Green Thumb

The heat and drought of this summer are hopefully past and now we enter one of the best times of the year to yard and garden! I know you work “yard” for the money. Late August through October is the perfect time to “grow” get em and re-establish “lawn” and order in your landscape. It’s a great time for both plants and people. You’ll have a green thumb by both improving your odds of success in the yard and from the currency you’ll save by being smart and investing in your “hort”-folio. Here are 5 reasons why with a bonus comment to boot!

1) Feeding. We’ve been pouring on the water during heat and drought to keep our lawns alive. August to October is a great and efficient time to feed your lawn because it will thicken your lawn and improve density. Lots of root establishment occurs in fall. You’ll be miles ahead next spring by pampering your lawn a little this fall.
2) Fall is for planting. Late August to October is the perfect time to plant in Michigan. You can generally find deals and discounts for plant material. In addition fall planted landscape plants put their energy into establishment and root growth….not into top growth. You will be further ahead next spring with a plant that has rooted itself in your garden and is ready to go.
3) Seeding. Grass seed is relatively inexpensive. You can repair bare spots, seed a new lawn, or overseed an existing lawn by buying bulk grass seed and doing it yourself. The best time of the year to seed and establish turf in West Michigan is between late August and October.
4) After the heat and drought of summer you need some instant color to rejuvenate your landscape and patio planters. Consider Mums, Ornamental grasses and Pansies. Mums are perennials giving you beautiful color this fall and will come back again next year, so will ornamental grasses. You’ll get more than just the fall season with them. Pansies can be planted for fall color and they will survive under the cover of this winter’s snow to bloom again next spring! You’ll get more than one season for the money.
5) Split your plants! If you want to divide or move plants August-October is a great time to do so! From Peonies to Iris……Daylilies to Hostas you can double your money by digging and dividing and two or three for the price of one!
One final note to our list……Exercise! Late August to October after the heat and drought of this past summer is a perfect time for people too! You can save on your club membership and get fresh air and exercise outdoors. It’s a perfect time for people and plants!

(But don’t be surprised if I come running through your neighborhood to supplement my yard and garden workouts)

Crop-tober……..a great time to be outdoors!

It’s that time of the year……a great time to be outdoors getting exercise, fresh air and taking in the sights all around us. I call it “Crop-tober” because we harvest a dazzling visual crop of color. As I mentioned before I believe this year we are set up for fabulous color…….and the first week of October is lighting the candle here in West Michigan with sunny days and cool nights. Sunny days and cool nights helps add the “reds” and “rusts” we’re looking for to add to the mix of the reliable yellows and oranges. Let’s light it up and enjoy this year’s “crop” of fall color!

Fall Color

I love the color provided by a beautiful introvert in the fall landscape. With all the spectacular color provided by the trees, the Autumn Crocus is content to be an obscure bulb-like plant (actually a “corm” in the Lily family) that is misunderstood and unknown by a lot of people.

Autumn Crocus

Blooming in Fall without foliage (foliage appears in Spring) this flower has a long history of use in medicine and goes by many names including Meadow Saffron, Wonder Bulb, Colchicum and Naked Ladies. Plant some this Fall!

In regards to Fall color produced by the trees I have a feeling this October will be great for those of us in southwest Michigan. Here in southwest Michigan we’ve had plenty of rainfall all season long. That combined with the promise of sunny days and cool nights as we start October will set us up for a spectacular color show in my opinion.

Fall Color

Look for those sunny days and cool nights which help add the “reds” to the dependable oranges and yellows we see in fall. I overheard someone saying that Fall without colorful leaves is like life without music or art!

Early Fall Color

Are there some trees turning color early in your neighborhood? You can spot the trees where fall has come early dotting yards along the roadway. If you have one of those trees you may not have an extroverted harbinger of a new season. The tree might be in trouble. Early frosts or cold weather does not necessarily speed up the change in color. Sunny days and cold nights does improve the reds in our fall landscape. But a tree that turns color earlier than the rest and begins to thin it’s foliage early could be a clear sign the tree is under stress. Many times it is an indication of decline, soil compaction or even girdling roots slowly choking the tree to death. If the weather has been dry irrigate from the trunk out to the drip line. Aerate the soil under the tree and then feed the tree when the leaves fall off this fall. Even though the tree isn’t growing and air temperatures are dropping, the roots can absorb nutrients in the warm soil and help the tree get off to a much better start next spring. Then mark your calendar for sometime in January to take another look at the tree. Prune out crossing branches, weak branches and open up the interior of the tree with your pruning. This will improve light and air penetration into the canopy of the tree next year and take some of the load off the tree at start up next spring.

You may be happy the tree is a colorful character and the life of the party but if it parties earlier than it’s friends it may be trying to tell you something!

Dig Drop Done

I love planting flower bulbs in fall. Maybe it’s my Dutch-European heritage or maybe it’s because planting bulbs is as easy as Dig, Drop, Done. I am amazed every spring by the number of people who call my radio show to confess they never planted the bulbs they bought on impulse the previous fall. Many people will be inspired to make a purchase of Daffodils, Tulips, Hyacinths, Iris, Crocus, Alliums or other spring flowering bulb only to leave them in the trunk, garage, basement or under the seat of the car. I have often bought bulbs and used a pick axe in December to get them in the ground. Why do we procrastinate when such amazing beauty and satisfaction awaits us just a few months away? Investing in your “hortfolio” now will bring brighter days after the dark cold months of winter.

A new bulb marketing campaign is promoting promoting bulbs to ladies trying to attract a new generation of women. The campaign promotes the “surprisingly simple beauty” of bulbs and how they fit into our busy everyday lives. The theme is planting flower bulbs is as simple as Dig, Drop, Done. At the website you’ll meet the ladies: Marcy the Super Mom, Julianna the Fashionista and Evelyn the Empty Nester…….

I believe planting bulbs can be as easy as dig, drop, done if you apply these simple rules. 1) Dig deep enough. The deeper you plant the more years enjoyment you’ll get from your investment. If the recommendation is to plant 6 inches deep, plant them 8 to 12 inches. 2) Bulbs don’t like wet feet. Well drained soil is best, work in some organic matter to improve the makeup of the soil. 4) When you “drop” the bulbs drop in some bulb fertilizer at the same time. 5) If you have lots of hungry scavengers (squirrels, voles, chipmunks) in your yard, some chicken wire folded over the bulbs when planting will keep them from making your investment a tasty snack. 6) If you have a lot of deer and rabbit pressure in your neighborhood consider leaning toward bulbs like Allium, Fritillaria, Daffodils and Dutch Iris.

So whether you’re into football or the latest season of Dancing with the Stars this fall, take a commercial break for some “dig, drop, done”……you’ll be glad you did next spring!