The fall season always arrives graciously in the South, making this one of the best seasons for gardening! As the air slowly cools, the insects are fewer and the weather is more amenable. Here are a few detailed tips about gardening in the fall, good advice from the experts at Dan West Gardening Center.
Don’t let fallen leaves remain on the lawn during fall and winter. Either mow them back into the lawn, collect them to be used as a weed-suppressing and water-conserving mulch, or compost them for use next spring and summer to improve the soil. Leaves left on the lawn can cause disease problems if a thick layer keeps the grass too wet and dark.
The fall is a good time of year to work on the soil with spring gardening in mind, enhancing the soil and correcting pH problems. Our soil always needs to be amended, and the associates at Dan West can guide you to the best products for enhancing and maintaining healthy soil. Healthy soil allows for better water penetration, larger root systems, bigger blooms and fewer insect and disease problems. In fact, the soil is the most important part of the plant because that’s where the roots are, and that is where the nutrients and water comes from.
If you are planning to create a new shrub, flower or rose bed for next spring, go ahead and prepare the soil now. Dig it up, remove the weeds, and work in leaves and compost. If you discover that the soil stays wet longer than it should, add more organic matter, sand and soil and create a raised bed to facilitate better drainage.
Trees and Shrubs
This is the perfect season to enhance the garden’s hardscape by adding new trees and shrubs. If you lost anything in your landscape or garden, this is a good time to add or take away. Try to plant your larger landscape items now through early winter before the soil is frozen. Water carefully—keep them moist but do not let them sit in water.
One great option is a Coral Bark Maple. The trunk and branches stay coral so it gives good fall and winter color to the garden. Other popular trees to plant at this time are Crape Myrtles, Japanese Maples and Blue Spruces.
The fall is the best time for planting because the roots will grow and develop strength through the fall and winter. Because the Mid-South climate is mild, roots can grow most of the winter. In fact, trees and shrubs make 75 percent of their root growth between mid-November and mid-March. In turn, fertilize your existing trees now to give added strength to their growing roots. This is a good time of year to give a foundational part of your landscape design, the trees and shrubs, a strong head start before summertime.
Ironically, the best time to plant is the hardest time to buy. If you have access to Hydrangeas, Ornamental Grasses and Japanese Maples or designer shrubs such as Lantana, Mexican Heather, Hostas, Ferns, earth friendly roses and Sedums … put them in the ground! But do not be disappointed if your plant of choice is out of stock. Retail garden centers tend to run out when fall arrives because orders are placed in the spring. The guys at Dan West said they will always try to order more when asked, but and even the growers tend to run out as summer comes to a close, so extra plants are rare in the fall.
Choose Fall Color
Add plants to your fall landscape that offer blooms in colors indicative of fall—oranges, different hues of browns and greens, purples, yellows and reds. Plants with texture, such as big colorful leaf plants and ornamental grasses, are also complementary to this season’s garden.
Autumn is an ideal time for container gardening. Containers can be used for annuals, grasses, trees, perennials and shrubs. Herbs are also a good option for fall container gardening. And your definition or a container is only limited to your imagination!
These hardy, yet delicate, colorful annuals will live through the winter and be spectacular next spring. These flowers benefit from heavy feeding. Give them an additional application of fertilizer before the height of winter.
In the Mid-South, it is safe to continue plant bulbs all the way through December before the ground is completely frozen. If you have bulbs in the refrigerator, they can be set out in the landscape after 45 to 60 days of chilling. Plant the larger bulbs such as daffodils, narcissus, tulips and hyacinths at least six inches deep along with a good fertilizer underneath each bulb. Plan to start your indoor bulbs—Amaryllis and Paperwhites— in November to be on schedule for a Christmas display, and keep them in good light and cool temperatures to maintain stocky, strong flower stems throughout the holidays.
Thank you to Mac at the Dan West Gardening Center for all of the great advice! Visit one of their two Mid-South locations soon, or stop by online, here: www.danwestonline.com.