Good Gardening in 2019 

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Autumn leaves


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October starts with much of last summer’s physical presence obvious along with a great many memories of previous growing season highlights. As each day (amount of daylight) shortens landscape plants reflect this vivid reality called FALL. Mother Nature’s air temperature’s become cooler making plants sleepier and prepare them for the classic long winter’s nap. This changeover means that all work and effort undertaken over these 30 days can have a lasting influence on your landscapes performance next growing season though it is months in the future. Dreams of standing under a tree whose brightly colored foliage is being released to fall gracefully to the ground, like confetti during a parade or walking outdoors and each step creating a unique crisp crunchy sound. Local birds and animals work to prepare their wintertime abodes, as insects, bees, wasps, spiders hunker down or kiss life good-bye after making sure the queen is well taken care of. October triggers multiple emotions and invigorates all who spend time in the out of doors. Anticipate first light frost mid-month, beginning of end for tender vegetation-herbs, annuals, houseplants left outdoors…                                    

October’s Top Scenarios  

Irrigate-moisture (1” of water every week-if not rainfall then supplement as needed)-water plays a huge role time of year as plants head for dormancy, i.e. keeping plant tissue (above and below ground) from dehydration which will weaken making plant material more prone to potential cold damage, surrounds / insulates crucial root systems allowing translocation of moisture from the ground upward preventing twig and bud shrinkage or death regardless of air temperature-to repeat this applies whether you have cool or warm season lawn, herbaceous perennial, deciduous trees, evergreen shrubs or ground covers, tulip / daffodil or any spring flowering bulb-moisture reduces impact of soil freezing and then thawing which can loosen / tear root hairs and push plants upward increasing chance for additionally trouble      

Preventing Fallen Leaf Debris Build-up-depending upon type of foliage resulting damage can vary from minimal to extreme even if depth is similar, but any depth greater than a few inches is likely to cause trouble for underlying plants / plant parts, true certain leaves are thin and flat in shape (maple) meaning the will pack down retaining and holding moisture setting up a situation for fungal / bacteria / disease troubles whether moisture is rainfall, snow or irrigated vs. oak whose physical thickness and overall shape will have arching habit and a blend of numerous or various fallen leaves which is generally the circumstance will mean fungal / bacteria / disease troubles especially for lawn and evergreen ground covers-THIS SAID routinely use mower with bag, rake, blow, then discard or place in compost pile all fallen leaf debris

Prepare Indoors for Incoming Flights of Houseplants-any that spent late spring through early fall in outdoors will need to be evaluated and checked for any problems that may be present, from fungus gnats in potting mix, to aphids on leaves, scale along stems, slugs on bottom of pot, take necessary action to insure a smooth transition into their chosen setting-whether in front of sunny window if needed, under grow lights, DO NOT transplant into different pot / container prior to bringing indoors, leave everything status quo, any plants that appear less than robust consider not bothering to bring indoors, prune off any broken or damage parts, no fertilizer, water minimally to keep potting mix damp to touch not wet, having a saucer underneath with some water will keep humidity levels higher which is good, recent purchases, or old family members may have difficult time acclimating so pay extra attention for several weeks, anticipate leaf, flower, bud dropping  

Woodies-Transplanting or Plant Installation-keep plants watered prior to transplanting or planting, dig hole 3-4X diameter of root ball, only 80% as deep as root ball keeping crown above surrounding ground to minimize possible setting below grade where water could sit and damage, place plant in hole, backfill partially and water, wait for water to drain then backfill and water continue until planting is finished, cover top of root ball with 1” of soil and 3-4” of mulch, no fertilizer, loosely stake plant to maintain upright stance but allow for swaying in wind, water every few days if no rainfall 

Baton Passing Between Bulbs-Remove Summer Varieties-non hardy (caladiums, cannas, elephant ears) allow soil to dry in protected location, shake off soil, check tubers / bulbs any with soft spots discard, all other store in cardboard box, paper bag with newspaper between layers in a dark location that stays above freezing-Install Springtime Bloomers-hardy (eranthis, anemone, crocus, galanthus, scillas, muscari, daffodils, tulips)-plant in excellent drained soil to prevent rot which is main cause of non-growth / death not squirrel consumption-check drainage-no puddling should occur improve drainage-add pea gravel, compost-larger bulbs plant deeper 6-8”, smaller 2-3”- if adding bone meal or booster fertilizer mix with soil do not sprinkle on bulb, after installation water area-if bulbs are installed at correct depth this is too deep for squirrels to get, squirrels are digging in locations where soil was recently prepared because it is easier any activity likely squirrels planting acorns… 

Chemical Applications-especially herbicides and fungicides effectiveness drop and could be considered a waste of time and money, as days become shorter and temperatures drop absorption whether through root system or foliage diminishes 

Fertilizing Cool Season Lawns-using a winterizer type is recommended

Chemical Storage-liquids should not be exposed to temperatures below mid 30’s, granular keep dry, or effectiveness could be diminished when applied next growing season

Birds Have Seed Preference-thistle seed = finches, oiled sunflower = cardinals, mixed seed = doves

Bulb Planting Month-from grape hyacinth to daffodils to tulips, snowdrops basically all spring bloomers-select location where soil is well drained, clustering several of same variety in close proximity puts on best showing-dig hole 4-5x bulb diameter, make sure bulbs are not touching (possible rot) be backfilling, water and cover spot with 1-2”after backfilling over bulbs, water and cover with 1-2” of mulch

Evergreens Are Available in Numerous Colors and Textures-spectrum ranging from steel blue, pale green, yellowish…texture from fine to thick and coarse-keep this in mind if considering adding plants to landscape-

Other Important Considerations

Have Soil(s) Tested-separate tests for designated area i.e. lawn, perennial, edible…

Mulch-total depth (new plus existing) shouldn’t exceed 3-4” woodies, 1-2” perennial, bulbs,

Lawn Mowing-cut any actively growing lawns set mower blade height 3-4”

Weed Control-physical removal is most effective, use tool (not hand pull) to get entire root system

Water Gardens / Fountains-check pump intake, keep debris free to maximize enjoyable sound, cut back hardy aquatic plants, cover with netting to minimize debris accumulation

Perennials-install, transplant ASAP allowing for root system establishment before colder weather

Seed Collecting-place in paper envelop and label with name, store dark dry location

Lawn Overseeding-none after mid-month 


SEPTEMBER Jumps, Bumps and High Fives-ignites all 5 senses and Beyond-watch migrating hummingbirds and butterflies, maturing fruits, colorful seeds, flora and foliage-penstemon, toadlily, asters, anemone, awakening of cool season lawns, sweet autumn clematis, phlox, sunflowers (numerous), abelia, liriope, coral bells, mums, golden rod, cornflower, last harvest of summer edibles, butterfly weed, crepe myrtle, crepe myrtle, zoysia lawn, rose of Sharon, sedum live forever, phlox, sunflowers (numerous varieties), ornamental grasses, cornflower, herbs, butterfly weed and bush, Japanese painted fern, Russian sage, lamb's ear, roses, pyracantha, crabapples, yellow moneywort, fall edibles gaining size and strength, and...  

Important - Quick Notes

When Top Dressing Lawns-core aerate first then spread ¼-1/2" of compost, to enrich soil

Plantings-established need 1" water (irrigated / rainfall) every 7-10 days, new installs need more

Helpful Spider Webs-seen in multiple locations, determine web makers prior to taking action

Germinating Lawn Seed-no mowing until 3" in height

Roses-no fertilizing or spent flower removal, prune off any broken, damaged overly sagging growth

Mulch-add to maintain 1-2" around perennials or 3-4" around woodies, water area before applying

New Spring Bulbs-store in cool dry location, prepare bed / containers install after mid-October

Pruning Spring Blooming Trees / Shrubs-reduces next spring flower count doesn't harm plants

Summer Blooming Shrubs-will continue to flower until frost, can be pruned then

Helping Soil-add compost or leaf mold to increase organic matter content-benefiting plants

Spider Mites-still damaging, control with strong spray of water or miticide

Conifer Needle Drop-anticipate interior needles browning and falling, tips stay green

Transplant / Divide Perennials-once foliage begins to brown, improve soil before planting

Keep All Tools Clean Sharp-spades sprayers, spreaders, mowers, edgers, shovels, pruners

Find Out-have soil tested, it will provide your landscapes future road map to success

Begin Fall Herb Harvest-both perennial and annual varieties are at peak aroma and taste

Fungi-mushrooms, puffballs, shotgun / artillery fungus, toad stools...-grow only on thick lawn thatch or underground dead roots / stumps-don't damage live plant material

Avoid Future Trouble-purchasing a plant, check mature size before selecting installation spot

Situations Needing Action

Collecting Tree, Shrub Leaf Debris-from your trees, blowing in from who knows where will gather in random spots-some low, others unexplained can be trouble for lawn, perennial, vegetable, herbs, annual, ground covers any herbaceous plant material by harboring insects, triggering fungus / disease / bacteria-keep accumulations to minimum by blowing, raking, mowing to reduce worries

Trouble Makers - Big and Small - Above and Below Ground-wild animals or insects-know seasonal change is beginning their activity can be problematic to people and plant material examples rodents, wasp / hornets, grubs, deer, skunks, spider mites, Japanese beetles, slugs, cucumber beetles to fall webworm-determine ‘who' and decide if action is needed by yourself or professional  

Annual Weeds Trading Places-warm season dropping seeds, plants decline (spurge, numerous grasses crab, goose, foxtail, violets, plantain, nut sedge)-control hand digging and or post emergent herbicide (effectiveness diminishes when temperatures drop below 70) for control-expect cool season types to take center stage (henbit, chickweed, annual bluegrass, persian speedwell) with germination / growth (hand dig, late application of pre-emergent will help)-action taken ASAP helps in all landscape scenarios-DON'T FORGET about Controlling Perennial Weeds-dandelions for example-hand digging and or post emergent herbicide

Extending Colorful Rewards-summer annuals (morning glory, zinnias, begonia, sweet potato vine, coleus...) bulbs / tubers (banana, canna, caladium, elephant ears...) will keep showing off if cared for and maintained correctly-continue watering, fertilizing, cutting back if needed pay back if well worth it-ADD PIZAZZ with ornamental kale, aster, mums...   

Summer Bulbs and Houseplants-(caladiums, banana, canna, elephant ear...)-growth slows as temperature cool and amount of daylight decreases but still have good aesthetics-wait to dig up / store until majority of foliage yellows-then cut off above ground growth, dig up shake off soil / potting mix allow to dry for winter place in paper bags / cardboard boxes (newspaper between layers) and sit in cool dark dry location that stays above freezing-Houseplants-prior to beginning indoors do a thorough check of stems, foliage (top and bottom), potting mix for fungus gnats, aphids, scale... if anything suspicious is observed determine problem and take action to control-unhealthy appearing plants don't bother to bring inside likely will continue to decline     

Transitional Tempo Time for Lawns-but all kinds need 1" water (rain or irrigated) every 7-10 days, mower blade height 3.5-4.0"-Weed control-herbicide applications-post (actively growing) emergent effectiveness diminishes if temperatures below 70, pre (germinating seed) emergent can kill any seed - perennial, annual, weed or lawn-Specifics-cool (bluegrass, fescue) season begin active growth meaning take action; core aeration / compost application, dethatching / power raking, overseeding, total renovation of large or small areas, fertilizing (seed starter, fall formula) sodding (prepare soil first), while warm (zoysia) season if heathy should look good but do no fertilizing, core aerating or dethatching

Muscle Building-Garden Bed Space-whether creating, rehabbing, building raised, elimination / conversion-evaluate existing plants (determine if keeping or not-remove-toss, giveaway, or place in holding spot), measure square footage, (rehab add 2-4", building add 6" eliminating add 2"-soil amendments 1-2 cu. yds. per 100 sq. ft. depending upon objective) rototill / spade creating uniform blend of existing soil and amendments, rake level and slope away from any hardscape / structure 

New Plant Purchases-inspect closely for damage, disease or insect presence prior to buying-when installing remove all flowers, any damaged stem, branches-dig hole-3X diameter of root ball to aid in lateral growth but only 80% as deep to keep crown above surroundings, gently spread roots, back-fill firming soil around roots, water, monitor soil moisture for 2 weeks to prevent dehydration, water only if plants appear wilted in morning not during heat of day 














Good Gardening--To each and everyone that stops by-I say to you the world of life and gardening is simply wonderfully wild and crazy

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