Crisp, cool mornings. Perfect “sleeping weather” at night. Plant catalogs and landscaping “How-To” books piling up on the coffee table. It must be Fall! Fall and early winter are my favorite times of the year for so many reasons, not just the wonderful weather. This is that special time of year when we prepare and plant now, anticipating a wonderful spring and summer a few months in the future. Let’s take a look at four areas pertinent to the season: pruning, weed control, budgeting and tree selection.
The end of summer and the beginning of fall is a good time for some gentle pruning. But note the emphasis on the word “gentle”. Careful shaping of trees and shrubs can be tackled right now, but this isn’t the time to do an “Edward Scissorhands” with those pruning shears! It is better to do major pruning just before spring while the plants are still dormant.
A friend of mine told me that he doesn’t believe in getting rid of weeds. “If I killed off all weeds and broadleaf,” he said, “I wouldn’t have anything green at all to look at!” If you said “Amen” then maybe you can skip this section, but for the rest of us, this is a good time to apply a systemic weed killer such as Roundup, the chemical name for which is glyphosate. Actively-growing weeds absorb the glyphosate through their leaves and suck it down to the roots. It can take a couple of weeks to totally kill the weeds, as the absorption process is relatively slow. Avoid the temptation to cut back weeds before the process is complete or you’ll prevent the glyphosate from reaching the roots.
Products like Roundup work best when the ambient temperature is still fairly warm, so don’t wait too long to attack your weeds. Check the weather forecast, too, and avoid applying just before a rain shower which would wash it off.
If you prefer not to use chemicals, you can use a small gardening fork or trowel and carefully remove all the offending weeds by hand. You can also use a more organic approach by using vinegar. This will take longer and probably a few applications could be needed to achieve similar results.
It’s a good idea to devote some thought to how much you can comfortably invest in your landscape this season. And yes, it is an investment that will pay off next spring and probably for years ahead. Do some comparison shopping to find a good balance between price and quality. Your computer is the perfect tool as it allows you to go “window shopping” without leaving home!
I suggest you get a pad and start writing down plants and prices as you come across them during your search. Be sure to make a note of the web address, too, so that you can easily return to that resource when you get around to ordering. As you build your wish list, put asterisks by the “must haves” and gradually delete those plants that don’t quite make the cut. If all your “must haves” fit within your budget, you know you can order without stretching the dollars too thinly!
As you make your fall selections, don’t forget about trees! Truly, trees are an investment in so many ways. They can shade your home from summer sun and protect it from icy winter winds. They reduce soil erosion and help to lower your utility bills. When it comes time to move, carefully chosen trees create “curb appeal” and increase the value of your property.
Summer blooming trees like crape myrtles and vitex respond well to a deadhead-type pruning. Removing spent flowers and seed heads often generates new growth and another round of blossoms. If you’d like some of my personal recommendations for trees you might want to select, send me an e-mail with a few basic details about your location, etc, and I’ll get back to you with some ideas.
Other Fall Tips
Despite the temperatures, now is an ideal time to plant many flowers. It is the absolute perfect time for planting cool season plants like pansies, violas, kale, cabbage and snapdragons for winter. These annuals will last you until next spring! The fall is when perennials such as irises, daylilies, amaryllises, shasta daisies and purple coneflowers should be dug and divided. The general rule of thumb is to divide plants in the season opposite their bloom. Dividing serves at least two purposes: it will provide you with more plants to enjoy and it will increase the plants’ blooming ability. Most of all, enjoy this beautiful season! We have so much to be Thankful for!!