Well, I’m pulling on my ‘aunty’ hat this morning, which by the way is hovering in the ‘absolutely gorgeous’ range here in upstate NY as only it can be in the period between “OMG, it’s hot” and “It’s 40 degrees F and pouring and I feel 100 years old,” which is when we know that winter is on its way.
1) It’s still warm enough up here (which means it’s still probably the same where most of you are or warmer) during the day to perform activities which require a certain level of temperature to get the sort of results that you want before winter. They are: painting outside stuff like trim, caulking windows and doors outside and inside, doing any cement work.
2) You still have a good amount of time to do things like putting in insulation in the attic or basement before the cold weather really sets in. Don’t forget to insulate any ductwork that has runs through crawl spaces or unheated basement areas. If you are working outside in crawl spaces under porches or decks, don’t forget to install screening (and get it at least 6″ below the surface of the dirt to discourage small animals taking up residence for the winter or at other times.
3) Gutters: Unless you want to have to get up to your roof more than once, do not bother cleaning out your gutters until the leaves on the trees in your area are all down on the ground. Sure, your leaves might be all down, but what about the maples next door and across the street. If they are not down, trust your dear old Aunty – they will ALL end up in your gutters when they do come down. Worth it to give it some wait.
4) It is also still warm enough to do things such as cleaning the inside and outsides of windows and the glass panes in doors. It will help with sun and heat gain in the winter and it just feels much nicer to look outside in the winter with clean windows.
5) If you have had a couple of small frosts, clean out the garden. If you have had any blight in your garden on tomatoes, peppers and potatoes, do NOT put those plants into the compost heap. Set those aside and burn them.
6) Sit down with a pad and paper and think about how your garden did this year and what did really really well and really really poorly. Then super-jiffy-quick, contact the places where you order seeds and order seeds to have on hand to get a jump on the spring. Check with Long Range Weather for next year to see what your early spring is looking like to see if you can get a jump on the weather. My good news is that we are supposedly not going to have a huge amount of snow in the spring so I should not have to shovel off the beds to get plastic down to warm up the soil. The bad news: It’s going to be cold. I’ll probably get one bed set up anyway, as a ‘justincase’. When your seeds come in, put them in a ziplock(tm) plastic bag or a jar in the fridge so that they will stay in good shape until you want to use them.
7) If you have not put in hardy spring bulbs yet (and you live in cold winter areas), since the ground has not frozen down, you can still plant them now. Remember: No matter how many bulbs you think you will need, add 30%. It never ceases to amaze me just how many bulbs it really does require to give you a decent show and if you run out of space (never happens), you can always just dig up a bit in an unused area and put them in there as a surprise in the spring (and who does not like surprises?). I always throw in a good handful of bonemeal to encourage good root growth before the cold really sets in. As a side note, there are perennials that you can still dig up, divide and move at this point in the season because the ground has not frozen – such as day lilies. You can also replace shrubs that did not do well this year at this point; just make sure that you give them plenty of water.
Well, I have to say that I’m a bit embarrassed to post this but – I got bitten by a tick yesterday, one of those nasty black-legged (Lyme disease/socalled ‘deer’) ticks. After posting and telling people, “long sleeves, long pants, spray the clothing if you have to and don’t forget…” stuff, I grabbed the gloves with holes in them to work out in the garden .. and… bam, found one of those buggers head-first in my elbow last night. Yes, I was wearing long sleeves and long pants. Yes, I’d followed all my own advice. But if you are hands first into the grass to harvest spaghetti squashes, using gloves that have holes all over them, well, then, Boy-Howdy, all that is missing is the ‘welcome aboard’ sign. So. Another reminder for us all:
First — although everyone thinks of spring as the danger zone on ticks, the fall is actually, in its own way, more dangerous because the bugs have only this point for that second meal before winter sets in, so they are out there, aggressively sniffing for your CO2 and coming to look for you.
Second — if you have gardening gloves that have seen better days, then get new ones. Shoot, you deserve them – and spray them with anti-tick spray as well as the pants you wear and the long-sleeved stuff you wear to work out there.
Third — keep garden and lawn areas cut down closely and try to keep out from under trees and bushes to work.
Fourth — Believe it or not, kids under the age of 5 are the fastest growing group of Lyme disease sufferers. Why? Because they are out running around on the lawns and gardens, soccer and other playing fields, and generally rolling around. They are also more likely to be in close contact with family pets which are outside. Also, it’s not necessarily easy to get the kids to submit to a ‘tick check’ when they come into the house. I’m thinking that the next big parenting movement has to be a nightly ‘tick check’ so that even if you miss the nymphs today on the kids (because they really are as small as the period you see at the end of this sentence), if you also look tomorrow (even if you and the kids are not outside playing or working) and they have one and have attached themselves, at least you will catch them within the first 24 hours and the chances that the recipient of the tick’s rather nasty attentions will have become infected are reduced.
Sixth — Get a tick removal device (get two and put one upstairs and one downstairs), know where it is and how to use it.
I ended up this morning (grrr) in the walk-in clinic at my doctor’s office with the doctor digging around in my elbow with a rather nasty instrument to remove the rest of the tick’s mouth parts, with red streaks running up my arm and I’m now on an Rx for antibiotics.