Fall temperatures have arrived and for many gardeners the cooler nights and shorter day length signal the end of another gardening season. Most will begin turning their thoughts to ordering garden catalogs or watching other people garden on television. But don’t put away your gardening gloves yet, there are still plenty of tasks to be completed.
Lawns: Cool season lawns, like fescues, do most of their growing in cooler temperatures and benefit from an application of 1 pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet three times in the fall: September 1, October 15 and November 15. If you just reseeded your lawn, remember to keep the ground wet, but not soaked, until the grass seedlings emerge. Once your grass is growing, switch your watering schedule to less frequent applications but longer watering time. Your goal should be 1 to 2 inches weekly. This will encourage the roots to grow deeply into the soil and prepare them for possible droughty weather next summer. Delay fertilizing a newly established lawn until seedlings have reached appropriate cutting height.
Houseplants: After enjoying a summer of warm temperatures and sunshine, expect houseplants to exhibit shock, in the form of dropping leaves, as they adjust from full sunlight to the soft lighting of your home. Place your plants near a window on the south side of your home where they can receive the most light. Over a 4-week period you can gradually move these plants away from the window to their normal display area. Plants will also have trouble adjusting to the dry air in homes. When you notice leaf drying or curling, spray leaves with a mist of water to add moisture. Bathrooms and kitchens usually have higher humidity and make the best home for finicky plants, so long as light is available. Be sure to inspect your plants for insects before bringing them indoors. You may find whitefly, spider mites, mealybugs and thrips. Washing your plants with soapy water (2 teaspoons of mild detergent/gallon water) will remove the bigger portion of pests. Hand removal of larger pests like spiders or snails is very effective.
Fruit: Mulching strawberries provides protection to tender crowns and flower buds from cold temperatures. It also reduces weed competition and conserves moisture, all necessary to a strawberry’s success. Apply 3 inches of pine needles, rye, or wheat straw after several light frosts have occurred, but before a hard freeze. Applying mulch too early can lead to crown rot and delay dormancy. Don’t forget next spring after heavy frost periods have ended to rake the straw from the plants to the row middles.
Reduce competition for moisture and nutrients by controlling weeds at the base of fruit trees and grapes. Voles feed on the bark of trees during winter months and can girdle or completely kill fruit trees. Keeping a weed free zone beneath fruit trees reduces vole habitat. Treat with a non-selective herbicide below the drip line of fruit trees and 3 feet on both sides of grape arbors to establish a weed-free zone anytime between late October and December.
Trees: Just because it’s getting colder doesn’t mean you are through watering those newly planted trees and shrubs. Warm, windy days can dry out the soil leaving your plants in need of water. Proper watering and mulching will ensure that roots become well established during the winter months.
For more information, contact the Christian County Cooperative Extension Service, 270-886-6328.