A GROWING CONCERN: Dig those fall gardening chores

OCTOBER IS HERE! That means the weather will certainly change soon.

Dark, cool, wet, rainy weather will fall upon us.

We need the rain as soil conditions are dry and many rivers and creeks are running extremely low.

We need that rain now while the weather, plant-wise, is still favorable and growth dormancy has not yet set in.

Plants suffering from the effects of droughts or dehydration are negatively affected over the winter.

When the rains commence and the frost arrives, it becomes time for planting and sowing.

As the ground cools into the 40s, and days shorten, the ensuing cool day cause many plants to go dormant (at least topside).

Also, many weed seeds (excepting grass) stop sprouting at that time, because it is below their required temperatures to germinate.

These factors team up in a variety of ways, making it right for the garden to shift into high gear.

However, this is still not the time for making your first planting of spring flower bulbs.

It is time to go to the stores and select your bulbs, trees, shrubs, bushes, roses, grass seed, clover, winter ryes, groundcovers and vines, fruit trees and nut trees as well.

Be a perfect nursery gatherer, finding all the rare or unique varieties.

Gather them at home alongside the mulch pile you just had delivered (you did remember to order the mulch, right?).

Then get a head start on planting by spacing them out — arranging them just so — and dig the holes.

Dig right down through the arid, bone dry dirt. Loosen the bottom soil and add bone meal, blood meal and some compost.

Keep an eye on the calendar and the weather reports.

Then, a day or two before you plant, fill the holes with water to saturate the soil. Then do so again just before you plant.

Plant when continuous drizzles begin. It’s important to put this whole planting process off until then.

If you start now, and the weather stays nice, your plants will begin to grow, but they will die as the freezes and cold weather arrive.

The ground is also extremely dry now, and will wick away the moisture, forcing you to replace lots of water and costing you lots of time.

Now is the time to prepare the yard for laying grass seed by bringing in lush organic topsoil.

In a few weeks, lay down the grass seed and mother nature will handle all the watering.

Right after all that planting and sowing, cover the area with a semi-decomposed mulch.

Be sure to spread some organic fertilizer or plant food first and lay the mulch directly on top (making sure never to cover or smother trunks or stems).

All fall and winter, the rains will wash life-giving nutrients and rich humic acids down into the soil and root zone.

Next summer, this heavy, wet mulch will lock moisture into the soil for months.

By planting very early in the rainy season, your plants will have healthy, well developed roots, established nicely in the surrounding soil.

So get ready to plant and seed.

Remember, before the first frost decimates your nice blooming plants (like the expensive ones), take some cuttings and propagate new little clones in your window sill. Now is the perfect time to plant these indoors as well.

And always … stay well all!


Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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