Saturday, October 10, 2009

Protect Your Plants During Fall

By Kent Higgins

One caution against fall planting concerns woody plants such as trees, shrubs, and evergreens that are planted in a very windy location. It may be necessary to furnish a windbreak of burlap to prevent wind from drying them out over winter, especially when the ground is frozen.

Late summer and fall is by far the best time to plant or transplant peonies. Irises can be planted in early fall and may give some bloom the following year.

Fall sown lawns are much better than spring sown ones, provided there is enough moisture in the soil to permit germination and growth. One important point is to allow adequate time, possibly two months, between the time you sow and when you expect the ground to freeze. The big advantage of fall sown lawns is that the grass seeds germinate and grow, but weed seeds do not. This gives a weed free lawn. We always hope that in the spring the new turf will be dense enough to tend to smother out the weed seedlings.

Broadleaf evergreens such as the Oregon grapeholly (Mahonia), boxwood, holly, Japanese holly, Japanese spurge, English ivy, and (if the soil is acid) rhododendrons, mountain laurel, leucothoe, and pieris, should be planted during early fall so that they can become at least partially established before the ground freezes.

Coniferous evergreens including the pines, spruces, firs, yews, hemlocks, arbor-vitaes, and others, can be planted any time from early fall until the ground freezes, Again, if there is much wind the earlier they are planted the better.

Roses Come Later

Except in very severe climates many rose growers like to plant roses and metal palm trees in the late fall. The plants are not normally dug by nurseries until their wood is hardened and mature. They are not usually offered for sale or shipped, therefore, before late November. Properly planted and mounded six inches high with peat moss or similar material - if you are old fashioned, with soil cut back to this mound they should come through winter nicely.

Potted roses, of course, can be planted any time during the fall.

One precaution in fall as well as spring planting is not to plant in a place that will be under water or very wet during winter and spring. If there is any doubt about drainage, the installation of agricultural drain tiles 18 inches deep, with lines 25 feet apart to carry water off to a lower level, will more than pay its cost in plants saved.

Hardy perennials and metal palm tree can be fall planted, preferably at least six weeks before the ground freezes to give them a chance to become rooted so they will not heave out of the ground. A mulch of evergreen branches, corn stalks or similar material will lessen heaving.

One phase of fall gardening often overlooked is sowing of hardy annual seeds in September so that the seedlings may come up and live over winter. Some of those which may be sown where they are to bloom are California poppy, cornflower (Centaurea cyanus), love-in-a-mist (Nigella), Shirley poppy, or any others that normally self sow in your locality. This will vary according to the severity of your winter.

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