August 2018

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8 IMPORTANT FALL GARDENING TIPS

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fall gardening

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The gardening season is coming to a close, but it’s not entirely over yet. If you’re an avid green thumb, you can still squeeze a little more out of the growing season. Here are some tips on how to get the most out of the end of the year and how to get your garden set up for next year.

Plant Bulbs For Spring Flowers

Fall is the perfect time to plant bulbs like tulips, irises and crocuses, which need a winter freeze to start their growing process. By getting them in the ground now, you will ensure a colorful garden by early spring. For best results, plant bulbs once temperatures are in forties and fifties, but several weeks before the ground completely freezes.

Look for Discounts

Get a jump on next year’s garden by buying gardening equipment, seeds and plants at discounted prices. Many garden centers slash prices in the fall months to move unsold stock. Store seed packets in the freezer to keep them fresh, and keep discount seedlings going indoors until you can replant them next spring.

Repot Overgrown Plants

If a summer’s worth of growth has caused your plants to outgrow their homes, take some time this fall to replant them in larger containers. Dense or compacted soil, poor drainage, or roots creeping out of the bottom of a pot are sure signs that plants are root bound and struggling for more space.

Winter-Loving Plants

Depending on what region you live in, winter doesn’t have to be a dead season. Some hearty plants like kale, lettuce, broccoli and chard thrive in colder temperatures and can even tolerate the occasional frost. As long as snow stays off the ground and the temperatures don’t dip below freezing for too long, these plants will continue to grow, allowing you to garden into the winter months.

Plant Some Quick Growers

September isn’t too late to grow a final crop. Many vegetables can go from seed to table in as little as four to six weeks, giving you vegetables by late October or early November. Radishes can be grown in around 25 days, and some leafy greens like spinach take as little as 40 days to grow, so get in a final few vegetables before the frost sets in.

Plant Shrubs and Saplings

If you plan on adding trees and shrubs to your yard, fall is the best time to do it. By planting these plants in the fall, you’ll give their roots a chance to get established and avoid the withering effects of the summer sun. You’ll want to plant trees and shrubs in the ground a few weeks before the first frost, and if you live in an area with colder temperatures and heavy snows, wrap their  branches and leaves in burlap to protect them from their first winter.

Trim Perennials

Once your garden has gone to seed and perennial plants have run through their life cycle, it’s time to trim them back. Not only will it clean up an overgrown garden, but it will give the plants more energy next year, and limit potential garden problems like powdery mildew or insect infestations.

Fertilize the Lawn

While it might look like your lawn has shut down for the season, a little lawn care in the fall months will guarantee a lush, green garden next spring. Growth slows above the surface in autumn, but beneath the soil, your lawn is still hard at work establishing strong roots. Help it out this fall with a good mix of phosphorus-rich fertilizer, which helps strengthen roots.

When to plant mums?

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Every year in the fall, I suffer a bout of mum madness when garden centers and big boxes brim with chrysanthemums. They produce lovely fall colors, but when is the best time to plant mums?

When to Plant Mums

In autumn, mums and asters are everywhere, from six-inch pots to bushel baskets of orange, yellow, pink, and copper mounded behemoths.

Chrysanthemum

Planting Mums

All mum plants at garden centers are hardy, meaning that they are perennials in most climates. However, if these plants are put in the ground from August on, most won’t make it through the winter in areas where temperatures dip into the single digits. The reason is that mums planted late in the season are near or at the flowering stage, and they don’t grow roots to sustain plants through the winter. All the energy is put into blooming. That is why mums are best planted in the spring.

Gardeners in northern states where temperatures regularly dip below zero can lose even spring-planted hardy mums to winter. You can changes the odds in your favor by leaving the dead foliage on mums and asters instead of shearing for neatness. An Iowa State University study found that unpruned plants survive at much lower temperatures than those that were pruned. Be sure to add 4 to 6 inches of mulch after the ground has frozen for more protection.

Chrysanthemum

Potted mums from the florist or grocery store and exotics like huge football chrysanthemums, delicate spiders and spoons don’t survive cold winters either and are not good choices for landscapes. They are not bred to be hardy; it’s their form, color and size that are prized. Think of them as disposable decorations, along with the gourds and blue pumpkins you buy.

Overwintering a Mum

If winters are too cold for a favorite or you didn’t plant them early enough, overwinter chrysanthemums in the basement or a dark, cold closet. Pot up plants after the first frost if they are in the ground; include as much root system as possible. Water well and place in an area where it is totally dark and 32ºF to 50ºF. The plants will hibernate for the winter if you keep their roots damp. Check pots weekly. In the spring, acclimate plants to light gradually and set them out in the garden after the last killing frost.

With a bit of forethought and care, you can keep your mums blooming year after year!

With All This Rain, How Should I Be Mowing My Wet Lawn?

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lawn mowing

Everyone has heard the old saying, “April showers bring May flowers.”  This may be because spring is often the time of year when most of the country receives plenty of rain. Mowing can be a real challenge when it seems like it rains every weekend.

For those of you who use a maintenance service, your normal mowing day is often pushed back due to rain delays.  Since these companies are in the business to mow lawns, sometimes they have to “push it” to make sure that each client is serviced in a timely schedule. Still, they have to take precautions to avoid damaging lawns. For those of us who still mow our own lawns, the weekend is usually the only time we have sunlight and the spare time to mow. Here are some best practices for mowing wet grass.

Take Precaution

If you have to mow your lawn when it is wet follow these 2 precautionary steps.

  1. Make sure you have a sharp blade on your mower, it is always a good idea, but even more so when the grass is wet.
  2. Be sure to clean the underside of the deck as the grass will stick to the underside of the deck. Use extra caution when performing this task and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for accessing the underside of the deck.  If nothing else, be sure to disconnect the spark plug wire.

Potential Risks

If possible, wait for the grass to dry off before mowing. Mowing when the turf and soil are wet can lead to other problems:

  • If you are using a mulching mower or a bagger attachment, they will often get clogged with wet grass and not function properly.
  • Wet soil will compact easier than dry soil, which can lead to poor rooting of the turf.
  • If you use a riding mower, you could tear out sections of grass when:
    • making turns
    • mowing on sloped areas
    • Starting a new pass from a dead stop.

Length Matters

Ideally, you should set your mower so that you do not remove more than one-third of the leaf blade at any time.  However, that is not always possible in the spring when it seems to rain all of the time.

Lawn Mowing

As long as you are mowing high and not leaving behind large clipping clumps it won’t be detrimental, if you do cut more than one-third of the leaf blade off. When this happens on my own lawn, I will set the mower at the highest setting and mow in one direction and then I lower it one notch and mow in a perpendicular direction.

Summer will arrive soon enough and mowing will turn into a normal weekly event. There may even come a time later in the summer when it becomes dry and you may not even need to mow your lawn. Just remember to mow your lawn high and it is always a good idea to leave the clippings behind to recycle the nutrients back into your lawn.