpit
  • Helleborus
  • Toad Lily
  • Virginia Bluebells
  • Hostas
  • Hydrangea

shade groundcovers Collage

Ground Covers

  • Bugleweed
  • Sweet Woodruff
  • Vinca
  • Purple leaf wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Coloratus’)

Shade shrubs Collage


  • Alpine Currant
  • Chokeberry
  • Cotoneaster
  • Red twig, yellow twig, Cornelian Cherry, and Gray Dogwoods
  • Ninebark
  • Privet
  • Snowberry
  • Coralberry

As you can see, there are many different plants that can be planted underneath trees that will actually grow much better than turfgrass that will struggle and compete with weeds throughout the growing season. With any landscaping bed or area surrounding a tree, a nice layer of 2-3 inches of organic mulch, such as woodchips, will benefit the area by helping to conserve moisture, keep temperatures consistent, and combatting weeds.