Fall Gardening Must-Dos
Late August through Early October is a perfect time to get things done in your garden. The summer flowers have passed and the conditions are just right for refreshing your landscape and getting a head-start on spring. Cooler air and ample rain help to stimulate a period of rapid root growth, making fall a perfect time plant new trees, shrubs and cold tolerant annuals. Here are some tips on what you can do right now to dress up your yard and get a jump on spring.
Clean your garden up
Many diseases can overwinter in the stems of perennials and the fallen leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs. To prevent your plants from becoming re-infected in the spring it is important to rake up leaves and cut down any diseased stems of perennials.
Winter survival of woody plants depends largely on the moisture of the soil in the fall. Water needs to be applied to ensure that woody plants have taken up sufficient amounts of moisture to prevent stress related to desiccation, that is, plant water loss in winter. When soils are dry in late summer and early fall, water should be applied once per week or so, depending upon soil moisture levels, through October.
It is widely assumed that fertilizing in the fall will promote late season growth that is prone to winter damage. However, recent studies have shown that the nutrients that support spring growth in woody plants are those that were taken up in the previous year and stored over winter.
Fall is a great time to apply mulch to garden beds. By adding a 3-4 inch layer of mulch will buffer plants’ root systems from fluctuating temperatures and moisture levels throughout the fall and winter. Additionally it will help suppress weed growth.
Fall is the best time to prune deciduous trees and shrubs because after the leaves have fallen it’s much easier to see which limbs need pruning and how it will affect the overall shape of the plant. Another reason to prune in the fall is that insects and diseases are far less prevalent this time of year.
Planting trees and shrubs in the fall gives them a chance to start spreading some roots in the cool moist soil. The cooler soil and air temperatures along with the increased rainfall also take away much of the shock that plants incur during the planting process
- Cut back, and remove old flower stalks from flowering annuals and re-fertilize in order to obtain one more color before cool weather.
- Prepare beds for the planting of cool season annuals next month. Some plants to establish for fall, winter and early spring include: pansy, petunia, snapdragon, larkspur, stocks, statice, bachelor button, calendula, cleome, alyssum, marigolds, verbena, dianthus and candytuft.
- Divide perennials such as Shasta daisy, canna, amaryllis, daylily, coneflower, violets, and ornamental grasses like mondo grass and liriope.
- Cut strong stems of roses to encourage new growth for final flush of the year.
- Find a local source, or order wildflower seeds for fall planting. Be certain to choose a mixture that is specifically for the south. Prepare the area, but wait until November to seed them.
Trees and Shrubs
- Last month to fertilize woody ornamental shrubs in the landscape.
- No pruning unless it’s absolutely necessary. This is probably the worst time of year to do major pruning of shrubs. Late summer/fall pruning can stimulate tender growth that might be damaged by low winter temperatures.
- Plant woody ornamentals, including trees, shrubs, vines and ground covers during the fall and early winter. They respond well to planting late in the year because our relatively mild winters allow for root growth. Fall planted shrubs, for example, are well on their way toward having their roots established before hot weather arrives next spring.
- Select crape myrtles while in bloom.
- Examine the small twigs on the outer canopy of hardwood trees for black twig borer damage. Remove and destroy infested twigs.
- Pine needles fall during September and October. Rake and use them in the vegetable and flower garden as well as in shrub beds. Pine needles make excellent mulch. Apply generously to obtain a depth of 2 to 3 inches on the soil surface after they have settled.
- Mature palms should receive an application of granular fertilizer. Use a special palm fertilizer that has an 8-2-12 +4Mg (magnesium) with micronutrients formulation. Apply one pound of fertilizer per 100 sqft of canopy area or landscape area.
- Prepare the soil now, allowing about 3 weeks between the incorporation of amendments and planting. In September sow seeds of beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, collards, endive, escarole, kale, kohlrabi, leek, lettuce, mustard, onions, parsley, radishes and turnips.
- Last planting of beans (bush, lima and pole), cucumbers and summer squash
- Clean out the spring/summer vegetable garden once plants have stopped producing. Remove any that are known to have been diseased or heavily insect infested during the previous season.
- Check the lawn weekly and watch for lawn pests. Check for chinch bugs and sod webworms in St. Augustine, spittlebugs and sod webworms in centipedegrass and mole cricket damage in all grasses
- Last month to fertilize bahiagrass, bermudagrass, St. Augustinegrass and Zoysiagrass using a complete fertilizer applied at 1.0 lb nitrogen per 1000 square feet containing 50% soluble and 50% slow-release nitrogen.