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What's bugging you? Nov. 22, 2017

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It looks like we are finally heading into early winter with a drop of daily high temperatures. But there is still time to finish up your fall chores, especially since we have been moving through a warmer and drier November.

First there are all those leaves! They were beautiful when they turned color while still on our trees. But now there are some decisions to be made. You can do a lot of work, blowing and raking up all those leaves. Or you can leave them in place. If you decide to collect and bag those leaves, consider adding them to your compost pile or gifting them to someone who can use them.

I've been raking and blowing leaves for as long as I can remember, trying to get those pesky fallen objects off my grass and out from underneath my trees. Well guess what. Leaves are nature's free plant food. All that work we were doing was just starving the plants of nutrition. Who knew!

Turns out a better way to manage leaves is to do nothing at all. Unless you want to see your lawn all winter long. In that case, you can just mow the leaves right into the grass, or blow them into the mulch beds and mow them there too.

With all that fresh leaf nutrition, both your grass and your trees should be greener next year. So this year, leave the leaves. And now that you have all that freed up time, feel free to go out and plant a tree, or maybe even some spring-flowering bulbs. It isn't too late!

While September and October can be the best times to plant spring-flowering bulbs, November can work too. After finishing your fall chores you can take some time to admire your work with a refreshing holiday beverage of your choice. And then, before you know it, winter will be giving way to spring and your gardens will wake up with pleasing bursts of spring blooming bulbs.

Fall is also a great time to plant trees and shrubs. Our winters here are not too severe but our summers can be extremely hot. Planting in the spring will expose our newly planted trees to the stresses of hot summer temperatures, requiring frequent watering. Winter planting allows trees and shrubs to grow roots so they can be ready to shine when spring arrives. Less watering is needed.

Don't forget to give your trees, especially evergreens, at least one drink this winter. If you don't you may have some dieback. I hate getting calls in the spring from folks wanting to know why their spruce has brown needles or what I call winter desiccation.

And while winter is a good time to prune, you have several months to accomplish this. I also know that many of you do a major garden cleanup at this time of the year. I recommend putting off most of this until spring cleanup time. Besides, many plants can provide winter interest if left as is. So chill out now and enjoy the holiday season.

Jim Leser retired to Cedaredge in 2007 after a career with Texas A&M University Extension in entomology. He is a member of the Cedaredge Tree Board and a Colorado Master Gardener.

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