Step with care and great tact, and remember that Life's a Great Balancing Act.
It's nice to have a beautiful lawn. A mainstay of the American landscape, lawns provide esthetic and recreational value to any home.
Many of us assume that by adding fertilizer and watering regularly, our lawns will take care of themselves, but some extra care is needed for the long term health of your lawn.
Fall is an optimal time to do this work, as the temperatures cool off and summer growth starts to slow down, and the milder conditions provide the best time for your lawn to re-establish itself before cold weather creeps in.
There are three basic steps to renovating and rejuvenating your lawn.
The first step is to dethatch, if necessary.
Thatch is the layer of organic matter sitting between the soil line and the grass.
While this helps with moisture control, too much of it can choke your lawn and provides a breeding ground for insects and disease.
If your lawn has less than 1/4" of thatch, you can skip this step.
Between 1/4" and 1/2", you may want to consider dethatching, but it can possibly wait until the spring.
If it has more than 1/2" of thatch, dethatching is highly advised.
Before you dethatch, we suggest that you mow your lawn very short beforehand.
Dethatching can be done manually by raking hard over the lawn, which breaks up areas of grass that are intertwined and removes debris.
This can be done with a steel rake, but a specially designed dethatching rake will get you better results with much less work.
For large areas, you may want to rent a power rake to make the job a lot easier.
Rake the debris away, and remove it from your lawn.
The next step is to aerate.
Aeration is adding holes to the lawn, which will allow room for water to soak in more deeply, as well as breaking up the soil a bit to make it easier for the grass to grow.
The cheapest method is to take a pitch fork or some other instrument, and to poke holes in the soil.
This can be very hard, time consuming work.
A much easier method is to rent an aerating machine for the morning, and to run that over your lawn.
An aerating machine pushes hollow spikes into the ground, pulling out plugs of dirt, and leaving a little hole.
Whichever method you choose, the next step is to add some sand to the soil and rake it into the holes.
This will help keep them open, allowing water to penetrate deeper into the soil.
The third step is to overseed.
Overseeding will provide your lawn with "new troops." Many lawns are of older varieties of grasses that tend to be vulnerable to pests and disease.
Adding a new species of grass, or adding more of what you already have, will help thicken your lawn and make it more resistant to change, whether it's due to drought, frost, or pests and disease.
Most lawns in this area are mostly Kentucky bluegrass.
Adding Magic Carpet Kentucky bluegrass seed will match fairly close.
However, because of lawn disease problems and increasing water restrictions, we suggest using a mixture of both Kentucky Bluegrass and Perennial ryegrass.
The mixture we sell is called Necrotic Ringspot Resistant Grass.
It gives a nice lawn that is more drought tolerant and is resistant to some of the major lawn diseases found in Kentucky Bluegrass.
If you choose to use this mixture, be sure to overseed your entire lawn, rather than just in spots, to prevent a 'patchwork quilt effect'.
Adding a good starter fertilizer will help give the seeds a good head start, such as Fall & Winter Lawn Fertilizer.
A layer of peat moss or compost will help keep the birds at bay, provide additional nutrients, help to keep the seeds moist until they can germinate.
A light watering a few times a day will ensure this.
It is especially important to water in the afternoon, when the sun (and evaporation) are at their strongest.
Once the seeds start germinating, you should continue to mow the existing turf until the new grass catches up.
I know, it's sounding like a lot of work, but it's well worth doing now.
Keeping ahead of the game will save you lots of work, time, and money, in the long run, as well as set a foundation to provide you with a beautiful lawn for the next year.
Please read our 'Over Seeding Rejuvenate Your Lawn' handout for more information.
Now that the days are getting shorter and the nights have that familiar "nip" to them, it's time to prepare your roses for the long winter nap to come.
Here are the necessary steps to tuck them in for the winter:
You will be watering less than you were in the summertime, but continue giving them sufficient water to keep them healthy before the onslaught of winter.
Fertilizer is no longer necessary or desirable.
You don't want to encourage any soft, tender growth.
Continue treating for insects and diseases:
Treat only if you notice any damage.
Clean the area around the plants:
Pick up and dispose of any fallen leaves or old flowers.
Healthy leaves can be used in the compost pile, but do not use those that are damaged by insects or disease.
Do not prune: While you may continue cutting flowers to bring in the house, do not cut the plants back severely at this time of year.
Newly cut branches will not be able to scab over before winter comes and will lose moisture and die.
Wait until spring to do any major pruning.
Leave the rose hips:
These are the bright red fruits that form where the flower used to be.
They provide some vibrant color for the fall garden and are also the plant's cue to begin winding down for the winter.
Protect less hardy varieties: Construct a 12" mound of soil, leaves, or mulch around the plant to give them added protection from the cold - do not use grass clippings as a mulch.
You can add an extra layer of protection by using a Styrofoam rose cone.
Come spring, your roses should wake up from their winter dormancy happy, healthy and ready to go!
Please read our 'Rose Care' handout for more information.
Depending on which variety you're talking about, Morning Glory plants are either a beautiful sight, or a scourge to be eliminated.
The easily controlled annual plants that are sold in garden centers are ok, but , its native cousin, commonly referred to as bindweed, is hearty, and hard to get rid of.
Indigenous members of the Morning Glory family are found almost everywhere on the planet, and they are universally hard to control.
Morning Glories typically spread via rhizomes, which are sections of roots that store energy and are capable of producing an entirely new plant.
Spreading over the top of the ground, the plant will drop new roots into the ground wherever it touches.
Unfortunately, it is very hard to dig out these new, unwanted plants, without making the problem worse.
Have you ever seen the segment in the movie Fantasia where Mickey is trying to get rid of the broom sticks? It's very much like that.
Because each rhizome is capable of becoming a new plant, attempts at digging or tilling them out can just make the problem worse.
The best bet is to block the sunlight from the plant, whether by using carpet, black plastic, or even sod, and then cutting out any shoots that appear from underneath before they can restock the rhizomes with more energy.
You'll need to go out every week, or at least every two weeks, to pull any shoots that make it to the light.
This can take up to a year, but you must remain vigilant.
If you let them get sunlight, the plant will replenish the rhizomes and you will be starting over again.
There are also chemical solutions that will help control Morning Glories.
Roundup, 4-D and Trimec are good options.
The best time to use them is in the fall.
Re-application may be necessary, as the roots can be as deep as 8' into the ground.
Again, checking regularly will help you stay ahead of the game.
Another thing to consider is that just because your eradication campaign is being successful, your neighbors could be making the problem worse by ignoring it.
Discussing your project with your neighbors and working together will save you a lot of time and frustration in the long run.
Please read our 'Morning Glory Control' handout for more information.
The most anticipated moment for summer gardeners is harvesting the fruits of their labors.
Most gardeners in their eager anticipation to feast sometimes harvest too early, or too late.
The goal is to harvest vegetables when the quality is the highest.
After all, it is the quality of garden produce that sets it apart from store bought produce.
Most vegetables reach their peak flavor when they're young and tender.
Many vegetables not picked at the proper time are stringy, woody, or tasteless.
All the hard work and expense of growing the crop has been lost.
Try these strategies for the freshest, tastiest home-grown vegetables.
Hastening the Harvest
The first killing frost of the year is usually in mid-October.
If your garden is being uncooperative-- many plants are still producing new fruit and the old fruit is not ripening-- and the end of the season is approaching, you can speed up the ripening of the garden slowpokes by cutting back on water.
You can remove flowers and small fruits that don't have a chance of growing large enough to harvest before the season ends.
You can also pinch back the growing tips of the plants to stop further growth.
Plants treated in this manner will put their energy into ripening the existing produce instead of trying to produce more fruit.
Long Term Storage
A shrewd gardener always plans to grow more vegetables than can be eaten fresh.
The surplus of course can be preserved in a variety of ways for consumption during the winter months.
Most often these vegetables are processed via canning, freezing, or drying.
These are the best ways to handle the long term storage of highly perishable crops such as green beans, tomatoes, peppers, and summer squash.
However, there are several vegetables which can be stored without any processing.
These include many root crops as well as pumpkins and winter squash.
Though little or no processing is involved, successful long term storage of these vegetable crops depends on their careful harvest and post-harvest handling.
Here are some suggestions for dry storage of selected vegetable crops.
For long term storage of any fruit, the key words are cool and ventilated.
Cooling slows down the fruit respiration, which slows down senescence.
Ventilation keeps ethylene and carbon dioxide from building up to damaging levels.
Some people use old refrigerators set aside just for keeping fruit.
If that is impractical, choose an area with low heat that does not go below freezing.
A garage or shed, unheated porch, or dry basement area are possible locations.
Avoid direct sunlight or areas with a wide range in temperature.
Avoid confined unventilated areas.
Fruit can be packed in ordinary boxes lined with newspaper or other padding.
Some people use perforated plastic box liner bags to prevent fruit from drying and shriveling in long storage.
Plastic bags without holes for ventilation should not be used as they can cause buildup of trapped ethylene, which will speed up ripening and shorten storage life, while excess moisture contributes to rot.
Avoid storing fruit with open blemishes as they will be a focus for rot.
Check periodically for rotten fruits and remove them at once.
If picked at the proper time and given ood storage, many fruits and vegetables can be enjoyed for months after the harvest season is over.
The old timers knew what they were talking about when they said that, "one rotten apple spoils the whole barrel".
Please read our Harvest Tips Handout for more information
As the summer flowers start to fade because of heat, cold, and other problems, the fall flowers will start to flourish.
During the fall season, chrysanthemums become the dominant show in the garden.
Mums naturally bloom late in the season because they are short day plants.
Long nights cause flowers to form in the fall.
From late-August until snowfall, beautiful shades of yellow, orange, red, purple, bronze, pink or white will decorate your garden.
Mums make wonderful garden plants and excellent cut flowers.
Combined with fresh and dried materials they make beautiful fall decorations.
Mums are easy to grow, but if you neglect them they may produce weak stems, unattractive foliage, and they may only have a few small flowers.
Hardy varieties of garden mums produce underground shoots or stolons so the plants persist from year to year.
Potted florist chrysanthemums are generally killed by freezing, or they may bloom so late in the season the flowers are killed by frost before they open.
After florist mums finish blooming, send them to the compost bin.
After the hardy mums finish blooming, new shoots will start to grow, so protect them from the frost by putting mulch around them.
Try planting a few pansies or Flowering Kale along with your chrysanthemums this fall.
They look great growing together in the same gardens.
Please read our Chrysanthemum Handout for more information.
Summer's heat, and dry soil conditions cause noticeable browning on tree and shrub leaves, especially around the leaf margins.
This is called Summer leaf scorch.
Symptoms of leaf scorch vary from plant to plant, on the situation.
Leaf scorch is a non-infectious, physiological condition, caused by unfavorable environmental situations.
It is not usually caused by fungus, bacteria, or virus.
The problem may appear on almost any plant if weather conditions are extreme, such as high temperatures, dry winds, and low soil moisture.
When large amounts of water evaporate from leaf surfaces, and if the plant's roots are not able to furnish enough water to compensate for this transpiration loss, leaf tissue dies and the leaf turns brown as a result.
Young trees, or those that are already in stress due to insect infestations, diseases, or other factors, are more susceptible than those growing vigorously, and are in good condition.
Although all plants can show signs of leaf scorch, some plants are more prone, such as Japanese maple, Norway maple, Sugar maple, beech, ash, oak, linden, birch, alpine currant, horse chestnut, white pine, hydrangea, rhododendron, viburnum, and flowering dogwood.
Summer Leaf Scorch occurs when large amounts of water evaporate from the leaf surface.
Roots are sometimes unable to supply enough water back to the leaf to compensate for this loss.
The only solution the plant has is to reduce its leaf surface area.
It does this by sacrificing its outer leaves.
Leaf scorch is caused by prolonged dry periods accompanied by hot weather, or dry winds that create a water imbalance internally in plants.
Transpiration, water evaporation from tiny openings in the leaf surface, cools and maintains leaf temperature.
When water is lost faster than it can be replaced, the results are dry or dead leaves, and possibly dead branch tips.
In some cases, there may be enough water in the soil; it might just be that the plant can't replace what is lost as fast as it needed.
Slow growing trees such as beech, oak and dogwood have this type of injury.
Also, plants with large leaves, such as Rhododendrons, Hydrangeas, and Catalpa have this problem.
A third type of plant with this problem are those with tender leaves.
It may not matter how much water is available, they will still sunburn if it is too hot or too windy.
Japanese Maples are at the top of this list.
Use screens or a shade cloth to protect trees or plants that cannot tolerate the extreme temperatures.
A shade cloth can lower the temperature up to 15 to 20 degrees.
Trees and shrubs are especially prone to leaf scorch during the first 2 to 3 years after transplanting, while their root system is establishing.
Be extra mindful of these plants during periods of heat stress.
Be sure to slowly 'deep-water,' or soak, all your older trees and shrubs once or twice a month in the late summer and fall to help keep moisture in the entire root system.
Newly planted trees and shrubs may need to be watered more often.
Once the weather starts to get cooler, and the snow begins to fall, you do not usually need to water your plants any longer - Mother Nature takes care of the winter watering needs.
However, last winter we only had one snowstorm.
It was unusually warm and dry in January and February.
Many plants, especially newly planted shrubs and 'evergreen' plants, were damaged, or even killed, because of the lack of water in the lower root levels.
Hopefully we never have another winter like last year, but be prepared to water your tender plants if necessary - take a bucket of bath water out to your dry plants - they will love it.
Please read our "Summer Leaf Scorch" handout for more information.
Why do leaves fall?
Where do leaf colors come from?
Why do leaves change color?
Why do some trees turn yellow and others red?
How do leaves change color?
Do leaves change color because of weather?
Why is fall color better some years than others?
Every fall deciduous trees and shrubs go through a transition period where their leaves turn from green to beautiful shades of yellow, red, orange, crimson and other colors.
These fabulous fall colors look even more beautiful when set against or amongst the dark green foliage of pine and spruce.
To most people, this is just the 'Changing of the Fall Leaves Season' and there are just a couple of colorful weeks left before 'Old Man Winter' sets in.
But, what really causes these leaves to turn color and then drop off the trees is very fascinating.
Mother Nature knows what she is doing and she helps her plants survive the cold winter weather in a number of ways.
Please read our 'Falling Leaves' Handout for more information.
Some of the articles we will have in our October newsletter will include the following topics:
- Pansies Are Not Wimps
- Planting Tulips and Daffodils
- Forcing Bulbs to Bloom Inside the House During the Winter
- Caring For Plants During the Winter
- Winter Hiding Places for Insects
What You'll Need:
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 5 cups chopped fresh plum tomatoes
- 6 cups cooked and drained pasta (campanella, fusilli or small shells)
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1/4 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Step by Step:
- Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat.
- Add minced garlic; sauté for 30 seconds.
- Add chopped tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally.
- Add pasta, basil, cheese, salt and pepper, tossing gently to combine.
Yield: 6 servings.