To-Do List for Fall Gardening
October and November are good months to do some gardening and landscaping. Here are just a few things a gardener could -- or should -- be doing.
If you have cool-season turf, like fescue or bluegrass, you are about out of time to renovate or overseed your lawn. However, if this is still on your to-do list, be sure your soil pH is around 6.0 to 6.5. A soil test from your county extension service can give you this information, as well as any additional nutrient requirements that might be needed, along with the appropriate amounts to add to your lawn.
However, these reports can take a couple of weeks to get back. Depending on where you live in the country, by then you may have missed your window for this season. Go ahead and add seed now if needed. You can add the required nutrients after you get your report. Keep new grass seed moist. You may have to water briefly several times each day until germination. Try to keep fallen leaves off the seeds without disturbing your seeds in the process.
It's time to clean up the summer garden. Many pests and diseases over-winter in old plant debris. Get it out of your garden and into the compost pile, as long as it is not diseased. Otherwise, have it removed from your property.
Hopefully you're growing some cool-season crops right now such as broccoli, spinach and lettuce. Floating row covers do a great job of providing a few extra degrees of heat and provide frost protection for those tender young seedlings. Most cool-season crops can handle cooler temperatures than you might imagine, and many taste even better after a few light frosts. If you've never had a fall vegetable garden, you're missing a real treat.
Planting a Tree
You can plant shrubs and trees right up until the ground freezes, but you’ll have better overwintering in coldest zones if you get plants in before hard frosts arrive. This gives plants an opportunity to strike new roots into soil before serious cold arrives. Remember to water fall planted additions to your landscape until the ground freezes. In regions with mild winters where the ground doesn’t freeze, plan to water new plants through winter during dry spells.
Fall is absolutely the best time of year to plant any tree and /or shrub. The soil is still warm enough for roots to actively grow and yet the demand on foliage growth is waning. Trees and shrubs planted now have months to develop a healthy root system before the heat of next year.
Be sure to keep your new plants watered. The drying winds of the cooler weather can quickly dehydrate plants. Check the soil moisture often, and water when needed. For new plantings, provide water once a week in the absence of rain.
Don't waste those fallen leaves. My single biggest job this time of year is rounding up all of my and my neighbor's leaves. As they say, one man's trash is another's treasure. My neighbors are glad to let me take their leaves off their hands.
I dump the leaves onto my grass, and run my mower over them. This shreds them into small pieces, which then get raked into my beds. They break down rather quickly and are a very good way to add organic amendments to my beds. They also pull double-duty, serving as that important layer of mulch over the winter.
Plant those bulbs, or at least store them in a cool, dry place like the refrigerator. In cooler climates, plant in October. In southern climates, the best time for bulb planting is in middle to late November. Tulips, daffodils, crocus, iris and hyacinths are all great choices for spring color. This is also the ideal time to divide perennials and plant perennial seeds for next spring.
That should keep you busy for the next few weeks. The best part is that next spring, our efforts will be rewarded with a garden that comes alive, looking better than ever and due in large part to the work we're doing now.