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Troup extension agent: Winter chores

As fall ends, we need to start thinking about winter chores. Getting some of this stuff out of the way now will improve life this spring. The warm fall weather will not last forever.

Most of us are done watering. If you want to preserve your hoses and watering devices, now is a good time to disconnect them from the water source and drain them. Leaving water in the hose or wands may lead to freezing. This leads to expanding and cracking your watering tools. Store in a clean, dry area.

If you have irrigation, drain the lines as well. Replace leaky lines and “O” rings now when you can remember where they are. Next spring your memory maybe a little fuzzy. If you don’t drain those mechanical sprinklers, frozen water will also damage internal parts.

Many homeowners own pressure washers. Electric and gas powered units both contain pumps that need to be drained and winterized. For about $10, you can purchase a pump/antifreeze lubricant that will displace any water left in the pump. This will assure another season for the unit. Replacing a pump usually costs more than replacing the entire unit.

The homeowner has two options when winterizing gasoline powered equipment. Option one is draining the gas out of the tank and running the carburetor dry. Option two is adding the required fuel stabilizer to the gasoline in the tank. This can protect the fuel system up to two years. Gasoline is unstable over time and can cause lacquer build up in the fuel system. This will clog up the carburetor. Fuel stabilizer can also preserve unused fuel in a storage tank as well.

Changing the oil in your four-cycle equipment is also recommended. Why leave old oil to sit all winter long in the sump of the engine? Start spring without a worry about changing the oil. If equipped, also change the oil filter. Engine manufacturers assume that homeowners will never change the oil. Surprise them and make your equipment last years longer.

When temperatures fall below 85 degrees you can start pruning hardwood trees. Get rid of all the “face slappers.” Remember to prune not flush to the tree but at the branch collar. It promotes quicker healing. If you have a question about this, email me for a pruning guide.

Raking or blowing those leaves into piles for composting can also be achieved. This will add many nutrients and organic matter back to the soil that was depleted by farming. UGA has plenty of information on how to compost as well. Rake up and dispose of the fallen fruit and leaves beneath your fruit trees. This prevents disease from overwintering and infecting next years’ crop.

If you haven’t soil tested, now is the time. Raising the pH of our acid soils by liming takes several months for the lime to activate. A soil test will pinpoint the nutrients that your soils need and will save money by only applying the necessary nutrients. Plant a legume cover crop will also add nitrogen and organic matter to the soil in your vegetable gardens.

Some of the don’ts during the fall are fertilizing ornamentals or warm season grasses such as centipede, bermudagrass, zoysia grass or St. Augustine. This stimulates new growth, which can be damaged by cold temperatures. Don’t prune ornamentals until late winter or early spring. Pruning will also stimulate growth. You can remove the dead wood out of plants without hurting them. Tall fescue lawns, a cool season grass, can be fertilized during the fall.

Applying pre-emergent herbicides to control winter annuals can be done now. Do not use a “weed and feed” unless you have a fescue lawn.

Extension Calendar

Jefferson Street Market begins Saturday mornings from 9:30 a.m. to noon at 625 Jefferson St., just off of Dallis Street.

If you have any questions or concerns, stop by or call the office.

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By Brian Maddy

Contributing columnist

Brian Maddy is the ANR Agent for Troup County Extension. The Troup County Extension office is located at 114 Church St. in LaGrange and may be reached at 706-883-1675, Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–noon and 15 p.m.