Fall is the perfect time to garden.
Fall brings cooler air temperatures, continued warm soil temperatures, and more consistent rainfall — the perfect time to plant and transplant just about anything (especially trees).
Tree planting is the most effective when it is done in the fall. This is because the tree roots continue to grow until the ground freezes and will grow again in spring allowing extra time for the tree to become established before our brutal summer weather hits.
Trees should be fertilized toward the end of October, and tree fertilizer spikes placed at their drip line are a perfect choice. Use one tree spike per one inch of tree trunk diameter. This will make for beautiful foliage next spring! (The diameter of the tree is a measurement found at a cross section of the trunk 12 inches above the ground.)
Fall is also the best time to divide and transplant perennial clumps. Any spring or summer blooming perennial plants can be divided now. Make sure you prepare the area where the plants will be transplanted using some type of organic material, like cotton burr compost.
Use compost at the rate of 1/3 compost to 2/3’s native soil for your garden projects.
Cut back spent flower heads and foliage as it starts to die back for its winter dormant period. Leave ornamental grasses alone until early spring as their dried foliage will add a wispy, interesting texture to your winter landscape.
Lawn seeding should be finished by Oct. 15 to ensure germination and plant growth yet this fall. Choose a seed mix for your specific lawn area: sun, shade, sun/shade, play, drought, etc.
Fescue mixtures are best for durability for our area. Fescue blends should be spread at a rate of five pounds per 1,000 square feet on bare ground, and two to three pounds per 1,000 square feet on a lawn with a 50 percent stand of grass.
Be sure to aerate and renovate your yard when over seeding for the best results. Without these steps, it is like throwing grass seed onto concrete because our soil has such high clay content and compacts so easily.
It’s time to plan and plant for next spring’s bulb show! Tuck bulbs into your perennial border, mingle them amongst your ground cover, naturalize them around trees, or they can stand by themselves in beds and planters. Plant for a succession of blooms; start with the “early birds” which include crocus and snowdrops, follow with an abundance of narcissus and hyacinth, and finish with a flourish of tulips and irises.
When planting, fertilize with Dutch Bulb Food or Bone Meal and make planting easier by using bulb planters or bulb augers that fit your drill. For holiday blooms, buy paperwhite and amaryllis bulbs now to force blooms inside during the month of December.
Don’t take your hummingbird feeders down before mid-October. The bird’s biological clock tells them when to migrate south. They are not dependent on us removing the feeders at a certain time!
Hummingbirds who have started their migration from up north will appreciate finding your feeders along the way.
With winter coming, remember that gardening is not just confined to outside. Start an herb garden on a sunny windowsill and enjoy freshly snipped herbs or salad greens all winter long.
Bring color and texture to any room with blooming and foliage houseplants and cacti. Bring tropical plants that have spent the summer outside indoors before the night temperatures drop below 45F.
Be sure to check carefully for signs of pests or diseases first, and treat as needed.
In October, you also need to prepare your water gardens for winter. Cut back dying foliage of hardy water plants and sink pots to the bottom of the pond. Cover your pond with a mesh netting to protect it from the buildup of falling leaves.
In the winter, install a de-icer or pond heater to keep a hole in the ice for the fish to breathe. This will let the ammonia gases escape the pond. Stop feeding your fish when the water temperature reaches 55F.
Evaluate your summer plantings of annuals and vegetables while they are still fresh in your mind.
What varieties worked well and what did not? Which varieties gave you the best flower display or yield?
Remember that spring is just around the corner! So begin planning next spring’s flower and vegetable gardens now.
This monthly column is written by Sandi Hillermann McDonald of Hillermann Nursery & Florist.