How often do I hear people say “I just love the fall season.” There is so much to love about October in the garden. From pumpkins and gourds to fall foliage color and crisp refreshing air we fall in love with time outdoors. Aside from being a beautiful time of the year, it is also the perfect time of the year to rejuvenate or establish your landscape. Let me count the ways oh October how I love you. In the words of Victorian poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…..10 to be exact why October is a kick in the plants out in the garden.
When Chlorophyll production breaks down in the leaves the other pigments get their chance to shine!
1) Plants put in the ground in October focus on establishment; the soil is warm for roots while the air temperature cools reducing stress.
2) Bulbs! Plant Tulips, Daffodils, Alliums, Hyacinths, Crocus and more now for spring color.
3) Mum’s the word. Chrysanthemums provide vibrant color and come back year after year. Give Asters a try too; today’s new varieties are reliable bloomers!
4) Weed control is effective in fall. Weeds just like the trees are moving food reserves into their root systems for winter so herbicide sprays are more effective when applied in fall. Weed control will also knock out winter annual weeds now so they don’t appear in spring.
5) Fall annuals like Pansies or Ornamental Kale are frost tolerant and provide color well into November.
6) Lawns like plants focus on root establishment in fall because of the warm soil and cool air temperatures. Feed your lawn and overseed and it will reward you next spring with thick lush healthy growth. Consider core aeration in fall especially if your soil is clay-like in nature.
7) Shrubs and Trees establish well in fall, again the roots will establish in the soil without energy put into top growth. Fall planted landscape plants establish quicker the following year than spring planted material.
8) Exercise your green thumb as in dollar savings! Deals are generally available in fall to save you money.
9) Money grows on trees. Leaves have natural nutrients and organic structure to improve the tilth of your soil….and they’re free!
10) Maintain your “composture”. Start a compost pile for your garden next year, no time like the present and October is a great time to start!
It’s that time of year again….time when people stop to see me completely freaked out by a “dancing snowflakes on their tree!” Well Happy Holidays and relax. The “snowflakes” are an insect called Beech Blight Aphid or affectionately known as the Boogie Woogie Aphid.
Beech blight aphids dancing on a twig
You can blast them with jets of water late in the season or spray with an insect control however on a large Beech tree for many this is not practical. They will not kill the tree but can weaken the tree over time….generally we just see some branch loss here and there. Their calling card is sooty mold fungi from their excretions called honeydew that turns tar black in color.
Their dance will cause some branch distortion and possibly some branch loss but you are not going to lose your tree. As with any tree good maintenance and care (including feeding and pruning) will keep the tree healthy and able to withstand nuisances like the Boogie Woogie Aphid.
Rake and Roll
October is a great month to harvest a nutrient rich and free soil amendment for your garden….leaves. Money does grow on trees as leaves provide both nutrients and great structure when incorporated into your garden soil. By next spring and summer the soil will be improved with organic matter and in many cases have abundant earthworms providing castings as well. It’s time to “Rake and Roll” in October if you want your garden to have rock star status next year, all at little to no cost.
If you have a grassy area that you want to convert to a flower or vegetable bed next year, but don’t have the time or energy to dig up sod, I have a solution. It’s a passive form of composting which some people call “lasagna” composting. Take the lawn area you wish to convert and cover the grass in the pattern and size you wish in newspaper 2 to 4 pages thick. Do it on a calm day with a garden hose at the ready so you can wet the paper. Otherwise you might find yourself chasing the classified ads all over the neighborhood.
“Leaf Lasagna” planting bed creation
After positioning the paper liberally cover the paper with leaves falling from the trees. I have found that Maple leaves are ideal for this purpose. You can pre-grind them with the lawn mower first if you want to speed up the decomposition process. Once the leaves are on top of the newspaper, finish up with soil placed on top of the leaves to hold them in place. Now you can “leaf” it alone and let nature take its course. The newspaper leaves and soil will suffocate the grass and the recipe will “cook” until spring for tilling into a rich tilth perfect for planting. In spring you’ll be “tilling” it like it is and glad you did.
If you want to develop a “flowering” in your landscape, October is the time to exercise your option of dropping amazing orbs of promise in the soil with spring flowering bulbs. Easy to plant and fun to watch flower in spring, there is a wonderful variety to choose from. If you struggle with rodents nibbling on the bulbs for a winter snack, just remember to have some chicken wire handy. Dig the hole and place the chicken wire in the bottom of the hole. Now situate the bulbs in the hole on top of the chicken wire. Fill with some soil, and fold the chicken wire over the top. Finish filling the hole with soil. The bulb roots and stems will grow through the chicken wire and rodents will be deterred from nibbling.
The “Alliums” have landed in my yard!
You may also want to consider planting some Alliums. Alliums are colorful, interesting flowers in all kinds of sizes and members of the onion family. Rodents must be self conscious about their breath as they tend to leave them alone for other treats in nature’s buffet.
You work “Yard” for the money. Thinking of how to stretch your dollar in the garden? To have green thumbs not by the amount of currency handled but rather results in your landscape? Look no further than the months of September and October for help.
You can use your Dis-“clover” card or your “Grass”-ter card or even maybe your Hosta la Visa card with confidence in the fall for a number of reasons. Discounts on plant material are usually readily available. The weather is cooler and rain generally plentiful making it good weather for both you and the new fledgling sprouts.
Fall is for planting
Weed control is more effective in fall. Plants root readily in warm soil in fall as the plants put more energy into establishment instead of top growth like they do in the spring. The reasons are numerous why fall is for planting. Bulbs can be planted, lawns established and repaired, landscapes planted or rejuvenated and even annuals like Pansies or Ornamental Kale can be planted.
Ornamental Kale or Cabbage are perfect additions to the landscape for cool season color
Plants established in fall have a jump start on their counterparts planted in spring and you look like a neighborhood genius.
Start to prepare your tropical deck foliage plants for cabin fever and the move inside. Soon tropical breezes will turn into whatever winter pleases. Your tropicals or houseplants should be inside and behind glass by then. I’m referring to plants like Hibiscus, Mandevilla, Crotons, Boston Ferns, Palms, Ficus and the like. It’s a good idea to bathe the plants before bringing them inside. Maybe some fresh sterilized potting soil is in order or systemic insect granules to keep the bugs at bay. Make sure soil is not saturated so we don’t create a fungus gnat issue in the home. Without the long warm days of sunshine and breezes the plant will need much less water in the months ahead.
Fall is the time to invest in bulb planting. With a good well drained soil and proper depth it is as easy as dig drop done. And oh “deer” if Bambi is a problem in your neighborhood not to worry. Bulbs like Dutch Iris, Alliums, Daffodils, Fritillaria will do just fine.
Fall planted pansies and Tulips planted in fall will be a treat next spring
If you want to plant Tulips or Crocus you will need to have the repellant handy next spring. I successfully had a great batch of yellow tulips this spring and protected them with Milorganite and a repellant. They were beautiful and the deer were “deerly” departed to another area in the neighborhood.
Make your effort and your money count by actively gardening in the fall. You work “yard” for the money and next spring you’ll be glad you did.
Oh my “raking” back as some would say when faced with the prospect of clearing leaves from their yard. “Maple” I can help you. Did you know money grows on trees? It’s not a “figleaf” of my imagination. Money does grow on trees and it happens in a couple ways during the fall season.
“Maple” I can help you?
The first is when the less dominant pigments in the foliage are unmasked by the loss of chlorophyll. As Billy Madison would say “Chlorophyll more like Boreophyll” but not really. The fascinating “accessory” pigments to the fragile energy producing dominant pigment chlorophyll wait their turn to take the stage. They account for only 1/3 of the amount that chlorophyll is present in a typical leaf, but they pack a punch. The accessory pigments Carotenoids (yellow to orange), Anthocyanin (red, pink, purple) and Xanthophyll/Tannins (tan to rust to brown) produce the fireworks in the fall. All season they played second fiddle to chlorophyll protecting the fragile Mr. C so to speak as suntan lotion from overexposure. When the growing season ends and winter approaches the chlorophyll’s work is done and it’s time to accessorize and go out on the town. The money part comes in when people like you and I take a drive to see the show. The brilliant fall colors are an important boon to tourism and support the economy of our communities in a “tree”-mendous way.
Carotenoid pigments create the banana yellow color in fall tree leaves
The second way money grows on trees is of direct benefit to you personally. You can have a green thumb by keeping more of your currency in your hands. You do this by using the nutrient value of a free sustainable resource (leaves) in your yard. Using the leaves in your garden adds organic matter (think earthworms), improves soil tilth and improves water holding capacity. But the big advantage, and here’s where the money part comes in, is the nutrients! Think about it…..as leaf senescence takes place valuable nutrients are being removed from the leaf transported into the tree for storage before being abscised from the tree. Not all the nutrients make it out before they fall. If you shred these leaves to speed breakdown or mulch them into fine pieces into your lawn it is a free slow release fertilizer!
“Raking” up is hard to do….so why not instead harvest and harness the benefits of fallen foliage?
Leaves require microbial decomposition to release their nutrients which is a fancy way to say slow release fertilizer. I’m just “tilling” it like it is people! I was reading a recent study that analyzed the nutrients and chemicals in leaves from 100 municipal leaf samples. This study found that in 20 tons of leaves there is 400 pounds of nitrogen, 40 pounds of phosphorus and 152 pounds of potassium…..the big 3 NPK. There also was plenty of the minor nutrients like calcium, magnesium, sulfur, boron, iron, manganese, copper and zinc to go around. The nutrients from this example well exceeded $150.00 in value on the market. Like I said, free organic renewable slow release fertilizer. So money does grow on trees! What are you waiting for? Let’s travel at the speed of “ground” and may the “forest” be with you. Bon “foliage” my friends!
Don’t be bush league! Use the slow release free fertilizer at your feet to improve your garden!