WE HAVE LABOR Day behind us. To me the countdown towards fall begins now. The stores are beginning to bring in the fall stuff. The coffee places are offering pumpkin spice flavors and there is talk about the almighty football season. I like to think that if we try hard enough, we can wish in a couple coolish days, I consider anything less than 88 degrees to be coolish. Even if the coolish temps come from the aftermath of a hurricane it still counts. Sometimes my wishing and praying doesn’t seem to be doing any good at all so my brave move is to go ahead and bring in the pumpkins and begin displaying the fall set ups with mums or anything else that says fall.
Mid-September through October is a notoriously dry season. I think more plants are lost during this period than any other time of year. We get lulled into the fall season by all the pumpkin pie smells and decorations. Football games take us away from our homes more than normal. We just sort of walk off from our yards as if its fall in Vermont.
What we actually need to be doing to get our yards prepared for real fall is upping our water game, keeping a sharp eye out for pests that are congregating and multiplying like crazy in order to survive winter and dead heading any plants that have gone to seed production. Of course if you want to collect seeds from any of your favorite annuals or perennials it’s time to make sure that those seeds that you are trying to collect are allowed to fully mature on the mother plant. You will collect those seeds when its time bag them, label them and keep them somewhere that stays dry with no extreme temperatures. The crisper in the fridge works great for that if the rest of the family doesn’t mind too much.
As far as watering properly this time of year it is time to send those roots down as deeply as you can. The way to achieve deep roots is to water deeply, it’ll take a little extra work but it’s well worth it if we have another hard winter. To water deeply you should water less frequently for longer intervals of time, way longer. If you are ever home for a whole day the easiest way to water your trees deeply is to put a hose near the base of the tree and turn the water on to just a dribble, set your timer for one or two hours and walk away. Keep moving that hose around your yard all day long, your trees will thank you for sending water down there where it really counts. If you can’t be home for a whole day then get a head lamp and do it at night, its way cooler and wandering around in your yard in the dark allows you to see your yard from a whole new perspective plus its bound to get the neighbors talking.
I like to winterize my plants with a natural, slow release fertilizer with a low nitrogen number because nitrogen pushes more foiling growth which is what we don’t want this time of year as the plants are ready for a break and that new growth will be tender if we get another early freeze in November.
When searching around for pests you will have to stop at a few plants and really look hard on the tops and the bottoms of the leaves. You will be looking for a yellowish, mottled appearance. That mottling is from hundreds of piercings from some kind of insect or mite. Keep in mind that it is important to find out if it is an insect or a mite because they are not controlled in the same way. Insects have 6 legs. Mites have 8 legs and have very different life cycles and life cycles are what we are trying to disrupt with pesticides. If you are having a hard time telling the difference between the two take a good sample to your favorite garden center to get some help so we can show you how to best get the population down to an acceptable level.
I BELIEVE IT’S PAST time for the final pruning on your camellias, sasanquas, azaleas and other spring blooming plants. Pruning those plants this late in the season will cause far fewer blooms in the spring. If you have some spring blooming plants that haven’t performed well in the last couple springs the cause of this may be a phosphorous deficiency. The answer to that issue is to make sure they are getting the proper amount of sunlight and get an inexpensive product called triple super phosphate. Apply that product this time of year because it takes that long to change the phosphate uptake of the plant. I have caused many old azaleas that had stopped blooming to begin blooming again. Triple super phosphate works great on crepe myrtles too.
Fall is the best time to plant bushes and trees in your yard because waiting until we get that little cool down will make it easier on you and the plant. The plant will go first into a season that is more apt to offer some sweet rain and cooler temps followed by a winter when you can concentrate on getting those roots strong. The next season is also easy on the plant and you, springtime, when the now established plants can really turn it on. By the time summer rolls around the plants will be pretty well hardened off.
Our grower will offer all the basic winter annuals, pansies, violas, snapdragons, dusty miller and more. I think people tend to forget to plant some winter hardy spring bloomers that are really my favorite part of winter gardening. Foxglove, hollyhock, delphinium, snapdragons, Icelandic poppies and so many more will get huge during the winter months then start blooming when the days begin to get longer but there’s still a chill in the air, when it’s still too early to plant spring annuals.
Lots of people see these plants blooming around town in March and April and want some in their yard. You’ll find them around at the garden centers but they really aren’t a good buy because they are at their peak when you buy them that late in the season. Their next move is downhill when the summer heat arrives. Those plants are good for a spectacular show for about 6 weeks when planted in the fall.
Now is the time to begin preparing your soil for all of this activity by either creating new beds or I’m improving your existing beds with some good, composted soils. My favorite ones are Fox Farm soils, Mushroom compost, Black Kow compost and anything else that will break up that clay soil.
Fall is when we like to replace or refresh our mulch. There are many types of mulches to use and it is up to you as far as the look that you like to see. All mulches are for the same purpose, to keep the moisture in and the weeds out. Mulches can really change the look of your house so look at your options carefully. You could try pine bark this season and if you don’t like it you could go to pine straw the next season. You could even try a different colored pine bark that has been died black or red, see what turns you on.
It looks like it’s a good time to get your house and garden to a place that you are comfortable spending time in until we can all get on the same page to get this mess under control. Looks like we are in this deal for a few more years so really make yourself at home!