Good Gardening in 2018 

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October's transition creates many interesting scenarios i.e. evergreens start moving to forefront as deciduous / herbaceous plants are falling back, leaves color, interior conifer needles brown followed by dropping, possible activities new installations, mulching, pruning, transplanting, and or evaluation, research, fact finding then using gathered information for making changes and or getting reassurance things are working. This springboard month jumps as all plants slow into dormancy and actions / work if timely / correctly done could mean an aesthetically more enjoyable winter and healthier less troublesome ‘19 growing season. Remember landscapes tempo is always set by Mother Nature's weathering attitude, but impact can be accentuated or buffered by smart October gardening. 

This Month's Work Schedule, Concerns and Pleasurable Events

Keep Watering Landscape-Don't Think About Putting Hoses Away or Turning Off Irrigation Systems-adequate soil moisture is crucial for all plant material-newly installed or well established, deciduous or evergreen, woodie or herbaceous, root system / crown or above ground growth- dehydration as temperatures cool weaken, then when winter's ground freeze thaw cycle becomes reality there can be physical tearing root (feeder) hairs and or elevation of plant crown increasing chance of troublesome damage whether dormant zoysia, active bluegrass, daffodil bulbs or Christmas ferns, witch hazel or holly, pine or Japanese maple, clematis or English ivy...

Incoming Tropical Delights-thoroughly checked for insect / disease problems corrected before brought indoors, any plants with questionable health-discard-indoors locate pots / saucers in sunny window / under grow lights by mid-month-care use caution not to overwater (wilting foliage / branching can mean either under, over watered or unhealthy-take time to determine cause before reacting), only fertilize budded or flowering plants (allow others to ‘rest') routinely check (stems, leaf bottom / top, potting mix, underside of pot) check all plants for signs of insects, disease, or unexpected decline-be sure of prognosis before making treatment(s), if over-all appearance declines consider discarding vs. trying to save, keep troubled plants to minimize spreading potential trouble-seasonal purchases check over completely, once home some foliage / flower drop may occur

Avoid Potential Fallen Leaf Problems-(from trees / shrubs and drooping / sagging perennial, edibles or annuals-don't think letting fallen leaves lay will become cheap mulch / weed control or anything positive, once you can no longer see lawn, ground cover, real mulch because leaf debris is totally (usually 2-3" deep) covering / blanketing can create unhealthy humidity (setting stage for disease, bacteria, fungus eruption-especially during rainy periods) factor for living plant material and soil microorganisms-so routinely remove debris by cutting off, sweeping, mowing, raking and or blowing, then recycle / compost collected leaves

Book Your Flight(s)-depending on setting and location various varieties of birds can visit, if seed and or water is available anticipate return fly-bys-overs and landings, many birds prefer specific seed i.e. thistle seed = finches, oiled sunflower = cardinals, mixed seed = doves...added plus check trees / shrubs for old nests, try to determine who nested there-Reminder ‘robber' squirrels, rodents / small mammals are constantly seeking food and during dry spells water, make placement adjustments if possible-additionally birds are guaranteed draw for outdoor / feral neighborhood cats

Plant Response to Chemical Applications-Herbicides, Insecticides, and Fungicides-become less effective (both contact and systemic) as weeds absorption rate diminishes and insects activity is less as weather cools, fall lawn fungus can occur best action leaf buildup prevention-Fertilizing (scenario plant dependent)-NO on existing or newly planted zoysia, trees, shrubs, vines, roses, or perennials (may slow dormancy process and or trigger damaging bud, twig growth...) depending upon weather YES on healthy annuals and cool season lawns--if using granular make sure to water after application-unsure what type of fertilizer is best to use check with favorite garden center-off season chemical storage liquids should not be exposed to temperatures below mid-30's, granular keep dry lack of cautionary action could render product ineffective   

New Tree / Shrub Installation-keep watered, dig hole 3-4X diameter of root ball, only 80% as deep so crown (trunk / twig root system intersection) stays above surrounding ground, set root into hole, backfill and water, cover root ball with 3-4" of mulch, no fertilizer, stake loosely allowing for wind to sway, water to prevent dehydration

Future Excitement in Small Packages-add a spectacular showing, purchase new minor (smaller and generally earlier blooming vs. daffodils / tulips) bulbs, your landscape can have blooms starting in early / mid-February with Eranthis, Anemone, Crocus, Galanthus, Scillas, Muscari. These bulbs create best impact planting 15-25 bulbs in close (1-2" apart) proximity can be grown outdoors ground or pots / window boxes or potted for indoor (after refrigeration for 6-8 weeks) forcing, any planting in pots / window boxes bulb placement can be tight just make sure bulbs aren't touching). Flowers are quite cold tolerant and colors range is rainbow like guaranteeing a welcome site as winter doldrums set in. Siting all bulbs regardless of variety / size / bloom season require a well-drained soil ideally with high organic content, if potting use potting mix not potting soil. Planting Tips: bulb depth 4-5x bulb diameter, after backfilling over bulbs, water and cover with 1-2" of mulch. Note squirrels don't know bulbs are in location, they prefer to dig / plant acorns, nuts...where digging is easy-improved soils, generally squirrels don't dig deep enough to reach bulbs, many times it is a misnomer that squirrels steal bulbs, but many times lack of bulb performance is because soil is to moist / wet and bulbs rot, if concerned lay piece of chicken wire over bulb area then cover with mulch


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 Feature Pumps-check intake, keep debris free to maximize enjoyable sound

Water Gardens-cut back hardy aquatic plants, cover with netting to minimize debris accumulation

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

Gathering Seeds-place in paper envelop and label with name, store dark dry location till next spring

Summer Bulbs / Tubers-dig, shake clean, keep only firm ones, store in paper bags in dry dark spot  

SEPTEMBER-daylight length diminishes, meaning any routine or new projects for your landscape should be evaluated and prioritized. Looking back at previous months it has been a real interesting struggle, surprising though is region is actually 3" above normal rainfall, thanks to August opening Mother Nature's faucet. Landscape scenarios from below ground to tree tops are going to be a mixed bag of healthiness, fall tree color is still iffy, so in other words this month should be typically atypical like usual. Know that summer is in the rear view mirror and fall's emotional and real time is straight ahead. So keep your mental motors running because many of the thing done know will have a huge impact on 2019 plant's overall health and aesthetic performance.    

Here There Everywhere-plenty excitement to be experienced (seen, tasted, aroma, felt-pretty all senses can be stimulated)-from maturing fruits to colorful flora and foliage-penstemon, toadlily, 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...

Ready for Action-keep all tools (sprayers, spreaders, mowers, edgers, shovels, pruners...) ready for action-really important to reduce chances of spreading trouble clean (wipe with bleach / water mix) tools after removing / cutting / mowing any diseased plants / parts 

Fall Season Plant Buying-not matter if clearance or full price-before making that purchase-1). check stems, underside of foliage, along trunk / branches, foliage color and rigidity, root system drainage holes... - 2). is plant going to fit into landscape? where and is location ready whether in ground or container 

Stop Guessing, Get the Dirt-Soil Testing-find out what is going on underground, analysis will offer insight for you and or any professional that works in your landscape, this is especially true whether you are disappointed or not about any aspect of your landscape, knowledge builds / maintains a better yard, multiple samples / tests (i.e. lawn, perennial / shrub bed, vegetable garden...) should be done as each major plant group can have some very specific troubles anything from lack or low to abundant extravagant where a different planting may not be adversely impacted-save real and mental money find out what is brewing in soil

Unwelcomed Guests / animals or insects-each senses changes are occuring for some means life's end (worker ground hornets) or ‘fattening up' for times of less possibilities (moles, queen hornets, grubs) to claiming and marking territory (male deer) to plant damage (spider mites, Japanese beetles, slugs, cucumber beetles, fall webworms) are examples, if unwanted / unexpected signs, bugs, critters become obvious determine cause and decide what if any action is needed by yourself or professional service   

Weed Baton is Being Passed-warm season weeds (spurge, numerous grasses crab, goose, foxtail, violets, plantain, nut sedge) begin to diminish / disappear-control hand digging and post emergent herbicide (though effectiveness is lessened as temperatures drop below 70) for control--while cool / cold season lovers (henbit, chickweed, annual bluegrass, persian speedwell) germination / growth can be explosive (hand dig and pre-emergent for control)-action taken ASAP will be to landscape advantage because WEEDS-overgrow (reducing sunlight hours) desirable plants while robbing them and soil of moisture and nutrients

Home Grown Flavors-all summer vegetables production drops considerably daylight hours shorten, (even if air temperatures remain high) watch ripening gourds, pumpkins, squash, etc..., cool season broccoli, cabbage, kale, spinach will continue growing, herb activity (annuals) harvest ASAP to get maximum aroma flavor, when harvesting perennial herbs only cut  off ½ at most, clean up bed / pot 

Leaf Debris-falling from your trees, blowing in from who knows where will collect in low spots (correct this with addition of topsoil / compost), no matter depth can be trouble for lawn, perennial, vegetable, herbs, annual, ground covers and any recently installed plant material by harboring insects, triggering fungus / disease / bacteria -routinely remove by blowing, raking, mowing to reduce potential worries

Colorful Annuals-existing pots / beds if given care (water / fertilizing) could provide several weeks of good rewards until frosty temperatures-new fall color (ornamental cabbage or kale, zinnias, pansies...) extend landscape color-rama (potted or in ground) if cared for (fertilized and watered during dry spells) deep into fall, generally consider new mum purchases as annuals-many times roots aren't able to establish adequately to survive wintertime freeze / thaw heaving of soil 

Tropical-Immigrants-summer (caladiums, banana, canna, elephant ear...) bulbs / tubers-aesthetically decline along with amount of daylight-signs include if any new growth foliage size smaller, lack of flowering, many can be dug and stored (basement vs. garage) for replanting next mid / late spring-how - cut off stem / foliage just above crown, carefully dig and pry up out of ground, allow soil to dry, shake off soil, put in paper bags / cardboard boxes (newspaper between layers) place in cool dark dry locations-Household Members Spent Summer Outdoors-if returning indoors thoroughly check stems, foliage (top and bottom), potting mix for fungus gnats, aphids, scale... damage from disease, storm / wind damage and address problem (pruning-roots, upper growth) application of pesticide (insect / fungus)  before making move inside, same applies to plants that stayed in the house-plants on major decline consider discarding as recover during fall / winter iffy-    

First Time Sitings or Reoccurring Alien Growth-shotgun / artillery fungus, puffball, mushroom, toad stools... grow only on dead plant material only i.e. thick lawn thatch, imploding woodie plant roots, un / improperly composted material worked into or laid on top of soil, un-rotted kitchen wastes fresh manure...generally are not harmful to living plant material-do cause aesthetic agony-there is no treatment to rid or accelerate dying off process

Lawn Chair Quarterbacks-Get Up Get Moving-Be Smart-Get Professional Help as Needed-well cared for and maintained Cool (bluegrass, fescue) Season lawns will awaken from summers downtime-review history of care maintenance-determine best course of 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), healthy Warm (zoysia) Season lawns will keep good aesthetics but no fertilizing, core aerating or dethatching-All Lawns-need 1" water (rain or irrigated) every 7-10 days, mower blade height 3.5-4.0"-herbicides-post (actively growing) emergent herbicide application effectiveness diminishes if temperatures below 70, pre (germinating seed) emergent can kill any seed weed or lawn

Workings at Plant Farm (some unaided others require work)-unaided summer annuals (i.e. castor bean, sweet alyssum, portulaca) and perennials (purple cone flower, sweet autumn clematis, hollyhocks) can self-seed (produce and drop viable seeds that will germinate next year), others (black eyed Susan, zinnia, columbine, hyacinth bean vine) may self-seed or collect seed and store, requires work / perennial plant (prepare transplant location prior to any detachment) dividing (mint, sedum, strawberries, asparagus, hosta, ornamental grass, ferns, coral bells, pachysandra, Asiatic and day lilies, bergenia, thyme, butterfly weed), only divide healthy plants, 2 options 1). dig entire plant (includes stem, crown and root) split into pieces each with stem, crown and roots 2). remove ‘pie wedge' piece with stem, crown root-when backfilling holes blend infill with surrounding existing soil 

Rehabbing, Building, Eliminating Bed Spaces-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-Plant Installation Tips-remove flowers, any damaged stem, branches, dig hole-3X diameter of root 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 if plants appear wilted in morning not during heat of day, if returning area to cool season lawn see Lawn Chair Quarterback, too late for zoysia


One Liners

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

Conifers-will drop interior needles

Spider Web-can be seen in multiple locations, inspect to make sure not fall webworm or spider mites

Newly Seeded Lawn-don't mow 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

Spring Bulbs-purchase, 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







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

Paint and Brush