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Monday, December 4, 2023
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Everything You Need to Know About Fall Gardening

CRL's gardening expert Larry Sombke catches you up on the basics.

Don’t hang up your garden gloves and call it a season just yet! Great things are still taking place in your garden this month.

October is the perfect month to plant chrysanthemums for fall color. Remember, the earlier you get your mums in the ground the better chance you have to winter them over so they will return again next year. But, even if they don’t, it is always worthwhile to plant mums in the ground or in planter boxes.

This month is also the time to plant your spring bulbs. We all know that the deer love to eat our tulips, but they seem to avoid eating any type of daffodil. They also do not eat hyacinths, which are vastly underutilized by gardeners in this area. Plant more hyacinths!

As a mater of fact, you can plant any perennial in October. So, if you see any good buys in the garden centers, or if you find it is time to dig and divide your perennials, this is my favorite time of year to do this.

It is also a good time to plant trees and shrubs. The big key to success for them is to make sure you water them enough. Water new trees and shrubs once a week by placing the hose nozzle at the base of the tree, set it on trickle and leave it for 30 minutes. This gives the tree roots time to soak up the moisture and send it throughout the tree leaving it fully hydrated.

Fall is also the best time for lawn care. I have a patch of lawn that has caused me fits for several years. It is under a large oak tree and I’ve had no luck turning it around. This is what I plan to do this year:

  • First, I’ll till the entire area to a depth of 2 to 3 inches and rake out all of the grass that is there. Then I’ll sprinkle on the starter fertilizer. I have not used fertilizer in the past, but this year I am bound for success so on it goes! Next, I will rake the entire area smooth. Raking helps the seeds make better contact with the soil and it makes for a nice flat lawn area. It also helps fertilizer make good contact with the soil.
  • My next step is to replant the grass with fescue grass seed since it seems to grow best in shady conditions. I will plant the seeds at a rate of 10 lbs per 2,500 square feet. It won’t hurt to use a little more seed, but you won’t want to use any less. On top of all this I will apply a thin coating of shredded straw which is easily available at your favorite lawn and garden center. Shredded straw is a bit more expensive than not shredded, but each bale covers a lot of ground and it makes a better cover. Straw helps hold in the moisture, keeping the seeds from drying out until they germinate in about two week’s time.
  • Lightly water the grass seeds every other day until they germinate. By the end of the month I should have enough grass growing that I will need to cut this area. No need to remove the straw. It will decompose over the winter and be mostly gone by spring.

Now, on a personal note, I have had the best year ever for roses. My David Austin roses have bloomed on and off all summer long. I have cut them for bouquets and they keep on coming. I also have a grandiflora ‘Elizabeth’ and a grandiflora ‘Liv Tyler’ that have bloomed and bloomed.

The difference this year than in those past is fertilizer. This year I spread good amounts of Espoma Rose Tone on them and even though this is a slow-release organic fertilizer, it has done wonders for them. Rose Tone does have a little bit of water-soluble nitrogen, which means the roses get some food right away, but most of it is slow-release nitrogen derived from manure, grain meals and more.

Larry Sombke is the author of Beautiful Easy Flower Gardens and Beautiful Easy Herbs. He is available for speaking engagements and garden consultations. Contact him at lsombke@beautifuleasygardens.com

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