This is an excellent time to apply pre-emergent weed preventers. Casoron applied to beds with woody plants will prevent weeds for an entire year. Preen and other brands of Trifluralin (Treflan) will provide about 6 weeks of protection for non-woody plants such as flowers and vegetables. Corn gluten is a natural organic weed preventer which can be used around any plants. It prevents about 80 to 90% of weed growth. Bark and similar mulches will also greatly reduce weed growth. Up to a 4 inch layer can be applied safely around most woody plants. Fall is also the best time to control broad leaf lawn weeds.]]>
Many summer flowering bulbs will freeze if left in the ground over winter. Gladiolus, Canna, Ranunculus and Anemone normally survive. Dahlias sometimes survive, but it is safer to dig them. Tuberous Begonias seldom survive unless planted near a building or other protected area.
The best time to dig is after frost has damaged the tops but it has not gotten cold enough to freeze bulbs in the ground. That is usually about late October or November. After digging, cut off the tops leaving an inch or two of stem. Bulbs can be washed with water or simply brushed to remove dirt. They should be air dried a few days in a location where they will not freeze. After drying, stems usually separate easily from the bulbs. Dahlias with multiple tubers can be divided. Make sure each tuber has an attached growing point.
I like to use dry vermiculite or sawdust to store bulbs. This prevents them from drying too much. Best storage temperature is between 35 and 50 degrees F. They can be stored in a refrigerator if there is nothing else which generates humidity.
This is also a good time to divide and replant hardy bulbs such as iris and lilies. Iris should be dug and replanted about every 3 to 4 years. The older, inner rhizomes should be discarded and the outer, newer ones replanted. Tops can be cut back to 4 to 6 inches in length.
Lily bulbs also become too crowded after 3 to 4 years in the same location. Bulbs can be dug up and spaced so they are about 6 inches apart.
Now is also the time to plant hardy, spring flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Bulbs give the best landscape effect when planted in clusters of at least 6 bulbs. Spring flowering bulbs can be planted in annual flower beds. Then new annual flowers can be planted between the bulbs next spring.]]>
Leaf fragments will not harm the grass if the quantity is not too large. They will be gradually broken down by worms and micro-organisms and the resulting humus will improve the soil.
You can also use the grass catcher to pick up most of the leaf fragments along with grass clippings and use them to improve soil in other areas of the landscape. There is typically about a 3 to 1 ratio between leaves raked up and mowed leaves. You will have about 1 bag of chopped leaves for every 3 bags of whole leaves. Leaves can be chopped up with a mower no matter where they fall. You may have to rake them out from behind and between shrubs and flowers.
I also run a lawn mower over dead annual flowers and vegetables after frost kills them or they are through being harvested. The finer you chop them, the more quickly they will break down into humus. They can be immediately incorporated with the leaves into the vegetable garden and flower beds. It is all right to leave them on top of the ground until spring, but fall tilling or spading is better. Fall is also a good time to incorporate bark, compost or other organic matter into the soil.
Organic matter improves soil more than sand, topsoil, or any other amendment. If you have a heavy soil which is hard to work, the organic matter makes air pores so water can flow easily into and through the soil. As micro-organisms and worms use the organic matter for food, they produce sticky, glue-like compounds which aggregate soil into small particles up to pea size, which then act like larger particles. If you have sandy soil, organic matter has the ability to hold water and slow down its movement through the soil. Organic matter also holds onto nutrients so they can be absorbed by plant roots before they leach below the root zone.
Yes, you can plant bulbs in pots or other containers for bloom this winter inside your home. Most bulbs need to be cooled for about 12 weeks after planting in order to bloom, but a few require no special treatment
Paper white narcissus bulbs are pre-cooled and ready to be planted without any special treatment. Paper whites bloom in clusters of tiny, fragrant, daffodil-like flowers in either white or yellow. They are often planted in bowls or relatively shallow containers with just enough gravel or pebbles to hold them upright. They can be planted in deeper pots also. Just place the containers in a sunny area and keep them watered. They will bloom without any further treatment in about 4 to 6 weeks. I start mine in a sunny, west facing window in the basement where temperature is in the low 60’s. They develop a nice, compact shape. As soon as I see flower buds, I bring them upstairs into the main living area. If started in a warmer area, they grow taller and will need to be supported with a stake and string or tape.
Tulips, daffodils, crocus, hyacinths and grape hyacinths are best for forcing with a cold treatment. The best tulips for forcing are the triumph strain which have medium height stems. Read labels or ask for the varieties which are best for indoor flowering. Almost any daffodil can be forced into bloom. Varieties such as King Alfred, Golden Harvest, Las Vegas, and Ice Follies are some of the best. Dwarf multi-flowering daffodils can also be grown in pots. Hyacinths are the most fragrant of bulbs. Single bulbs can be forced in a special hyacinth glass which has a lower chamber for roots and water and an upper one for the bulb. Hyacinths can also be bloomed with several bulbs planted in a pot.
Tulips, daffodils, crocus, hyacinths and grape hyacinths can all be planted in ordinary flower pots. The smaller bulbs can be grown in 4 inch pots, but the larger ones need a 6 inch or larger pot.
Fill pots with potting soil, leaving an inch or more at the top. Then place bulbs close together in the pots, but not quite touching. They should be almost completely covered with just the tips showing at the soil surface. After potting and watering so that some water drains from the bottom of the pots, place bulbs in a cool, dark place for about 12 weeks or until sprouting has started. The ideal temperature is 40 to 50 degrees, which is the normal temperature of a refrigerator. If you have an extra refrigerator for summer, now is the time to put it to use for forcing bulbs. Check pots regularly and water as needed. Use different kinds of bulbs or make multiple plantings at 3 week intervals to spread out the blooming period.
You will notice roots at the drain holes and tops will begin to sprout when it is time to bring bulbs into light at room temperature. They will bloom in 2 to 4 weeks after bringing inside.]]>
There are so many places to plant bulbs that you can never have too many. They do not have to be limited to their own space. I like to plant bulbs anywhere I plant annual flowers. In the spring I plant my annuals between bulbs, even before the bulb leaves start to turn brown. You can also plant bulbs now between currently growing annuals, or it may be easier to wait until frost kills the plants, remove the annuals, and then plant bulbs.
I also plant bulbs among perennial flowers. They are through flowering before most perennials have grown to full size. There are a few early blooming perennials such as rock cress, gold alyssum, and candytuft which bloom as early as bulbs. Even these early bloomers are compatible with bulbs if you choose the right sizes and colors.
I am very fond of ground covers because they are low maintenance once established. Bulbs add color when they come up through ground covers. For example, yellow tulips or daffodils are a very attractive contrast to bronze leaf ajuga. You can make holes for bulb planting between ground cover plants with a trowel or bulb planter. Or if your ground cover is very thick, a 3 inch hole for a bulb will be quickly filled in.
New beds for bulbs can also be created in front of shrubs, walls or fences. If spaces are not wide enough, expand them by spraying a section of grass with herbicides such as Roundup. You can remove the dead grass within 3 weeks, even if it has not turned completely brown yet. If grass has grown into areas where bulbs are already planted, now is a good time to spray so that it will be weed-free next spring.
Bulbs multiply over the years. If yours have become too thick, you may want to dig them up and respace them. If you have trouble locating them, make a note on your calendar to dig and replant next June when you still have leaf remnants to find their exact location.
The best pattern for most bulb plantings is clusters or clumps rather than single file rows. I prefer to plant individual colors and varieties rather than mixtures. If you plant more than one kind of bulb in a bed, check the heights, so you can plant the shorter ones in front.
Although my mainstays are tulips and daffodils, I plant a few of the less common bulbs to extend the blooming season. Crocus is the most reliable early bloomer, but snowdrops, and windflower (Anemone blanda) also do well. Hyacinths and grape hyacinths are also easy to grow. Frittilarias can be spectacular. Fall is also an excellent time to move or plant new summer-blooming Asiatic Lilies.
I do a lot of bulb planting for my clients.]]>
My lawn is looking worse than normal for this time of year. I don’t usually fertilize until October. Would it help to fertilize sooner this year?
I normally fertilize my lawn just twice a year. I consider the fall application more important than the spring application. Anytime from now until the end of November is effective. You will see a quicker response if you apply it sooner.
Fall lawn fertilization keeps the grass green all winter and into early spring. It allows you to wait until May to apply a spring fertilization. Then the spring application lasts through the summer.
Washington law now excludes phosphorus from lawn fertilizers in order to reduce the amount of phosphorus leaching into above ground and below ground water supplies. I now recommend a 3-0-2 balance of nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium. A typical formulation would be 15-0-10 or 18-0-12. An organic lawn fertilizer would be more like 9-0-6. The numbers do not have to be exact, but approximately in this ratio.
I like to have at least 1/3 of the nitrogen in a slow release form since nitrogen is very soluble and some leaches quickly below the grass roots. The most effective slow release mechanism is coating or encapsulating some of the nitrogen with sulfur or a poly coating. There are also chemical nitrogen compounds such as methylineurea which are slow release. Check the “guaranteed analysis” to see if some of the nitrogen is slow release. The analysis label will also list iron, which is also helpful, even in small amounts.
Special lawn fertilizer formulations for fall application (usually called “winterizer” blends) are also suitable. However, I usually apply the same fertilizer in both fall and spring.
If you use a liquid application yourself or have one applied by a lawn care company, make an application now and another one in late October. Liquid fertilizers do not last as long as granular fertilizer. They are satisfactory as long as they are applied more often.
If you have broad leaf weeds in you lawn, a weed and feed product is a convenient way to apply both fertilizer and weed killer at the same time.
I can apply lawn fertilizer or weed and feed for you for a reasonable cost.]]>
Lots of flowers can be planted now, including the following:
Spring Flowering Bulbs
Now through November is the proper time to plant spring flowering bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and ranunculus. It is also a good time to plant summer flowering lily bulbs. You can also move these bulbs from one location to another. Wait another month to move lilies so the new bulbs have time to grow to full size.
I have a neighbor who has a very attractive “naturalized” bulb bed. She has planted both early and late flowering bulbs throughout the area. Crocus, snowdrops and scilla are the first wave of bloom. They are followed by several kinds of daffodils. Then tulips and grape hyacinths bloom in mid-spring. A few perennial flowers are scattered in this area to continue the color into summer.
I have found that daffodils (including the miniatures) are the easiest and most reliable spring flowering bulbs. Hyacinths have wonderful fragrance. Tulips have the largest variety of types and colors of flowers. I like Blanda anemones and ranunculus for late spring bloom.
Plant Pansies Now
If you would like color through fall, most of the winter, and early next spring, nothing does the job like pansies and flowering kale. The sooner you plant, the better plants will establish themselves before winter. Try planting a bed near your entry or where you can look at them from the back deck. Tubs and planter boxes are good locations for pansies too. You can even plant them between summer flowering annuals, so they will be established when the summer annuals are through blooming.
Plant Fall and Winter Blooming Perennial Flowers
Fall aster and chrysanthemum plants are available now in bud and bloom. Hellebores, such as ‘Christmas Rose’ bloom during the winter and on into early spring. Of course any perennial flowers can be planted now. They will get a good start and be well established plants by next spring.]]>
The main problem with most mature landscapes is overgrown shrubs which no longer enhance your home. They may have been sheared so they are all round balls or boxy hedges. They may have lost their leaves at the bottom because of overgrown top growth. In many cases, shrubs have grown together so they no longer have their individual shape or character.
Take a critical look at your landscape and make plans for some remodeling. Even if your landscape is relatively young, you may be able to see shrubs that will soon be overcrowded. You may be able to remove some of the extra ones before they have completely grown together. This will allow the remaining ones to retain their natural shape. Will some light pruning on remaining shrubs help before they become overgrown?
My sister has a rather unique method of remodeling her landscape. She has lived in her home for over 50 years. She takes one section at a time to remodel. She removes all plants from the area. Plants which are still in good condition or salvageable, she puts into pots and sets them aside for later reuse or to give to friends. (She has lots of friends eager to take her left over plants). Then she makes a plan and installs new plants. Sometime she reuses the plants that have been previously removed, usually in new locations. Her landscape is constantly changing, (like you might change the furniture one room at a time). The large, mature trees are one constant factor that give her landscape permanency.
Perhaps your family needs have changed and remodeling would make your landscape more useful. If you would like some ideas on how to remodel your landscape, send me an email. There is no charge for a half hour consultation. I do a lot of landscape remodeling.]]>
Their feeding causes leaves to become multi-colored, eventually turning brown and then falling off. They attack conifers as well as broad leaf plants. Check the bottom of multi-colored leaves.
Several pesticides are available which will kill mites. Washing plants with a strong spray of water is somewhat effective in removing them. They cannot find their way back onto plants from the ground. Add insecticidal soap or dish detergent for additional effectiveness. A simple hose nozzle can be used as a sprayer. Use a Siphonex or Hozon attachment to inject soap into the water from a bucket.]]>
Sprinkler and drip tube hoses can be an effective way to get extra water to trees. Most of the water absorbing tree roots are in the area just inside and just outside of the outer branches. A drip or sprinkler hose can be placed in a circle around a tree and allowed to run several hours until the water reaches a foot deep.]]>