Archive for the ‘Fall Gardening’ Category

Gardening in December

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

December Gardening

You can still plant in December. Plants are going dormant and they don’t mind being planted in this phase. Transplanting is also permitted, though I would avoid moving larger plant material, particularly evergreens. As long as the ground is not frozen, plants can be tucked into it for the winter. You can still plant bulbs for that matter, and they are on sale now that it is the end of the season.

Avoid pruning at this stage in the game if possible. Cutting plants while they are going dormant gives them a mixed signal since pruning stimulates growth, while trees and shrubs are in the process of slowing down. Perennials on the other hand may be cut back to the ground , and hydrangeas and grasses may also be cut back if that is your desire.

“Wilt pruf” your evergreens if possible. Wilt pruf is the brand name of a particular anti-desiccant.  Evergreens stop absorbing moisture as they shut down, however, they continue to lose moisture to the wind throughout the winter. If you have particularly exposed evergreens, or specimen plants you would like to protect, this is the ideal time to spray them (while temperatures are above forty degrees Fahrenheit).

Take the last of your leaves and start a leaf compost pile in an unused corner. Leaf compost is very high in beneficial fungal content and once composted  can be spread around trees and shrubs, or can be used to make compost tea with in the spring, both excellent ways to increase beneficial microbial and fungal activity in your soil.

Fall Activities

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

Things That Need Doing In the Fall

Fall is a great time for planting, so if you’re seeing any bargains on plants you have lusted after, don’t hold back. It’s also a good time for transplanting materials and splitting perennials. This is because as it gets cooler, most plants are slowing down and shutting down so you won’t interfere with their growth process by moving them now.

Generally, you will want to be cutting down perennials and mulching your beds for the winter. Mulch will give your plants an extra blanket this winter (and its supposed to be a cold one). Some gardeners advocate leaving perennials to be cut back in the spring for this reason, however, your garden will look very messy if you go this route. Better to clean out those dead and dying leaves now and mulch a little heavier.

Do not prune or trim shrubs and trees at this time. Remember that these plants are winding down. Cutting and trimming will stimulate growth and encourage trees and shrubs to grow when they should be going dormant.

Irrigation systems can be blown out, however, if we get a couple of weeks with no rain and temperatures hold above 40-45 you will need to do some supplemental watering. Personally I prefer to blow out the system second week in November, about one month after most irrigation “specialists” like to shut down. Speaking of irrigation, now is a great time to lay in new or supplements to existing irrigation systems, as well as execute hardscape and or woodwork projects. Most landscape professionals are anxious to get a little extra work under their belts after the fall shutdowns and will give better pricing.

Perennial Care In The Fall

Sunday, October 12th, 2008


Fall Gardening

Fall is for planting, though no one believes it. It is also a great time for splitting perennials, and transplanting, particularly with the moisture reach year we have had. If your perennials have been in the ground three years or more, they are not only eligible for division, but ripe for it.

When perennials in limited beds are left to their own devices for too long, they tend to start choking themselves out. By digging them up, dividing them and replanting them, you are actually doing them a favor. Have no room to plant them you say? Consider creating some new beds in front of shrubs and around trees. Get rid of lawn areas that are constantly failing, or are in an unused area of your property. The side of the house is a prime candidate for replanting split perennials; many “foundation” plantings lack perennial beds of any kind.

Select an area you want to plant, take some rope or a garden hose and lay out the beds before you do anything else. Look at the relationship of the bed to whatever is behind it and consider the height of the tree, shrub, or structure. If there is room, try to reflect the height with the widest point of your lovely curved bed. In tighter spaces, where it is not possible to reflect the height of other objects, consider the width of the area you are working with. Generally, a ration of 2/3 to 1/3 will work in tighter spaces.  For example, 2/3 open space, 1/3 planted or even vica versa if you are defining a transitional path.

Once you have defined the area you are working in, rework the soil, add in organic composted topsoil, maybe some peat moss or composted manure depending on what you are splitting and transplanting. Peat tends to be acid, while manure less so. Most perennials are not acid lovers. Till the new material into the soil and try to get some live, active compost to mix in as well. Alternately, purchase a product by Plant Health Care called Bio Pack, or get some compost tea. Any means to bring active biological agents into the soil will yield healthier plants in the future. Once you have prepared the soil split your perennials and start to plant your bed.No doubt there will be some extra room, with the economy down and this being fall, there are a lot of plant materials on sale right now.

Naturalizing Bulbs

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

Planting Bulbs That Last!

We all know fall is the time to plant those bulbs for spring flowers. Most of our favorite bulbs will bloom a year, maybe three if you are fortunate and then die, never to return. However, there a group of bulbs that naturalize, meaning they acclimate to our harsher New England weather patterns and with the proper care and conditions, return year after year.

Over the years, this column has covered the Narcissus family, along with grape hyacinths, extensively as naturalizers, and indeed, this columnist has planted literally thousands of mixed Narcissus/daffodils  in and around Pelham with the Pelham Preservation and Garden Society that still return every spring despite being cut back to early and receiving little or no care.

In addition to the bulbs above, there are groups of smaller woodland bulbs that naturalize as well. These bloom from early February weather permitting) to as late as April. Woodland bulbs tend to be smaller and less showy than daffodils and though not so well suited for viewing from afar, are ideal for smaller more intimate garden areas.


A plethora of little bulbs is superb from late February or early March into early May, like

·         the common Galanthus nivalis and its sturdier counterpart, G. elwesii

·         the apple-green-leaved G. ikariae,

·         Spring snowflake (Leucojum vernum)

·         winter aconite (Eranthis hiemalis). Its yellow flowers are a bright grace note to the spring woods. Scilla

·         Chionodoxa

·         grape hyacinths.

·         Guinea hen flower(Fritillaria meleagris)

·         Shade Tolerant Crocus tommasiniannus.

·         C. tommasinianus ‘Taplow Ruby’ and ‘Whitwell Purple’,

These can be ordered individually from specialty growers or in woodland groups from growers like Van Bourgiendien and Burpee seed. If you want some free samples of naturalizing woodland bulbs, come to Franklin Field Saturday, October 4th ,between 8:30 and 11:00 am where representatives from Greener by Design will be giving samples  away with more information on fall planting.

Think About Your Lawn This Fall

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

Fall Is  A Great time For Over Seeding

If your lawn took a little bit of a beating this summer, as did mine, this is a great time to over seed it. Generally we all think of spring as seed time, but when it comes to lawns, fall is pretty ideal as well. First, weed your lawn and get out all those undesirable daisies, sedge grasses, crab grasses and anything else that does not belong there. Next figure out if you need sun or shade, or a sun shade mix.  Application rates for over seeding are about half of what is recommended for a new lawn.

Get yourself a seed spreader. If you don’t want to spring for a push spreader, a little hand spreader is just fine for this job. Over seed the whole lawn laying seed a little thicker in blank spots. Next put a thin layer of composted topsoil. Many folks like to use peat moss for this, but always remember that peat moss will make the soil more acidic. If your soil needs to be more acidic this is not a bad thing, but most of our lawns tend to be a little on the acid sign as it is. Overly acidic soil will inhibit the seeds form sprouting and encourage certain weeds. For example, if you tend to get a lot of dandelions, your soil is most likely on the acid side already; however, if you get plantain weed (big round low leaves) then your soil is alkaline and can stand a little peat moss.

Next most important step is making sure you water the freshly seeded lawn at least once a day. Seeds need damp soil to germinate. If it’s unseasonably warm like it was last week, you might want to water twice a week. Don’t cut the lawn for a good three weeks and avoid foot traffic. This will allow the seedlings, which are very tender, time to root and grow strong.

Consider looking for specialty seeds. There are new varieties of bluegrass and fescues that are very drought tolerant and generally use less water than the standard grasses we find at the big box stores. These are available on line for the most part; I haven’t seen them in stores yet. If you keep over seeding with these new tougher grasses, over the next year or two, they will eventually out compete the weaker grasses you have already established.