Garden Solutions — SEPTEMBER - The Missourian: Feature Stories

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Garden Solutions — SEPTEMBER

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Posted: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 1:39 pm, Wed Sep 4, 2013.

It’s fall already! Where did the summer go?

The weather has been quite different this year compared to last year’s drought, heat, etc. It was a nice change considering normal summer weather for our area.

If you like to garden, I am sure you have heard the phrase “Fall is for planting,” but do you know why we say this? Fall plantings have a wonderful success rate, especially here in the Midwest.

Given the temperate nature of our fall climate with mild temperatures and generally adequate rainfall, the conditions are excellent for establishing new plantings successfully. The result is plants that grow faster and bigger, and they bloom better.

The plant’s root systems actually get a second growing season before they have to manage our (normally) hot, dry summers. Plant roots continue to develop long after the leaves drop off in the fall. Roots will continue to grow until freezing of the ground stops them.

Now is also the time to add color into the fall landscape with the cheerful faces of winter hardy pansies and violas, gorgeous garden mums, and unique varieties of ornamental cabbage and kale.

Transform the entrance to your home into a welcoming, colorful fall display with potted mums, cabbage and kale, cornstalks, ornamental grasses, an assortment of pumpkins and squash, and maybe a scarecrow set on a hay bale.

Don’t forget spring flowering bulbs. Now is the time to get the best selection of varieties and colors and you have until the middle of December to get them planted. Fall bulb planting varieties include tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and crocus to name a few. Planting depths vary but average 4 to 6 inches deep.

It is really exciting to watch these colorful plants bloom after a long winter.

September is perfect lawn renovation month. Even though this year’s cooler, wetter summer was not as harsh on our lawns, now is the time to consider renovation and aeration.

Aeration is one of the most important cultural practices available for your lawn. Aeration helps control thatch, improves the soil structure, helps create growth pockets for new roots, and opens the way for water, air and fertilizer to get to the roots of your lawn.

Aeration is the process of removing thousands of small cores of soil 1 to 3 inches in length from your lawn. These cores “melt” back into the lawn after a few rainfalls, mixing with whatever thatch exists on top of your lawn.

The holes in the soil created by aeration make perfect pockets for catching fertilizer and water. Turf roots naturally grow toward these holes and thicken in the process. Aeration holes also relieve pressure from compacted soils, letting more oxygen and water move into the root zone of your lawn.

Thatch on your lawn’s soil works like a thatched roof. It sheds water and prevents fertilizers and insect controls from moving freely into the soil. Thatch that has become too thick can require a major lawn renovation. Aeration helps thatch to break down naturally by mixing the soil cores into the thatch and speeding up the decomposition of the thatch.

Once aeration is accomplished, it is a perfect time to over seed your lawn. Fescue grass seed blends are most common here in the Mid-Missouri area. Fescue blends take our summer heat and drought conditions better than bluegrass seed mixes, although bluegrass types will work good in irrigated areas.

Fescue lawn mixes tolerate heat, drought and traffic from kids and pets better. Over seed fescue lawns at a rate of 2 to 3 pounds per 1,000 square feet if you have a 50 percent stand of grass. Over seed bluegrass lawns at a rate of 1 to 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet if you have a 50 percent stand of grass. After seeding, top-dress with a starter type fertilizer, and you are ready to enjoy a beautiful green lawn for fall and spring!

The fall of the year is perfect timing for tree planting. You should give some thought to choosing varieties for that special spot.

Sun exposure, soil moisture, and the available growth space, needs to be assessed to help with tree selection. The Washington Urban Forestry Council has developed a “Tree List” that can be found on the city of Washington’s website at http://ci.washington.mo.us/. Look under City Departments on the side menu, then Parks & Recreation and click on Urban Forestry Council then the plant list.

The list is broken down into different categories that make choosing a tree variety very easy. So, plant a tree this fall. You will help the environment, lower your electric bills, and enhance your property value.

Here are a few other quick tips for this month.

Begin to adapt your houseplants for winter indoors.

Check for pests and treat if necessary.

Houseplants should be brought indoors at least one month before the heat is normally turned on.

Sow fall vegetable crops through mid-September.

Harvest herbs now to freeze or dry for winter.

See you in the Garden …

This monthly column is written by Sandi Hillermann McDonald, Hillermann Nursery & Florist, Washington.

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