new jersey autumn

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

The Colorful Science Behind Autumn Foliage

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Why Do Leaves Change Color In The Fall?

By: Lauren M. Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs

 

            As we inch closer to the fall and the hot summer heat turns into a cool autumn breeze, all eyes gaze upon the trees in anticipation for their bright seasonal color show. When the bright blossom colors of summer begin to fade and plants begin their transition into dormancy, the trees push out one last seasonal spectacular burst of color before their leaves drop. There’s no question that people everywhere admire the fall for this beautiful transformation, but why and how does it happen? The science behind the colorful changing leaves of fall is actually quite remarkable.

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            During the growing season, the leaves act essentially as a small factory; this is where the nutrients essential to a tree’s growth are manufactured. The cells within each leave contain chlorophyll, which gives the leaf its green color. Chlorophyll absorbs the energy from the sunlight that is used to transform carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates like sugars and starch. Aside from the green pigment in the foliage, there are also yellow to orange pigments (carotenes and xanthophyll pigments) that are overpowered by the green coloring during the growing season. These pigments, for example, are what make carrots orange.

            When fall arrives it brings with it shorter days and cooler temperatures causing the leaves to stop making food for the trees as they prepare for dormancy. As a result, the chlorophyll begins to break down and the amount of green color deteriorates leaving the yellow to orange pigments free to shine. But not all trees are coated with the same dazzling colored foliage and that is because there is a miniature art class that’s taking place within the leaves! As the chlorophyll breaks down, red anthocyanin pigments are developed which create the beautiful reds and purples. The pigments mix and mash to create that brilliant array of autumn tones. Some mixtures create the red and purple colors seen on dogwoods and sumacs while other mixtures cause the sugar maple to adorn that beautiful orange. Other trees will show mostly yellow leaves while still others, like oak trees, will show mostly browns. This varying color pallet is all due to the pigments mixing together in different amounts.

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            Weather also can affect the intensity of the fall foliage colors. Factors like temperature, light and water supply can impact the degree and duration of the fall color show. Low temperatures that are above freezing will aid in anthocyanin formation, creating the bright reds more commonly seen in maples. However this bright red color could be weakened by an early frost. A significant number of rainy or overcast days could increase the brightness of the leaf color. The best time to observe this incredibly beautiful transformation is on a clear, dry and cool (not freezing) autumn day – make sure to seize the moment because before you know it, those colors will fade as well with a chilly breeze whispering, “winter is coming”.

 
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