Posts Tagged With: fall gardening

Fall Yard Clean-Up: Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental Grasses Fall Clean-UpOrnamental grasses add texture, form and movement to any garden design. Easy to grow, these versatile plants can be found everywhere from flower beds to borders. With just a little maintenance you can keep them adding interest to you garden for years to come.

3 Types of Ornamental Grasses

  1. Cool Season Grasses – Varieties like Fescue, Purple Moor and Blue Oak like the cooler temps of spring and fall. They go dormant during the summer heat. Plant them in the early spring.
  2. Warm Season Grasses – These plants prosper in summer and early fall. Hardy Pampas and Fountain Grasses can grow all the way until the first snow. Plant these in the late spring or early summer.
  3. Evergreen Grasses – These “grasses” actually have many grass-like traits. Sedges and Rushes are in this class. Because these varieties are never dormant, your best bet is to plant them in the spring to allow for stronger root development.

Which Grass Do You Have?

Ornamental grasses are either clumping or running (rhizome forming). Clumping grasses keep to themselves in nice mounds but do need to be divided to stay healthy. Running or rhizome grasses send out growth below the soil surface. They, too benefit from dividing. Some varieties can be very aggressive and will take over a flower bed if left unchecked.

Ornamental Grasses Add Interest to Winter Gardens

Depending on how neat you like your winter garden, ornamental grasses can offer interest to your yard, so consider leaving the foliage. Birds are attracted to the seeds, and frost can turn stalks into icy sculptures. The dead foliage helps to insulate the crown of the plant. Cut the plant back to about 4-6” in the early spring to encourage and speed up new growth. Avoid drastically cutting back the plants to avoid wounding them.

Watch Out for Sharp-Edged Leaves

Still wanting to trim your grasses back in the fall and winter? Be warned – maintaining ornamental grasses can be both easy and treacherous. Many species have very sharp foliage, so we recommend wearing a pair of sturdy leather gloves when attempting to cut them back. If the grass mound is large and established, then bundle the stalks together before cutting them. You will need a hedge trimmer or even a chain saw depending on the size of the plant. Deposit the handy dandy bundle of debris in your compost pile.

Divide and Conquer Your Ornamental Grass

When your grass has outgrown its current home, then it is time to divide your plant. Prepare yourself, this can be a workout depending on the size of your plant. The best time to do this is when you’ve just cut the stalks back. It will allow access to the crown. Here are some tips for successfully dividing your grass:

  • Lift and separate – For large clumps take a small ax or a sharp shovel and partition the crown of the plant into sections. You may need a crow bar to pry apart the pieces you have cut. Leave roots on each of the pieces, but plant them before roots dry out.
  • Shape it up – If you just want to rein in a mound from getting too large, trim around the outside of the plant. You can insert a sharp spade or shovel along the edges and separate sections of the grass away from the parent plant. Be sure to cover up the exposed edges with fresh dirt and mulch.
  • When the center dies – Older plants tend to die off in the center. One method is to break up the entire mound and re-plant some of the divided sections back in the original spot. Another is to “core out” the center of the plant and allow the surrounding healthy growth to fill in the bald spot.

A Little TLC Goes a Long Way

Ornamental grasses can break up the monotony in any garden. Just remember when tackling your fall yard cleanup, a little TLC can go a long way in helping your plants stay healthy and ready to put on a show next spring. 

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your lawn and garden projects. From hedgers and chain saws to shovels and wheelbarrows, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

Categories: DIY Projects, Fall Checklist, Gardening and Lawn Care, How-To's | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Get a Head Start on Spring Gardening with Fertilizer

fertilize your garden this fallThe kids are headed back to school, the summer flowers are fading and – here’s the big news  it’s no longer taboo to fertilize your plants in the fall. Now that we know more about the year-round development cycle of plants, giving them a boost in the fall with fertilizer may be just what they need to survive the harsh winter.

Fertilize to protect plants from the elements

Once it was thought that fertilizing in late summer and fall would cause a plant to develop new growth that would be damaged in the first cold snap. Scientists now believe that in the fall plants store food and nutrients in their root systems to help them survive until spring. Fall fertilizing can help strengthen a plant.

A soil test shows what’s missing

Not all plants will need an extra boost of nutrients in the fall. Do a soil test to see what nutrients and minerals may be missing from the area you would like to treat. Many testing facilities will analyze the soil and give you their recommendations for the type of fertilizer to use.

More is not always better

A common mistake with fertilizing is to assume that every plant will benefit from a dose. If the soil is healthy, then the plant may not need extra nutrients. Soil testing also helps to determine if an area has been over-planted. Remember – more is not better. Just replenish what is missing from your soil. Too much fertilizer can kill your plants or grass.

It’s all in the numbers

All fertilizers have a three-numbered code or NPK code on the bag. This corresponds to the amount of Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K) in the fertilizer.

  • Nitrogen promotes foliage growth
  • Phosphorous stimulates root growth
  • Potassium is important for proper cell function and overall plant health

The right mix will work wonders

In September apply a 20-8-8 mix fertilizer to your grass to help it recover from the summer heat and drought. Apply a 13-25-12 mix at the end of October to encourage root growth. For perennials, a high phosphate/low nitrogen mix will strengthen the plants and produce more blooms in the spring. Adding a phosphate mix when you plant bulbs this fall will help roots establish.

There’s a lot going on

Scientists have discovered that a garden is a year round living organism. Even though plants are dying above ground in the fall, there is a lot of activity going on beneath the soil surface. Roots continue to grow, storing nutrients from the soil. These nutrients help a plant fight off disease and strengthen the roots. When the temperatures drop to around 40 degrees, plants also release amino acids and sugars that help them withstand freezing.

2 Types of Fertilizers

Organic Fertilizers:

  • Made from natural plant and animal sources, such as manure, wood, fish and bone meal and seaweed
  • Not water soluble
  • Usually in granular form and take time to release nutrients into soil
  • Remain in the soil for an extended period
  • Stimulate beneficial microbes, which help break down the organic material and release soluble nutrients
  • Help improve the quality and structure of the soil
  • Best if applied in the fall so nutrients are released to soil over the winter months, making them available for plants in spring

Synthetic Fertilizers:

  • Manufactured chemical compounds
  • Water soluble
  • Make nutrients immediately available to plants
  • Can “burn” foliage and damage plants if too much is applied
  • Leach out of the soil quickly
  • Can contaminate ground water, streams and ponds due to runoff
  • Do not improve soil quality
  • Best when applied in the spring when ground is cold and microbes are inactive

Keep your plants happy – fertilize!

Good soil preparation, mulching and adding fertilizer where needed will keep your plants happy, healthy and thriving. Your garden feeds your body and your soul. Return the favor. Your plants will love you for it. 

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your lawn and garden projects. From a rake and a shovel to a wheel barrow and mulch, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Getting Ready for Fall Part 3: Pampering the Grass

Prep Your Garden for Fall - Dethatching, Overseeding and AeratingHas your lawn had its share of foot traffic this summer? With outdoor activities in full swing, it’s a sure bet your grass is a little stressed. It may be a toss-up as to which of you is more excited about the kids going back to school – you or your lawn! A little lawn pampering may be just the ticket. It will love you for it (and you will love how it looks next year).

Adjust Your Mower Height

Once the summer heat is gone, lower your lawn mower to a regular height of about two inches. Cutting your grass shorter will help prevent matting under leaves and snow. Avoid cutting it too short though, otherwise weeds can take over if the grass thins out too much.

Continue Watering Schedule

Don’t slack on watering just yet. Until temperatures really begin to cool, continue to water your lawn as you have been. A general rule is to give your lawn about an inch to an inch and half of water a week. This will vary depending on where you live, the condition of your soil and the type of grass you have.

Check for Thatch

Check your lawn for thatch – a thick layer of dead organic matter mixed with living plant parts that builds up at the surface of your grass. Over-fertilizing and watering too frequently can cause thatch and lead to disease and insect problems. A dethatcher has powerful blades that pull the thatch to the surface. After using the dethatcher, rake up the thatch debris and compost it.

Pesky Weeds Be Gone

Fall is also a great time to attack those pesky weeds like dandelions, clover and other broadleaf weeds. Applying an herbicide spray that contains glyphosate, 2 4-D or MCPP is best. The weeds take these chemicals down into their root system, effectively stopping their chances of returning in the spring. The herbicide needs to be applied when temperatures are more moderate and the soil is moist.

Fall Lawn To-do List

Now that you have thatched your lawn and treated for weeds, improve the condition of your soil and grass using these to-do’s.

  1. Aerate the soil. This reduces thatch, improves drainage and loosens the soil. Using a plug type aerator is best since there is less chance of compacting the soil.
  2. Apply a top dressing. This is a mixture of loam, sand and peat, which will help amend the soil. Put a thin layer over the grass and plug holes. Avoid smothering the grass.
  3. Work the top dressing into plugs. Use a stiff brush to push the mixture into the plugs.
  4. Repair dead patches in grass. Reseed any thin spots. Use a mulch product that is embedded with seeds and fertilizer to help fill in these areas. Keep spots moist to allow seeds to germinate.

I See Dead Patches

If your grass has too many dead patches, try over seeding the entire lawn. Many over-seed warm season grasses with ryegrass to help thicken up thin or patchy yards. Cisco seeds has a variety of different types of seeds available. One is sure to do the trick for your lawn.

Quick Fix with Sod

Sometimes starting from scratch is the best option. Sod is the quickest way to bring your yard back to life. Now that summer heat is on its way out, it is the perfect time to install a new lawn of cool season grass. Keep the new sod moist for a quick start. It will have plenty of time over the winter months to build a strong root system.

Fertilize Cool Season Grasses

Finish up your yard work by fertilizing your grass. For cool season grasses like bluegrass, fescue and ryegrass, a late summer feeding in September and then again in October/November will help them green up earlier and look better in the spring. Don’t fertilize warm season grasses in the fall because they are dormant. Only fertilize them if they have been over-seeded with ryegrass. You fertilize these types of grasses in the spring.

Mulch those Leaves

Be sure to remove any fallen leaves from your yard before they can mat down and smother the grass. Using a mulching mower will help with this. Also, don’t forget to drain your irrigation lines before the first frost. Shut off the water to the system and then drain each zone separately to make sure there is nothing left to freeze.

A little lawn pampering may be just the thing to improve your stressed out grass. Your hard work will pay off when your grass comes back greener and healthier next spring. Now, if we can just figure out a way to keep the kids and dog off your beautiful green lawn…

Want more information on fall lawn preparations? Check out our blogs, What Everyone Ought to Know About Lawn Aeration, Aerating/Plugging and Slice Seeding and Essential Fall Tools for Your Lawn & Garden.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From detachers and aerators to mulching mowers and over-seeders, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Getting Ready for Fall Part 2: Time to Till It Up!

Prep Your Garden for Fall - TillingThe school year is just beginning, summer flowers are dying off and vegetable gardens are winding down. Signs that summer is drawing to a close are everywhere. With fall on our minds, what needs to be done in our yards and gardens before temperatures cool down?

Start Improving on Next Year

The first thing you should do is assess your yard and garden. Take stock of all the plants that didn’t succeed this summer and why. Check out your lawn and determine if you need to re-seed or plant new sod. Think of ways to improve things for next year, such as:

  • Identify plants that are overgrown. They may need to be divided.
  • Check for diseases on your plants. Treat or remove them so they do not infect plants around them.
  • Replace summer annuals. Add fall color with plants like Chrysanthemums.
  • Dig up bulbs. Unearth bulbs that may not be able to survive the winter in your zone and store them.
  • Fertilize turf grass. Add a slow release, all-natural fertilizer to your turf grass.

Soil Preparation is Key

Preparing your garden for next year is easy. The more work you put in now, the easier your task will be in the spring. The key to a successful garden is soil preparation, and fall is the perfect time to do this, since the ground is still warm.

  1. Clean up dead plants and remove debris – Make sure you remove weeds so they are not tilled back into the soil where they can spread their seeds.
  2. Work compost into the soil – Tilling the compost into the soil helps distribute the nutrients throughout. It will also oxygenate the soil and help keep diseases at bay.
  3. Protect the soil – If you aren’t going to plant in this area until next year, cover the ground with straw to protect it from harsh winter weather.
  4. Mulch – If you are planting fall flowers or if you just want to protect your evergreens, then mulch. Mulch will help keep plant roots protected and the soil healthy.

Fall Tilling is Easier

Because the ground is warmer in the fall, it is much easier to till deep enough to provide a good medium for root growth in the spring. Tilling is a great way to get your soil ready for next year.

  • It opens up the soil allowing oxygen to reach the deeper layers of the ground.
  • It relieves compaction – plant roots have to work too hard to get through packed soil.
  • It allows for amendments to be distributed through the soil.
  • It improves drainage.

Give Soil Time to Develop

By tilling compost into your soil in the fall, you are giving it all winter and spring to become biologically active. Organic amendments take time to interact with the earth and render their benefits to plants. It can take weeks or months for amended soil to work at peak levels, which is why fall tilling is so much better than waiting until spring. The soil has time to develop.

Rough it Up

If you are not planting in your garden until spring, rough till your soil in each direction and leave it. The ground will flatten out before spring when you can go back and fine till it. Some of the amendments you can add to your soil now are bone meal (for nitrogen) and rock phosphate (for phosphorous). Add a complete organic fertilizer in pellet or granular form when you till. This is an easy way to add nutrients and will cut down on the amount of compost you need in the spring.

Leave Something for Pests

For your vegetable gardens, consider letting some of the plants linger. Plants like spent cabbage, kale, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, broccoli and radishes act as pest magnets. In the spring, these plants release a cyanide compound when decomposing that can kill nuisance pests like wireworms. Just till the decaying plants into the soil before planting next spring. Instant compost!

A Gardener’s Work is Never Done

Fall is when you should think about ways to enjoy your garden during the cooler weather. If you enjoy bird watching then leave a few flowering plant stalks in your beds to attract birds. The birds will feast on the seeds and use the stalk as a perch. Remember, garden life is year round and a gardener’s work is never done.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From tillers and shovels to wheel barrows and mulch, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

Categories: Gardening and Lawn Care, How-To's | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

[Part 2] Early Fall To-Do: Plant Mums For a Fresh Fall Flowerbed

Plant Mums For A Fresh Fall FlowerbedThis time of year, avid gardeners are looking for a reason to get outdoors and freshen up their flower beds. And they’re likely doing it using chrysanthemums — or mums for short — late-season bloomers that produce lots of long-lasting flowers in a variety of colors and shapes. Perfect for mass plantings or filling a container, gardeners can play with color schemes of mums that complement existing plantings such as ornamental grasses, beautyberry (Callicarpa), smoke tree (Cotinus), variegated sedum and conifers, while creating instant curb appeal. But first, you need to clean out your flower beds.

6 Steps for Easy Autumn Clean-up

You’ll need a rake, garden spade, cultivator, hand trowel, bulb planter, organic compost, peat moss or manure, mulch, wildflower seeds (optional), spring-flowering bulbs (optional) and of course, chrysanthemum plants.

Step 1. Remove summer mulch and compost; deadhead flowering plants and pull up any weeds; rake up leaves and debris.

Step 2. Dig up any annuals by the roots, shaking the conditioned soil back into the bed, and compost only the healthy plants.

Step 3. Groom your perennials by splitting or discarding clumped areas, separating tubers, rhizomes and bulbs and add compost.

Step 4. In addition to planting mums for immediate bloom, plant biennial seeds like hollyhock, foxglove, Canterbury bells and violets and bulbs like hyacinths, daffodils, tulips and lilies. Remember to mark the planting area.

Step 5. Trim back foliage on perennials that like to be pruned in the fall. If you find snails and slugs, keep the cuttings out of the compost heap.

Step 6. Add manure, compost or peat moss before planting. Afterwards, mulch the garden with two to three inches of fresh mulch.

Choosing Mums For Outdoor Planting

Both cutting mums and hardy mums are hybrids of the golden-yellow mum originating from China. Both can be planted in a flower bed, for different reasons. Cutting mums are traditionally used by florists because of their large flowers that come in the most variety of shapes and types, including:

  • Decorative: long, tightly overlapping petals that curve up and in toward the flower center or out and down
  • Pompon: smallish, globe-shape petal-packed flowers
  • Single or Daisy: single row of long petals around a center disk
  • Anemone: one or more rows of single flat petals topped with tiny florets of a darker color
  • Semi double: two or three rows of long petals around the center disk
  • Single Quill: single daisy type with tubular petals

Cutting mums struggle to tolerate the cold and are used as short-term bedding plants to create interest. Hardy mums are, well hardy — they produce the underground stolens that help the plant survive in cold temperatures.

Still, you want to plant mums in a spot that gets at least six hours of sunlight a day, in well-draining soil. Water thoroughly, never letting them wilt. Hardy mums will bloom well into the fall, until the first hard front. Prepare them for winter by mulching up to four inches around the entire plant with straw or shredded hardwood, spreading between branches.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you plan your next planting project. From rakes to wheelbarrows, seed and mulch and everything in-between, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-tos, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

Categories: Fall Checklist, Gardening and Lawn Care, How-To's | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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