September is an ideal month for innovation in the garden. Fall Mums, Asters, Pansies, fall annuals and spring flowering bulbs arrive to help you rejuvenate your landscape canvas. It is truly a stroke of genius to garden in September. Plants put in the ground have plenty of time to root before winter and will be well established to perform in spring. Peonies, Iris and other perennials can be divided and moved. Tulips, Daffodils and other spring flowering bulbs can be planted. Flowering shrubs and perennials as well as trees establish well when planted this month. Here are some ideas for artistic splashes of color for your landscape that you can invest in now.
• For an artistic stroke to your landscape, plant Allium cristophii or Allium schubertii bulbs. You will be rewarded next spring with stunning unusual splashes of color in dramatic fashion!
Neighbors taking walks through the neighborhood will be sure to ask what those unusual flowers are!
• For a stroke of color combine sub-zero pansies with spring flowering bulbs planted in September. The pansies are available in a kaleidoscope of colors and will bloom this fall. They will bloom again when the snow clears, in spring the bulbs planted below them will grow through the pansies to flower above them. A bed of bright yellow pansies with purple tulips is an amazing sight in spring. Or blue pansies with yellow daffodils will provide dramatic drifts of color next spring.
• Buy and plant ornamental grasses in September. They provide immediate interest and will establish themselves now for future enjoyment. Most grasses have inflorescence (plumes of “flowers”) in fall and the foliage gives visual interest swaying in the breeze. Hardy and reliable as well as deer resistant they can dramatically change a landscape quickly. Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ is a favorite of mine.
• Plant ornamental kale this month for unusual and interesting color through November. Although it won’t overwinter you will love the enjoyment it will bring you in the fall months. It will tolerate some frosts and even becomes more dramatic after a few cold nights. Plan on it looking great all the way to Thanksgiving Day.
• Colorful mums can be planted in containers with colorful stems of willow, dogwood or other branches poked through the soil as vertical interest. After the fall season the chrysanthemums can be planted in the ground for winter, cut back and mulched to return again next spring.
• Henry’s Garnet Itea is a fun flowering shrub with long lasting red fall color. It blooms in summer and puts on a great show in fall year after year. Or try an Oakleaf Hydrangea with its dark red to burgundy foliage on cinnamon colored exfoliating stems. When it comes to flowering shrubs I will always opt for a panicle hydrangea in September with ‘Limelight’ one of my favorites.
September is a wonderful month to experiment in your landscape with great success. The weather is friendly to plants and enjoyable for people to be outside expressing their artistic abilities with plants. Time spent planting this month is simply a stroke of genius.
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.
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.
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.
“Sprout” it from the rooftops! Spring has finally arrived.
April is an amazing month in West Michigan. We all emerge from our homes and become reacquainted with our neighbors as the sounds of lawn mowers once again fill the air on a spring evening. The lush green grass grows so fast it seems you can watch it grow. Tulips and daffodils push their way out of the soil and the once dormant stems of forsythia, lilacs and magnolia seem to swell with pride as their buds pop open. Easter celebrations and Arbor Day tree plantings symbolize a new beginning.
“Sprout” it from the rooftops….spring is finally here!
April is a good month for soil preparation, top dressing planting beds with compost and refreshing mulched landscape areas. Consider application of pre-emergence weed control in landscape beds as the soil warms up. Most weed seed will germinate when soil temperatures get to around 60 degrees. The same applies to your lawn as this is month to avoid crabgrass by applying pre-emergence crabgrass controls in April. An organic weed seed suppressant and natural nitrogen source you may want to try for both your lawn and landscape beds would be corn gluten.
Remember that after a long cold winter the deer and rabbits will find the emerging new vegetation a wonderful salad buffet and taste treat. Oh “deer”! Use some natural repellant sprays on emerging vegetation like tulips and hosta before they are “deerly” departed. Many good repellants use garlic and herbal oils as well as other smelly and bitter tastes to make the sprouting buffet less attractive. I also like to use Milorganite as a fertilizer at the base as it will also double as a helpful repellant to foraging creatures.
If you’re doing some tree planting or tree care to celebrate Arbor Day this month, make sure to do it right. Tree planting depth is an important consideration when planting. Trees planted too deep or trees that have a “volcano” of mulch mounded at the base do not establish well and suffer in future years. Good taper at the base, root collar health at the soil level and roots that are allowed to spread and work their way into the upper profile of the soil to seek out nutrients, water and footing are important considerations for your tree.
As you “sprout” it from the rooftops remember that even though we get some nice warm April days the overnight temperatures can drop to below freezing. We often get a few “zinger” overnight frosts in April and our last frost date is usually not until between May 10 and May 20. Some plants like Pansies can handle light frosts but other tender vegetation and sprouts may need to be protected from time to time so watch the forecasts and harden off tender plants gradually before planting outdoors. Container gardening affords you this opportunity by giving you the flexibility to move plants inside on the occasional frosty night.
Have fun and “sprout”it from the rooftops….it’s finally spring!
Your neighbors with the nicest yards and gardens are those who invest time to improve them in the months of October and November. If you own a home it most likely didn’t come with an owner’s manual. Landowner spelled phonetically is “land-oh-ner” although horticultural challenged types would pronounce it “land-oh-no” as they ponder where to start. A great place to start is with some fall planting. Fall is no time to throw in the “trowel”. It is a window of opportunity that comes along once a year. The perfect time to plant, move existing plants or in the case of perennials, split your plants!
Fall is the third act in a four season drama, and for some the most spectacular of seasons. A kaleidoscope of color and a last hurrah before dormancy drops the curtain and ushers in the final act, the arrival of winter.
Fortunately dormancy is a reversible stage, providing anticipation and suspense for the arrival of spring. Until then senses are heightened in fall with vivid colors, distinctive aromas or tastes and the sights and sounds of leaves fluttering in the breeze. The trees provide a carpet of nutrient rich organics, investing in the earth to feed future generations of growth.
Plant some bulbs this fall. I love to create “hot pockets”…..small open spaces in your landscape where you plant a clump of spring flowering bulbs to surprise you next spring. You don’t have to dig out trenches or large beds with back breaking work to enjoy bulbs. They are as easy as dig drop done. Plant them in groundcover areas by using a spade and opening up a soil “pocket” in the ground cover area. Drop 5 to 7 bulbs in the hole and next year they’ll pop up through the groundcover. If deer and rabbits are a problem plant some Alliums, Daffodils, Dutch Iris and Fritillaria…..all munching resistant. Not tonight deer!
Another reason fall is for planting? You can pick up lots of bargains on plant material in October. As Donna Summer said, you work “yard” for the money…..and fall is the time to save. Besides, there’s always room for more jello and plants. I’m always pulling up more sod to put another new plant in the ground. Like a kid in a candy store, especially when it involves spending money on a plant bargain and a new plant. I guess that’s why they ask what’s the difference between a gardener and a mutual fund? The answer is one actually matures after 20 years and makes money. I get my “green thumb” from digging in my wallet, unable to resist the next exciting plant. You can save money too by bending over and splitting your plants. It will entertain your neighbors and you’ll be glad you did next spring when the plants start to pop up. Just make sure the fall divided root clumps are large enough and a light layer of mulch is placed over the top so they don’t heave out of the ground in winter.
Many landscape plants put on a spectacular show in fall. Woody deciduous landscape shrubs like Viburnum, Itea, Oakleaf Hydrangea or Fothergilla light up the landscape with color. Witch Hazel started the drama back in spring with its unusual yellow blooms in March. It saves the best for last with a fantastic foliage collage of orange, yellow and red all on the same plant. Autumn Crocus or Colchicum get in on the act with crocus-like blooms in fall. Also known as “naked ladies” these beauties bloom in fall void of foliage. The foliage waits to appear the following spring. Ornamental grasses add interest to the landscape well into winter with a harvest of dramatic inflorescence dancing in the breeze. Fruit and berries add to the color from the rose hips of Rosa Rugosa to the bird “berry-liscious” fruit of Crabapples,Viburnum and the stunning color of Coralberry with a botanical name that says it all…. Symphoricarpos orbiculatus. Today’s new generation of own root landscape shrub Roses like ‘Knockout’ put on a show in fall, many blooming all the way to Thanksgiving. Roses take a while to naturally shut down for winter and some don’t exit stage left until mid to late November!
Fall is a time to “grow” with the flow. Food reserves manufactured by the foliage are being transferred to the roots. The plant isn’t spending like it does in spring on top growth. The plant is investing in its “hortfolio” and root establishment for future growth. Even though air temperatures have dropped, the soil remains warm enough for root activity well into early winter. Your investment will grow because fall planted landscape plants have a big jump start on spring planted material.
It’s bulb planting time! Time to put those miracle orbs in the earth for their long winter’s nap. I participated in the blessing of the bulbs and the Run for the Bulbs 5K in Holland Michigan this fall…..here are a few pictures to share from that beautiful October evening.