fall gardening tips

Lawn & Garden: How To Prepare For Winter

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Landscape Checklist For Winter Preparation

By: Lauren M. Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs

For avid gardeners, it feels as though as soon as the growing season arrives, it’s gone. For the blooms this might be true, but for your landscape as a whole, there is still plenty of time to care for it before it enters its dormant period. Preparing your lawn and garden for the cold weather is incredibly important when it comes to keeping a happy and healthy landscape. There are important tasks to complete in the fall to make sure that all plant materials are ready for that strikingly cold first frost. Take a look at the steps below to help you prepare your garden for dormancy; at the bottom of this post we have our downloadable and printable fall checklist to make your garden prep a breeze.

First you want to assess your garden. Your garden can tell you a great deal upon conclusion of the growing season. To prepare for the next growing season, first you want to assess the results of your work from this season.  Assess the overall health of your plant materials, check for diseases and damage and address accordingly. Next we begin the physical preparation – its time to clean up the garden! You should weed, deadhead faded blooms and replace any ties with jute twine The natural fibers work better over the winter because they are more flexible – they will break down over time but by the time that happens you will be needing to retie your plants anyway.

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Next you can begin cleaning up your plant material. You can lightly prune dead and broken branches from your trees and shrubs but take care when pruning your flowering plants. Some plants flower on old growth (certain types of hydrangeas for example) so when you prune off the old growth, you’re actually pruning off next years buds. Spent flower heads can be pruned off but if you’re unsure of the pruning methods of a certain plant, it doesn’t hurt to look it up. Then you want to see if any of your plants have outgrown their space in your garden. If so, then they might need to be divided. If you have perennials in containers, you can remove them and trim the roots before planting them in the ground (root pruning will hem stimulate new feeder roots).

Make sure to remove any annuals or bulbs from your garden that aren’t zone hardy – be sure not to forget your containers and window boxes as well. You can save seeds from your annuals for next year. You can use cool weather annuals in your containers such as kale, pansies or garden mums. You can then add soil to the areas where plants were removed or areas where additional soil is needed. You can add compost and peat moss to replace any lost nutrients from the growing season. Add mulch to needed areas in your garden but make sure it isn’t sitting on low lying branches or pushed up the stalk of a plant.

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The fall is the perfect time to lay down seed to fill in those bare patches throughout the lawn - the cooler weather will allow them to have a better chance at germinating and developing a strong root system before the freezing temperatures arrive. Aeration will help to break up compact soils and aid in seed germination – the two can go hand in hand. You should also apply your winter fertilizer –a slow release all-natural fertilizer will do the trick. Your lawn can store food in the form of carbohydrates during the winter season, allowing for a healthier and stronger lawn the following season.

If weeds were a concern this season (as they usually are) you can also apply a selective pre-emergent herbicide (like you did in the spring) – this will help deal with weeds that have been deposited during the summer. You can also use a spot treatment of post-emergent herbicide however most people would rather put down grass seed instead. If grass seed as been laid on your lawn do not use any weed control as this will stop the grass seed germination along with the weeds. Make sure you know the difference between selective and non-selective herbicides – a non-selective herbicide will kill everything including your lawn. Lastly, early fall is a great time to plant trees and shrubs. For some plant material suggestions and tips, take a look at our Fall Is For Planting post. Plus, nurseries and garden centers have everything on sale to help clear their shelves for the season.

Following this checklist will help you ease your garden into dormancy and allow for happier, healthier plant materials next season, as well as a cleaner garden! As the days grow shorter and the weather grows colder, gardeners everywhere dream of the upcoming growing season – so take advantage of the time you have left this year to make the most of the 2017 growing season. Come springtime, your garden will be thanking you for your love and care during the previous season. So take this list, check it twice and count the days till spring arrives. Happy gardening!

 

Download and print our Fall Gardening Checklist

 

For More Information

When Should You Plant Trees & Shrubs?

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It's True Folks, Fall Is For Planting!

By: Lauren M. Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs

In the world of gardening, there is a huge misconception that the leaves changing color and the temperature dropping signals the end of the growing season. This is false; the growing season doesn’t end until the plants enter their dormant period. What most people don’t know, is that it is actually more beneficial for your trees and shrubs to be planted in the fall as opposed to the spring. Planting your trees and shrubs in the fall gives encourages them to establish a stronger root system before the heat of the next summer.

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Fall technically begins late in September – the best time to plant your trees and shrubs is about six weeks before the first sign of a hard frost. September through November is the perfect time for planting because even though the air is getting cold, the ground is still warm. This allows the root systems to become more established before the dormant period resulting in a stronger and healthier plant for next season. With the cooler temperatures and the increase in precipitation, less watering is required and there is no need to worry about damage from the summer heat. The stable air conditions also allow for rapid root development; rather than focusing all its energy on foliage or flower production, the tree puts its energy into establishing a stronger root system and in storing nutrients for dormancy.

These fall plantings will become better equipped to handle summer heat and drought due to their strongly established root system. From a designer perspective, being able to see a plants fall interest before putting it into the landscape is always a plus. There are some species you should avoid planting in the fall however, broad-leaved evergreens such as rhododendrons, azaleas, boxwoods and hollies require extra care through the winter months. They will need protection from winter winds and should be treated with an anti desiccant. We also recommend that you stick to zone hardy plant material – Schip laurels for example, don’t tolerate winter winds very well at all, the key is to plant them where they can be guarded (for example, as a foundation planting where the house combats the wind).

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When planting in the fall, there are three things you should keep in mind. Make sure to plant high, the soil will settle leaving your tree or shrub susceptible to root rot or disease. Don’t amend the soil around your new planting – you want to allow the roots of your new tree or shrub to grow into the native soil. With the amended soil, the roots are more likely to experience reduced growth resulting in a smaller root system and a weaker plant. We suggest you break up any clumps in the soil and remove any rocks to allow the root system to travel as it pleases. Make sure to add mulch to your new planting. You can use around 3 inches of mulch or organic matter around your plant. The organic matter should be shredded leaves or ground bark/nuggets. Adding this layer will help protect the root system during the cold weather and allow for better water retention.

If you’re looking to plant a tree this fall, here are some species we recommend: maple, spruce, pine, crabapple, linden, elm, hackberry, hawthorn and honey locust. Planting these trees and shrubs this fall will prove for healthier, happier and hardier plants for the next growing season. Studies show that trees and shrubs planted in the fall, when compared to those planted in the spring, have a more established root system and stronger overall health. A strong root system leads to a strong plant! You should also keep in mind that garden centers and nurseries are trying to clear their stock for the season – who doesn’t love a good discount? 

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