My favorite time of the year…Fall… it is just a kind and gentle time of the year when everything is winding down; the temperatures are nice, warm in the day and cool in the night. There is still green in the yards and harvest is at its best. The air has a crisp feel, a relief from the summer heat, but still not cold and a night time chill is welcomed with a light jacket. All the summer frenzy has been replaced by school frenzy or the upcoming football frenzy. Fall is like being in the eye of a hurricane; the quite time before the storm of holiday madness and the drawing inside to be away from cold or the craziness of waiting for snow, seeing snow, going to snow and playing in snow.
This is the absolute best time to plant lawn, perennials, shrubs and trees. It is “THE” time to divide perennials that have gotten too big and out of hand. Cut them up and transplant them to other areas in your garden and give away parts to friends. Harvest seeds from favorite plants like sunflower, hollyhocks and calendula and save them for planting in spring or sow them freely in your garden now; some will come up in spring, naturally.
This is not a time to fertilize, as fertilization encourages new growth and plants need to die down naturally now. Water is always a nice thing, but you can probably cut watering by a quarter in September. If your lawn service wants to fertilize now, it is probably not necessary. And if you think you should, save time and neglect it.
I wrote about garden sales in my last article…..I saw some really good sales happening over Labor Day Weekend; 40 to 50% off. Continue to check the garden centers for sales. They will have sales up until November. If you know what plants you want whether it be a trees, shrubs or perennials you can now buy them now at a discount. This is the best time to plant. Do some homework; you cannot pick out a plant in bloom now (for the most part) as most perennials and most shrubs will be beyond their prime. Study gardening books, or the internet. The big stand-out shrub now is “Rose of Sharon” or “Hardy Hibiscus”- in the photo. These are the shrubs that are showing off their beautiful blooms now, in shades of pink, purple, white and light pink or white with a magenta center. These are quite nondescript plants before they bloom. They can grow large, 15- 20 feet high, but can be cut back severely to keep them more compact.. They should be cut back in the late Fall after they bloom or early Spring. If you cut them in the summer, they will not flower.
Go to a qualified nursery, not a “big box store” if you are not sure about any plant and ask them questions. It might cost you a bit more money to buy a plant there, but their guidance should be worth the price.
The upcoming Fall will surprise everyone with leaves of yellow, gold, orange and red. Shrubs and vines that were ” just there” will demand attention with their colors. Burning bush that looks like a really “boring” shrub the rest of the year will begin to shine with it’s bright red leaves and Virginia creeper that grows along fence rows and anywhere else it can ramble will be alive with so much color that one can almost excuse its invasiveness. Cottonwoods will outweigh their pollen producing tendency by exhibiting bright yellow leaves. Maples and Oaks will shine if the weather permits.
Bulbs that command notice in the Fall include Autumn Flowering Crocus. Fall blooming perennials include Anenome, which hosts delicate blossoms of white, pink, and purple, Asters and of course the ever present Chrysanthemum (of which the Aster is related to), sold at every grocery and home improvement store provide a late year splash of color along with “Obediant Plant” whose blooms look kind of like a snap dragon crossed with a penstemon. This perennial likes moist soil and some shade and will multiply if it is happy. Back to Chrysanthemums….if you buy these plants for color in the Fall, should you expect them to come back next year? Yes, yes, yes- they are hardy perennials. If someone gives you a pot of Chrysanthemums for your Thanksgiving table, plant it outside and it will probably take root with some water- don’t forget to water it until the ground freezes.
Keep the composting up or start a pile or bin. You can throw in those rotting pumpkins in October and November and of course, the rotting fruit on the ground now. You can even throw in wood ashes over the winter.
Collect the seeds of your favorite plants like hollyhock, sunflower and calendula and cast them with abandon if you like a cottage garden or pick them off and store them in plastic baggies or a paper envelope and share them with friends. You can also collect seeds of basil plants. Put them in a Christmas card as a token of your love for your garden or for a larger present- put them in a basket with a trowel, gloves and a gift card to a nursery.
As much as I try to keep these posts short, there is always so much to share. Happy gardening to everyone!!!!