Nancy Hughes via Unsplash
Ornamental Cabbage (Brassica Oleracea) can give your garden color and interest though the winter.

A GROWING CONCERN: Don’t leave fall chores to last minute

WELL HERE WE go, autumn officially begins this Thursday at 6:04 p.m., and that means there are a number of “do’s and don’ts” for this time of year.

We are at the cusp of change and it is change we can believe in!

We all know and believe that, with the arrival of fall, frost will soon arrive, rain will become frequent, your beautiful blooming garden will fade, the daylight will quickly erode to a prevalent gray and the leaves will come tumbling down.

So with this change upon us, and our yard screaming out for care, let us look at a personal favorite, but seldom-used style of article that is my do and don’t list.

As the weather changes and moisture and heavy dew visits your lawn every day, do go out and buy high-quality grass seed with a high germination percentage (above 90 percent) and low weed seed count (well below 1 percent), and then over-seed your lawn just before the aforementioned rain.

Do not use any chemical weed and feeds to get rid of those pesky invasive plants.

Do crowd them out by over-seeding every autumn and spring with new grass seed, robbing future weeds of available spots to grow.

Do not fertilize your lawn or plants now with a general bag chemical urea or salt-based carrier fertilizer, but do lay down a pelletized lime and bone meal, especially on your lawn and flower beds annually in autumn.

Do buy bulbs, lots and lots of bulbs, and do store them in a cool dark area but do not plant them yet because they will begin to grow in our wonderfully mild autumn and emerge too early in the spring with possible heavy frost damage.

Do not plant those bulbs in September or early October.

Do wait until late October or early November to plant them, and do use a bulb fertilizer to feed them at planting — this is an unbreakable rule.

Do not have the bulbs eaten by squirrels, chipmunks or moles.

Do lay down chicken wire or a berry mesh if this is a problem.

Do, however, buy fritilaria bulbs that repel moles in a 3 to 4 foot radius.

Do not give up the garden too fast, for plenty of good growing weather is coming.

Do continue to deadhead, pinch and absolutely fertilize, especially now with Miracle-Gro or Peters.

Do pull up dead or dying plants as they appear, but do not cut down perennials too fast in order to get the yard “cleaned up” for fall.

Do cut off leaves as they yellow or die.

Do not do this all at once, but rather each week as needed. Nothing kills perennials on the North Olympic Peninsula more than a premature cutback.

Do not fall into the trap of believing the garden is over for the year.

Do not forget how gorgeous fall foliage truly is.

Do buy autumn color bushes, shrubs and trees to extend the rainbow of color that is your yard.

Do plant a fall pot or two for the front porch or doorway.

Do purchase ornamental kale and cabbage because they last until next April.

Do get those very improved pansies and violas for years of enjoyment out of the same flower.

Do not let our unique weather pass you by.

Do take this opportunity to plant anew.

Do not do heavy pruning now, for that will only encourage young tender growth to appear just in time for killer frost.

Do shape prune here and there, and do get rid of suckers on your grafted ornamental and fruit trees.

Do not miss the boat or let the train leave your plants at the station.

Do propagate any plants you wish to have in abundance next year, and do this now before the frost kills this opportunity.

Do not let the petals or old leaves of dahlias, and other plants, fall and linger on other foliage. Do remove those ticking time bombs or they will destroy the rest of the plant as our now cool, damp weather quickly spreads rot and mold.

Do not be a curmudgeon. Put up some really artistic Halloween lights and displays. The neighbors, the kids and I will admire you for it.

Do go out and hike the Olympic Peninsula, bask in the glow of the vine maple on the river banks, see the changes of harvest fields and forests set against the Strait of Juan de Fuca — but do not let this exhilarating time of year pass you by.

And as 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 [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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