Seems there are just a million things one could be doing right now as the temperatures cool and we start to see and feel the changes in the air around us – and consequently – our yards, our gardens, and our flower beds.
That being said, I thought it might be a perfectly appropriate time to do a quick blog post lining out just a few quick tips to help get you thinking about your fall gardening chores.
This is a great time of year to divide and replant daylilies and iris, increasing the colorful impact they bring to the garden. For iris, pry up the clump with a garden fork, cut the foliage to 6 inches, and pull apart the rhizomes. Replant with the rhizomes just barely below the soil surface. For daylilies, dig the clumps and either cut the clump apart with a knife or soak the roots in water so that the individual growths can be separated easily. Trim the foliage back to 4 inches and replant immediately so the roots do not dry out.
Zinnias, petunias, marigolds, and other warm season annuals can be planted now for a colorful display all the way to the first hard frost. In fact, in the cooler days of fall their color seems even more vibrant!
Seeing crocus, iris, snowdrops, and other flowers emerge through snow or frozen ground is among the best of garden pleasures, while the brilliant colors of daffodils and tulips, to say nothing of the sweet scent of hyacinths, only heightens the joys of spring. Now is the time to make that happen. You might still be able to mail-order spring-blooming bulbs, and they are certainly available locally at garden centers. Get them now, then start planting the earliest blooming ones toward the end of September. Be sure to include some of the more unusual ones, like fritillaries, camassia, and the various alliums.
Late summer and early fall is the ideal time for repairing areas of the lawn that has become thin or weedy. One option is to lay turf grass sod. First, remove rocks, weeds, and roots, then till lightly to loosen the soil. Work in some fertilizer and rake the area smooth. Lay the sod and water well. For seeding an area, prepare the soil as for laying sod, then, either by hand or with a mechanical seeder, broadcast the seed. Be sure to choose a seed blend that is best for your site. Lightly mulch with straw and keep evenly moist until seeds germinate. Another way to improve the lawn is to fertilize now. The video here can give you additional tips on how to repair areas of your yard for seeding as well.
Fall is also a great time to core aerate your lawn. Coring removes cores of soil and grass, opening holes for vigorous root growth on compacted or thatch-ridden turf. Make sure the aerator your lawn care professional uses takes out cores rather than merely punching holes, which can just compact soil further. Cores will decompose on the lawn in a couple of weeks.
If you overseed your warm-season Bermuda lawn with cool-season ryegrass in October, stop fertilizing four to six weeks in advance. If you do not overseed, continue regular monthly feeding in September and October.
Prepare garden beds for cool-season planting. Amend soil with 4 to 6 inches of compost or other organic matter. Plentiful organic matter attracts earthworms that help build better soil. Add a source of nitrogen and phosphorus. Organic nitrogen choices include alfalfa meal, blood meal, coffee grounds, fish emulsion, and guano. Organic phosphorus sources are bone meal and rock phosphate. Dig in to a depth of 12 to 18 inches and rake smooth.
Seed saving isn’t hard but it pays to be selective. For example, if you have a number of like tomato plants, use colored twist ties or bits of yarn to mark the ones that are the healthiest and the tastiest, as well as those that produce the earliest and heaviest crops. Then, during the peak harvest, select and save seeds from the plants that sport the most markers.
Remember how crazy it can get in the garden in spring? Get a jump-start by preparing now for any new beds you have planned. Lay out the new area, till in several inches of compost, and apply 4 to 6 inches of an organic mulch. If desired, add some extra protection against weed growth by laying layers of cardboard beneath the mulch. Now, when you see all those wonderful plants at garden centers next spring, you’ll be ready to plant!
Just a few quick, small things to help get you thinking and heading in the right direction. What are you doing to wind down and transition from summer to fall and into the winter months with your lawns, gardens, and flower beds? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!