by Kaye Clay, Guernsey County Master Gardener
Fall is a great time for planting trees and shrubs. Fall planting eliminates the worry of summer heat and drought. Any time the soil temperature is above 40 degrees roots will grow. September planting of trees and shrubs allow the plant’s roots to get established before the harshness of winter. Do not fertilize fall-planted stock. You still need to water the plants well, allowing them to recover from transplant shock and establish themselves before winter. A deep watering once a week is recommended. Mulching of the plant will help retain water and protect it from the freezing and thawing cycle. If not established before winter comes, plants have a tendency to pop out of the ground. This is caused by the constant freezing and thawing of the ground and you will lose the plant.
Basic fall maintenance of established gardens should include the following:
- Knowing your plants and their habits will help you in making decisions of what to cut and when.
- Remove seed heads from plants that you do not want more of next year. This is especially true of invasive-type plants, such as acanthus.
- After a hard, killing frost, the garden can be cleaned out. Cut off annual plants at the soil surface, leaving their roots in the soil to add organic matter. Perennial tops can be cut off above the crown. Leaving a short piece of stem may help you locate the plants the following spring. Plants that have a tendency to emerge late in spring should be marked with a tag, in order to avoid destroying them when working the garden early the following spring.
- Do not prune or cut back spring-blooming plants such as forsythia and lilac. They have already formed their flower buds for next spring.
- Burn all diseased leaves and plants to prevent spreading disease. Do not compost diseased refuse. Fall clean-up is the best way to avoid recurring diseases.
- Stake and mulch roses and tender plants to protect them from winter injury. An easy way is to place a tomato cage over the plant and fill it with organic matter. Mums are an example that will benefit from this procedure.
- Plant bulbs for spring-blooming flowers.
- Wind will dehydrate plants. If your beds receive lots of wind, re-hydrate plants with a weekly watering.
- Rake leaves and add them to the compost pile.
- Keep cutting the lawn until the grass stops growing. Now is a great time to control winter annual weeds, take a hoe to those dandelion, deadnettle, etc.
- If you are planning a new flower bed for spring, fall is an ideal time to get started. Lay down a layer of organic matter (or use 7 pages of non-colored newspaper) and cover with mulch. In the spring the bed will be ready for planting.
For more information contact your local Extension Office or a Master Gardener.