A GROWING CONCERN: Getting ready for Autumn

September is just around the corner, it’s time to start fall chores

CAN YOU BELIEVE Tuesday is already September?? And with the Advent of fall only a few weeks away, comes both a change of the scenery and the different mindset in the garden. Therefore this will be the last time this year I can repeat the mantra “deadhead, pinch, leaf-strip.”

Keep up on this tasks with all of your hanging baskets, containers and annual plants. The longer you do these simple chores the longer you will extend the fall blooms. We should all have mid-November (mid-mid fall) as the goal to keeping these types of planting in display.

Chores for Autumn

Autumn bring some of the best weather conditions for starting plants.

As the weather cools, the sun pitches to shorter days with less intensity and the rains return — many new plants can ” settle in.” Perennial, shrubs, lawns and trees all find Autumn a superb time to be planted.

Again, for the folks in the foothills, I would begin immediately on plantings and over seeding the lawn. A big difference will soon begin to emerge in the Sequim Dungeness Valley. Your temperatures stay significantly warmer throughout fall, and there is a great tendency for dry falls.

I believe these conditions translate out to Oct. 10-Nov. 10 as your month to plant. And since we are discussing the Sequim Dungeness Valley, there are numerous people in the valley working hard on there “field of flowers and lavender dreams.” Rosemary, sage, lavender and many other hardy perennial herbs are best planted now.

Things to do during fall

Here is a list of tasks that should keep you walking through the next few weeks of fall.

Roses: After October, stop cutting flowers and let them go to hips. This will help the plant harden for winter. Now more than ever, strip away all damaged diseased and yellow leaves. Make sure all these are cleaned up off the ground. These leaves are a major source of next year’s disease problems. Add a fall flowering shrub/rose, fertilize and deep water once a week for a month.

Pruning: Fall is generally not the time to prune trees and shrubs. Deciduous flower trees and shrubs will lose their blooms, which are already set by now for next year. Fruit trees pruning now will lose stored food Reserves. Evergreens pruned now produce are far more susceptible to Winter burn. If you must get the pruners working, go after deadwood in all your plants. This cleans them out and for a few more weeks you can still see the branches that are dead before the whole plant goes dormant.

Herbs: In the fall, trim Woody perennial herbs — but no more than ⅓ of their growth. Do this after they are done blooming or you have removed the flowers (Sept. 20.-Oct. 10.). Cutback tops of the herbaceous perennials such as tansy, mint, bee balm and yarrow. You must have some bottom growth remaining on these plant for they will grow into December. Now is also a great time in the herb garden to cultivate and add bone meal!

Tender specimen plants: Dig up and pot tender plants for moving indoors. Basil, gerberus, lemongrass, double impatiens, begonias and verbena all can be brought indoors for the winter. These plants will take several weeks to recover from the shock and outdoors conditions are perfect for recovery. In two weeks, wash them several times with lukewarm water and a mild soapy water(detergents do not work) to remove pests. Be sure to rinse thoroughly with water, then fertilize lightly and move them indoors.

Grass: Autumn is an active time for the lawn. Your lawn desires a fall/winter fertilizer especially considering our soils. The next few days are the perfect time. Make sure you get a fall or winter blend- many places discount these to move out there summer fertilizers. Fall over-seeds are a great way to thicken your grass and fill in the bare spots before weeds can. Also I personally like to let my grass grow tall now — three and three-quarter inches or more until October. Then everyone should be cutting short for November and winter to minimize the moisture related diseases.

Vegetable garden: Radishes, lettuce, beets and greens have their best season approaching. Sow these seeds today. Try dills for a fresh fast fall crop. Cultivate your healthy vegetable plants right into the soil as they are harvested along with compost for a great jump on next spring fertility.

Fertilizers: The general rule is if you can find a fall blend for your plants use it. Plants have specific needs, so use vegetable fertilizer for vegetables, rhody fertilizer for Rhododendrons — not for lawn or for trees, but a 50lb general for everything. If, however, you have the time, add in a few ornamental kale and cabbage around your place as you are working. And continue to work in other fall interest plants.

But as always, continue to 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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