Final Garden Cleanup for the Year

WinterGardenCleanupFlickrliketearsintherain

We are only a couple of weeks away from the official start of winter. The end of the gardening season is upon us and you should perform a final garden cleanup to end the year right. This will allow you to have the satisfaction of knowing that your garden will get the best possible start in spring when the world comes alive again.

By now you should have already done fall landscaping tasks like:

Close off the gardening season with one final inspection of your yard. Walk around the perimeter and check for signs of problems like broken sprinkler heads. If more leaves have fallen, take a moment to rake them up. They can be stored for later use as mulch or placed in a compost pile. Check for any tools like shovels that have been accidently left outside and put them away so that they do not rust from snowy conditions. Throw away or recycle leftover pots.

If you have not done so in the past, this can also be a good time to take a moment to map out the current layout of your garden on a piece of graph paper. This will allow you to do some planning during the winter months of any changes that you would like to make.

Have you done your final garden cleanup of the year yet? What other tasks do you perform as part of this?

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Get Ready for Snow Removal!

SnowremovalFlickrmueritz

December is almost upon us and it’s definitely time to make sure your snow removal arsenal is in place. There are three common ways that you can use to keep your driveaways and sidewalks clear, making it safer and easier to move around your front yard.

Shoveling
I am no stranger to shoveling snow; in college, the winter portion of my job on a landscaping crew consisted of scraping away the sidewalks (often quite early in the morning) so that students could arrive at class safely. I even did it barefoot once around my house so that I could say I did and horrify people like my Southern Californian family.

Use caution when you are using a snow shovel. This is strenuous exercise and can be quite harmful if you are out of shape or have certain health issues like coronary disease, as this Yahoo! Health article advises. They also warn that you should not shovel snow between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. to avoid the greatest risk of heart attacks and other problems.  Don’t try to be a hero by grabbing the biggest shovel possible and scooping up massive loads of snow; you will likely end up with pains and injuries that way.

You may also want to use a deicer….

Salts/Chemicals
Our condo complex keeps buckets of deicing salts around every staircase. These can be placed on the stairs and sidewalks to help with snow removal and melting the ice that accumulates and creates a dangerous situation.

You do need to use caution when using these products. Over time, the salts can collect around your plants and burn them. They are also strong enough to damage anything that is made of concrete. There are some types of chemicals that do not contain salt and will be easier on your yard.

Snowblowers
If you have a large yard and want to move snow quickly, get a snowblower. These machines are designed to blow away the snow as you push it along. They can be much quicker than a shovel or chemical. Since this is a machine being used in bad weather, use it carefully. Read the instruction manual to figure out where the dead man’s switch is located to shut it down safely and quickly should something fail. Turn it off completely before you remove any obstructions. Make sure you perform yearly maintenance to keep it in working order.

What method(s) do you use for your snow removal?

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Plant Your Spring Flowering Bulbs in Autumn

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Winter can be pretty depressing sometimes for a plant lover like myself since so many of them have died or gone dormant and the landscape is blanketed with snow. Towards the end of the season, though, I get to witness lovely surprises like the first buds swelling on the trees and crocus leaves and flowers peeping up through the snow or bare ground. When you plant the crocus and other spring flowering bulbs in autumn, you are preparing the way for a beautiful color show in late winter and spring.

 Common Spring Flowering Bulbs That Should Be Planted in Autumn:

  • Crocus
  • Daffodils
  • Garlic (separate the cloves before planting)
  • Hyacinth
  • Snowdrops
  • Tulips

Make sure that you give your bulbs a chance to get some roots forming during the fall before winter hits and everything slows down. Plant them before the ground becomes frozen.You will want to water them a little so that the plant can function, but not enough that the soil is very moist since this increases the chances that the bulb may rot before it can really get growing.

You should first inspect and test your potential planting site. Send a soil sample to a soil laboratory so you can check the nutrient levels present. This will tell you how much is currently present so you can buy the right kind of fertilizer. This should be worked into the ground so that the roots will be able to reach and use the nutrients. You will especially want to be aware of your phosphorus levels as this is necessary for the best possible flowers.

When you plant spring flowering bulbs, they should usually be placed in a hole that is either two or three times the length of the bulb. Check the package for planting instructions to be sure for your specific kind. Look at the bulb and place it so that the tip is upward and the roots positioned downward.

What is your favorite kind of bulb to plant?

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Plan on Fertilizing Your Lawn in Fall by November 30th

FallFertilizationFlickr shaire productions

When we fertilize our lawns, we think of spring as the best time to perform this task. Fall does not seem like a likely time since the growing world is slowing down and plants are getting ready to go dormant. However, fertilizing your lawn in fall is actually one of the best things you can do to help your grass stay healthy.

During autumn, plants are busy trying to store up food to get through the cold temperatures of winter. Fertilizing your lawn in fall boosts their storage potential and makes it more likely that your grass will survive until spring. You want to perform this before it really gets too cold, however, so perform this task by November 30th each year.

As always, a good test to perform before you do any fertilizing is an assessment of the nutrient levels that are currently found in the soil. Adding too much is wasteful and can even potentially harm your plants. You can buy a simple test at your local garden center or nursery. For more detailed results, you can send off a sample to a testing laboratory like Cornell Nutrient Analysis Laboratory or your local cooperative extension service.

As Cornell University advises, you should use “1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. (1 lb. N/1,000 ft.2). Use a fertilizer that is about 70 percent slow-release nitrogen” Once you have applied the nutrients, water your lawn so that the fertilizer can travel down into the soil. 

As always, feel free to give us a call if you would like us to do your fall lawn fertilization this year.

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Order Your Garden Catalogs Now

 

I wish prices were still this low. 5 cents for a packet of seeds?

I wish prices were still this low. 5 cents for a packet of seeds?

As winter approaches, your garden may start to seem a bit dreary. One way that you can help beat these winter blahs is to pore over garden catalogs. You can do this electronically, but I prefer having an actual paper version to look at whenever I fancy.

If you order in fall, the latest and greatest edition will show up in the middle of winter. Companies are eager to show off their newest cultivars. These are cultivated varieties, which are the different kinds of plants found within a species that are not different enough to have their own species. Cultivated means that a company has nurtured and developed it. Honeycrisp is an apple cultivar, for example.

These garden catalogs can also help you work smarter with your landscaping company. You can cut out pictures and descriptions (do remember to include the names, especially the scientific species when possible) to help them know what you are looking to have done. Do keep in mind, though, that not every plant is suitable for your situation and you may have to pass on some species. Your professional landscaper should be able to help you know if your favorites will grow in your yard.

Here are three of my favorite garden catalogs:

Park Seed was my catalog of choice growing up, along with Burpee. I loved leafing through the pages and trying to see how far I could stretch my meager savings. These companies have been around for a long time and offer a wide variety of plants.

If you are thinking of planting a vegetable garden as part of your landscape, you simply MUST get the Baker Creek catalog. They offer heirloom varieties that you will usually not be able to get locally. The pictures are simply gorg!eous to boot

What are your favorite garden catalogs to order every year?

Raking Leaves and Making Leaf Mulch for Your Garden

FallLeafMulchFlickrwickenden

Fall is a glorious time where the leaves change to magnificent hues of red, orange, brown and yellow. It also means that a lawn task awaits: raking leaves. Depending on the size of your yard and how many trees you have, this can seem like a daunting task. It doesn’t have to be, though.

One trick I like to use to make leaf raking easier is to lay a tarp on the ground. You can rake leaves on top of it and easily drag it around to other spots in your lawn. Once you are done you can bag them up to be hauled away or used in your garden. The latter is nice because you have one less thing to toss in the trash.

Making Leaf Mulch

Did you know that one of the best mulches for your garden is free? Leaves are full of nutrients and can be reused to make a leaf mulch that will help your garden plants stay safe during the cooler times of the year and benefit from the organic matter as the leaves naturally decompose.

First, you want to try and help your leaves break down faster. An easy way to do this is to run over the leaves with your mower while they are still on the ground. This will chop them up into pieces. You can bag them up to save for later, use them to mulch some of your plants to protect them through the winter, or simply add them to a compost pile.

A note of caution: not every leaf is suitable for use as mulch. A prominent example is the black walnut tree. This species produces a substance called juglone that actively works to harm other plants around it. You certainly don’t want something like that in your mulch or compost!

If you are ready for us to start raking leaves in your lawn, give us a call today. We would be happy to help.

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Fall Is a Great Time for Planting!

Try planting some pansies in the fall for extra zings of color

Try planting some pansies in the fall for extra zings of color

When most of us think about planting new specimens in our gardens, spring comes to mind. However, many plants can be successfully planted during the fall too. In fact, there are several reasons why it can be a better idea to do your planting in the fall.

Place Your Trees and Shrubs Now

If you think about it, planting in the fall is wonderful for trees and shrubs. When you plant in the spring, they face the possibility of dealing with growing conditions that are hot and dry when they are still newly forming roots. If you are planting in the fall, the roots will still continue to grow even after the rest of the tree or shrub has gone dormant. This will allow them to create a strong root network that will give the plant a better chance of survival in harsh conditions.

Try to do your planting towards the start of fall. You do want to avoid planting bare root trees or shrubs at this time, however, as these have a harder time getting their roots going in time. Choose ones that come in containers or are in a ball and burlap. Some species like magnolias and birches are harder to establish in fall and should be planted in the spring.

You Can Do a Fall Vegetable Garden

There are two types of vegetables that you can plant: cool season and warm season. One of the benefits of the cool season type is that you can do two crops per year. The first is planted earlier in the spring and the second is timed to produce a fall crop before the hard frosts set in. Some of the vegetables like peas often do a little better even with a light frost. You can also extend the growing season even farther by using structures like cold frames, hoop houses and greenhouses.

Some cool season vegetables for fall include:

  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Collards
  • Garlic (should be planted in late fall for the next year)
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Onions
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Turnips

Plant Some Pansies!

I remember seeing pansies among the snow when I was in college. These joyous flowers will give you two flower shows if you plant them in fall. Deadhead them so the blooms are extended and mulch them when the ground freezes so they will have some protection from the freezing temperatures.

You Can Do Some Perennials Too

This is when you can plant many of your perennials like irises, hostas and peonies. You can also divide existing ones to create new plants.

What do you plant in the fall?

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Color Planning for Your Garden in the Fall

Cotoneasters have great fall foliiage and fruit

            Fall color on a cotoneaster

Fall is a great time to do some color planning for your garden. You can look at other people’s yards and see ideas for plants that are blooming and changing foliage color at this time. If you decide that you want to add some new trees and shrubs for fall interest next year, many can be planted successfully at this time; in fact, for many, this is the ideal time instead of spring. This is also the time to start considering what spring flowering bulbs you will want to plant soon, which we will cover in a subsequent post.

Three Types of Trees That Provide Fall Colors

Maples are likely the first trees that come to mind when we think of autumn foliage. The palm shaped leaves come in a wide assortment of shades like red, orange, yellow, purple and brown. Depending on the species you choose (some produce better than others), you can also tap them in late winter to make maple syrup.

Oak trees also put on a good show with their leaves in hues of red, yellow, brown and orange. The acorns can also be used to make fall decorations for your house.

Aspen trees have foliage that turns yellow in autumn. Since these are often found in higher elevations where evergreens live, the pop of color is especially lovely. This can work for your garden too as a focal point.

Three Types of Shrubs That Provide Fall Colors

Cotoneasters are sturdy shrubs that will brighten up your landscape with their scarlet foliage and fruit. Two to look for are the rockspray cotoneaster and the willowleaf cotoneaster.

An underused shrub is the redvein enkianthus, which provides several seasons of color. In the spring it produces gorgeous clusters of white flowers with pink veins. In fall, the foliage becomes orange, red or yellow.

Serviceberries have white flowers that turn into edible fruits. In autumn, the leaves will turn to orange and red.

What are your favorite ways to add color in the fall?

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Types of Grass Seed

If you are working on overseeding or renovating your lawn this fall, consider the different types of grass seed available. This is an opportunity to add different kinds to your yard to improve its look or overall health. There are two types of grasses available: cool season and warm season.

Cool Season Grasses

These species have adapted well to cooler temperatures and are the type primarily used in the northern half of the United States where there are freezing temperatures. They will green up sooner in the spring and grow later in the fall. However, they can struggle and go dormant during times of heat and drought. You can buy mixes that include several different types that balance out their strengths and weaknesses.

  • Fine fescue (Festuca spp.): There are actually several different species that are included under this common name. Choose this type if you are trying to seed a shady area. The other three need sun, though fall fescue can tolerate some shade if needed.
  • Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis): This species can spread itself by rhizomes (underground stems) and is the best of these four types at reestablishing in bare spots. However, it requires more maintenance.
  • Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne): This is a great species to plant if your yard is used often as it can tolerate high levels of traffic. It germinates very quickly.
  • Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) Weeds and pests are less likely to bother tall fescue. It can handle areas that only offer partial sun.

Warm Season Grasses

These species of grasses are great if you are trying to conserve water. They do stay brown longer in the spring and go dormant in the fall sooner than cool season grasses. However, they are well adapted to warmer temperatures and can tolerate droughts better. There are several different species that can be used in lawns, but since New York is in the northern US, cool season species are usually used. You may see some use zoysiagrass.

  • Zoysiagrass (Zoysia spp.): These species stand up well to high traffic, drought and bouts of heat. Unfortunately, this can sometimes be invasive, so it’s best for lawns that are not conjoined to other people’s yards.

What types of grass seed do you usually use?

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Watering Your Trees and Shrubs in the Fall

Fall leaves

We don’t really think about watering our trees and shrubs (or other plants, for that matter) during the winter since snow is made up of water, after all. However, since the ground is often frozen and it is difficult for water to reach the roots, it is essential that you follow a special watering schedule in the fall so that you will have the best possible outcome for your trees and shrubs.

Beginning of Fall

As fall begins, you should stop watering your trees and shrubs for a few weeks. Rainfall should take care of the plants’ needs naturally. If you were to water at this time, the tree would start sending out new leaves and growth. When the first frosts hit, this would be a recipe for disaster as the tender stems are susceptible to cold damage. Let the deciduous trees finish up their leaf change and food storage. Evergreen trees will not change their leaves, of course, nor will they entirely stop growing during the winter. It is especially important that you make sure they get some watering before frosts.

Late Fall

Once the leaves have changed colors and fallen off, you should start watering again as needed. If it is raining frequently, you do not need to worry about doing this. As is the case with your lawns, you do not want to water frequently and shallowly. Do a deep watering every few days to encourage the roots to dive downward. This will help them find water during the winter and be protected from freezing temperatures.

As soon as the first frosts start occurring, stop watering your trees and shrubs. This is especially important if there is snow on the ground. If you have added enough water, your trees and shrubs will have a better chance of surviving the drought conditions of winter.

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