October 23 2012
00 yard cleanup

FALL GARDENING TIPS—PART 1

For many people in the Northeast, fall is their favorite season. The crisp, cool nights and warm days, the kaleidoscope of tree colors, the pumpkin patches and hayrides.

For gardeners, too, fall is the last chance to tackle essential lawn and garden tasks before winter kicks in. Not to mention an opportunity to complete those landscaping chores left undone from last spring.

So roll up your sleeves, put on a jacket, and grab your gardening gloves.  Maintaining and preparing your yard for the winter months ahead will reap nice rewards in 2013.

ESSENTIAL FALL “TO DO” LIST

Check out the fall tips below for the ones that apply to your garden.

  • Divide and multiply perennials
  • Overseed your lawn or start a new one
  • Plant a tree or bush
  • Rake up all leaves
  • Control weeds
  • Mulch and put your garden to bed for a long winter’s rest

Now let’s look at each task in more detail:

Perennials: Many perennial flowers as well as most springtime flowering bulbs (e.g. tulips, daffodils, crocuses, irises, etc.) can be divided and transplanted in the fall–New Jersey’s warm autumn soil helps them establish and develop good root growth before going dormant for the winter.

Check out the general method below:

1) Thoroughly water perennials you plan to divide. 2)  Dig up entire plant or clumps of bulbs with root ball intact, (having previously marked the location of bulbs when they bloomed). 3) Divide into smaller plants at the root ball with a sharp knife, pruners, spade, or even pitchfork. 4) Replant sections immediately in desired locations, making sure to mark new positions of bulbs. 5) Water well. 6) Mulch!

If you are unsure which types of perennials should be replanted in the fall—and which methods to use—check beforehand with online resources or your local landscape professional.

Lawn care: It’s easy to forget that grasses are also perennials. Generally, your lawn needs most TLC in spring and summer, and repair work and sustenance in the fall.

So take advantage of warm fall days and ample rainfall to overseed your lawn if you feel it hasn’t grown thick enough or has many bare patches due to blistering summer heat. Overseeding is exactly what it sounds like: sowing seed over existing grass.

Follow the basic steps below:

1) Mow your grass shorter than normal. 2) Rake up and bag all clippings. 3) Aerate the lawn with a “core aerator” (available from local rental centers). 4) Purchase the grass seed blend best suited for your lawn. 5) Use a fertilizer spreader set at the correct overseed rate to sew the seed. 6) Apply a starter fertilizer at the same time. 7) Use a fine spray to water your lawn, with several waterings per day, for several weeks (depending upon weather).

These steps will promote contact between seeds and soil and give your lawn the best chance of recovery.

Early fall is also one of the best times to start a new lawn. You can choose to lay sod—creating an almost “instant lawn”–or sew grass seed—which is cheaper and offers a wider variety of grass types than sod. Either way, you will need good soil preparation beforehand.

The instructions below describe the basic method for starting a new lawn by seeding:

1) Remove old lawn and/or weeds with a flat-bladed shovel or with a sod-cutter (after first applying an herbicide). 2) Have soil pH tested and adjust if necessary. 3) Break up compacted soil with a rototiller (available from rental center). 4) Using a spreader, spread fertilizer with high phosphorus content over soil. 5) Spread “soil conditioner” or compost over soil. 6) Use the rototiller to till the fertilizer and soil conditioner into soil. 7) Rake soil to level off lawn surface. 8) Use a roller (available from rental center) filled with water to finish leveling soil. Water soil lightly. 9) Using a seed spreader, spread ¼ recommended seed over entire lawn. Repeat times, using ¼ of the seed, making sure to push spreader in different directions. 10. Rake lightly, covering seed with thin layer of soil. 11. Roll lawn surface again, this time with empty roller. 12. Seeding is done! But you must keep seeds evenly moist, with fine spray of waterings of up to several times per day (depending on weather).

(This is the end of Part 1 in our series of landscaping and gardening tips for the fall. Be sure to contact your local landscaping professional for more specific information.)