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Tips for dealing with yard, fall weather

When I see a home and yard with a nice little greenhouse, I sometimes feel a twinge of envy thinking about how great it might be to extend the temperate season. Then I quickly get over it.

I enjoy, instead moving on and forgetting for a while about actively trying to grow plants, which is not the same as staying out of the yard and garden, much less as hibernating. I relish the unpredictable — though admittedly not always enjoyable — currents of our north Mississippi seasons. There is much to like about the shorter, cooler days and the amazing light created as the sun sinks lower in the south. And while we may not be able to “actively” grow many plants this time of year, there is a lot to do that can help plants thrive when spring does come around.

Mulching can protect and nurture plants now and later by insulating them from cold while holding moisture and air in the ground. When spring rolls around, mulch will beautify beds and help keep down weeds, assuming you don’t have lots of seeds in what you mulch with.

Use a mower to chop and collect fallen leaves and you can start making leaf mold mulch. Deposit the chopped leaves in a pile in an out-of-the-way corner, turn it occasionally, and pretty soon you’ll have some great mulch. Once applied it will begin to amend the soil and make it hold onto moisture and air by adding organic material. An informal wire fence enclosure will help concentrate the mass, but you also could just pile up the leaves. I use an old 6-foot by 6-foot pre-fab dog pen. It’s a little on the large and tall side, but it works. If you don’t have a supply of leaves but do have access to a pickup, leaf mold is also available at reasonable prices out of bins at many garden centers.

You might consider also tossing your vegetable waste plus eggs shells and coffee grounds in with your leaves (but no meat, cheese or bones). Especially if you loosely cut up items like banana peels, melon rinds and citrus peels first, you may be surprised by how quickly they break down and add to your mulch pile.

If you’d rather use the leaves to improve your lawn, they can be composted right back into the yard with a mulching mower. Beats blowing or raking.

Winter’s sparseness brings out the bones of a yard and garden. This clear view and cool working temperatures make it a great time to evaluate, repair and construct landscape features such as fences, walls and walkways. Hardscape additions such as these, though less visible in the warmer months, highlight beauty.

I may make a little cold frame to jumpstart some spring greens, but I am glad not to have the work and worry that goes with greenhouse ownership. It gives me more time to get out and enjoy the seasons.

The Lafayette County Master Gardeners is a service organization that provides assistance to the Lafayette County Extension Service. It can be reached at 662-234-4451 or Lcmga.org.