When I was a kid I loved summer – no school, warm sunshine and lots of fun and mischief to get into. Now that I’m a mother and grandmother, my taste in seasons has also matured. Over the years, I have come to enjoy all the offerings of fall. The cool, crisp mornings that gives way to warm days and starry nights. Fall color is exceptional with the turning of leaves on trees – colors so vivid and alive that they jump out of the landscape. Driving past the fields of orange pumpkins instills the kids with the excitement of Halloween candy yet to come. The treat of eating sweet grapes fresh off the vine and juicy apples plucked from the trees. And of course, football in all levels begins again. There is no better time of year than this abundant season to catch you bearings, reevaluate the year, enjoy the harvest and relax. It is also the best time to take a few moments to invest in your home. There are many simple tasks you can do now that can save you time in the spring when you will be twice as busy.
Plant! Plant! Plant!
Fall in the Midwest is the ideal time of year to plant all kinds of things from cool-season vegetables to turf grasses, and especially perennials and evergreen or deciduous trees and shrubs. Yet, when it comes to planting, many gardeners only think of the spring. Why is the fall such and ideal time to plant? First, the warm soil in the fall helps encourage root growth. The roots continue to grow into wintertime until the ground freezes becoming well established by the spring. This makes fall plantings much better equipped to handle the heat and drought once summer arrives. In addition, our fall, winter and spring rains help do the work in establishing your plants so you don’t have to. There are also fewer pests and disease problems to attack your plant while it is young.
A Kaleidoscope of Colors to Revive Your Landscape
When fall arrives, I want to see bright oranges, vibrant yellows, and fiery reds. These fall colors bring life back to our landscapes after the summer sun has faded most of the blooms. The natural turning of leaves into their disguised colors of glory brings a new energy to our yards and awakens our senses. Now, you can find selections of trees, shrubs and perennials that have been specifically bred for fall color. There is no reason to have hum-drum containers during fall when there are Garden Mums, Pansies and more to replace our burnt out summer annuals. (Check out our fall collection of perennials, hardy annuals, trees and shrubs.)
The Post-Season Wrap-Up
One of the best kept secrets to the most lavish landscapes is autumn restoration. Just a few garden chores done in the fall will lead to spring and summer pay-offs that are well worth the work.
Things to do now include:
Pull Weeds: Clean up your yard by pulling weeds. After discarding those weeds with their seed head, compost the rest of the debris. Then apply a pre-emergent such as Preen. This will keep your yard looking nice and weed free for months to come.
Bait for Slugs: Put out bait for slugs in the fall before they head underground and breed all winter. This will significantly cut down your slug population in the spring.
Add Mulch: Spread mulch over raised beds and bare soil to improve soil nutrients, reduce weeds, and control erosion. It is also a good idea to mulch tender plants and perennials to give them extra protection over the winter.
Fertilize: It is important to fertilize your evergreens and conifers at this time because their root systems continue to grow throughout the late fall and event into the winter in some cases. A light application of a good slow release fertilizer will provide the nutrients necessary to keep this growth going. The plants take up these nutrients and are ready to explode when the spring growing season arrives.
Prune: Pruning is essential to the health and well-being of your landscape plants. The biggest mistake you can make when pruning is not to prune at all. Prune the branches on dormant shrubs and trees to shape them and protect from breakage during winter winds and ice. Dormant perennials should also be pruned back.
Prepare Your Lawn: Were you disappointed in your lawn this year? Well, now is the time to prepare your lawn for next spring! Aerate and thatch it if the soil is compacted. This will allow the soil to drain better and give it much needed oxygen. Seeding can be done as well as fertilizing. Seeding in early fall will give the roots plenty of time to become established before winter. Fertilize at the time of seeding and again later with winter fertilizer to build nutrients up in the root system. This will keep your lawn from going into the winter hungry and it will help it take off much faster in the spring.