Six Steps To A Beautiful Landscape Next Season
By MELINDA MYERS
Gardening Expert

Don’t let a busy schedule stop you from creating a beautiful landscape. Incorporate a few of these changes in your fall landscape care. You’ll create beautiful results with a limited investment of time and effort.

Cut  the  grass,  recycle  fall  leaves,  and  improve  the  soil  with  a  pass  of

 the  lawn  mower. Shred leaves and leave them on the lawn as you mow this fall. As long as you can see the grass through the leaf pieces, the lawn will be fine. As the leaves break down they add organic matter to the soil, improving drainage in clay soil and water holding ability in sandy soils. Or, as an alternative, use excess leaves as a soil mulch. Shred the leaves with your mower and spread a layer over the soil to conserve moisture and insulate the roots of perennials. Fall mulching gives you a jump on next spring’s landscape chores.

Improve  your  lawn’s  health  by  fertilizing  this fall with a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer. You’ll reduce the risk of disease problems and with slower weed growth in fall, your lawn, not the weeds, will benefit from the nutrients. Fall fertilization also helps lawns recover from the stresses of summer by encouraging deep roots and denser growth that can better compete with weeds and tolerate disease and insects. Northern gardeners can follow the holiday schedule and fertilize Labor Day and Halloween. Southern gardeners should make their last fall fertilization at least 30 days before the lawn goes dormant or the average first killing frost to avoid winter kill.

Do  a  bit  of  planting.   Cool season annuals brighten up the fall garden and, for those in warmer regions, the winter garden. Consider adding cold hardy pansies. They provide color in the fall garden, survive most winters, and are back blooming in the spring just as the snow melts. Fall is also a good time to plant perennials, trees and shrubs. The soil is warm and the air cooler, so the plants are less stressed and establish more quickly. Select plants suited to the growing conditions and be sure to give them plenty of room to reach their mature size.

Plant  daffodils,  tulips,  hyacinths  and  other  bulbs  in  fall  for  extra  color

 next  spring. Set the bulbs at a depth of two to three times their height deep. Then cover them with soil and sprinkle on a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer. This type of fertilizer promotes rooting without stimulating fall growth subject to winter kill. Base your bulb planting time on the weather not the calendar. Start planting after the night-time temperatures hover between 40 and 50 degrees. Be patient, waiting until the soil cools reduces the risk of early sprouting that often occurs during a warm fall. Those gardening in the far south and along the gulf coast can purchase pre-cooled bulbs to compensate for the warm winters. Or the chilling can be done at home by storing the bulbs in a 35 to 45 degree location for at least 14 weeks before planting.

Leave  healthy  perennials  stand  for

 winter. This increases hardiness and adds beauty to the winter landscape with their seed heads, dried foliage and the birds they attract. Plus, it will delay cleanup until spring when gardeners are anxious to get outdoors and start gardening. However, be sure to remove any diseased or insect-infested plants to reduce the source of pest problems in next year’s garden.

Start  composting  or  add  shredded  leaves  and  other  plant  debris

 to  an  existing  compost  pile. Combine fall leaves with other plant waste, a bit of soil or compost, and sprinkle with fertilizer to create compost. Recycling yard waste saves time bagging, hauling and disposing of green debris. You also reduce or eliminate the need to buy soil amendments to improve your existing garden soil.

Incorporate one or all six of these practices to increase the health and beauty of your landscape now and for years to come.