Fall garden chores
GREATER AKRON — Aug. 31 was a monumental day for me because precisely at 4 p.m. I finished up the last item on my list of spring garden chores. It was a long time coming, since this was the year designated for rock border repair. (Almost all my flower beds are slightly raised and edged with Ohio top rock, stacked at least two rocks high. Over time, Mother Nature tends to shift things around a bit, which means some rock rework is needed every few years.)
Anyway, I stowed my gardening tools and dashed indoors to share the good news with my hubby. He only half listened because he was busy sorting his fall clothes and packing away summer duds.
Here are some things you may want to take care of in your own garden this fall:
- Tear out fading summer annuals and pop in some mums and ornamental cabbage plants near your front entryway.
- Continue to deadhead faded flower blossoms of coneflower, hosta, daisies and other perennials to keep the garden tidy and fresh looking.
- Routinely sweep all corners, both upper and lower, of your porch with a stiff bristle broom to discourage spiders and other insects from building winter nests.
- Prune summer flowering shrubs whose blossoms are faded.
- Do not prune spring flowering shrubs — their buds are already set for next year’s blooms. If you prune now, you are sacrificing next spring’s flowers.
- Cease fertilizing roses. The canes need to harden off in preparation for winter.
- Transplant or divide peonies, hostas and other spring blooming perennials at mid-month.
- Plant pansies for the perfect colorful, cool weather flower crop.
- Plant spring-blooming bulbs such as tulips, crocus and daffodils from mid-September until the ground freezes.
- Keep the lawn tidied, picking up twigs and branches that storms bring down. If you live on a fairly busy street, check for debris collecting on the lawn close to the road.
- Check shrubs and trees for signs of stress or lack of water.
- Transplant small trees and shrubs after dormancy; for example, after deciduous trees have lost their leaves for the winter.
- Right now is the best time of year to refurbish your existing lawn or to plant a new one.
- Dethatch and/or aerate the lawn, if needed. If you plan to overseed the lawn, do these tasks prior to seeding.
- If your lawn simply needs a little extra care, top-dress the lawn with an organic compost to improve heavy clay soil.
- To reseed bare spots, first rake or lightly cultivate the soil. Then scuffle in starter fertilizer with a shallow pronged hoe. Scatter grass seed. Mulch very lightly with a thin moisture-conserving layer of straw or peat moss. Either covering is fine, although using peat moss eliminates the need to rake off the straw later.
- Whether you need a whole new lawn, plan to overseed or just do some spot sowing, always use the highest quality seed with 0 percent weed seeds. Use a mixture of seed developed for drought tolerance, spring green-up, disease resistance and more.
- To prepare for a new lawn, rototill the soil to a depth of about 6 inches or so. Scatter starter fertilizer across the soil at the recommended rate per the package directions. Now rake the fertilizer into the ground at the same time as you smooth the soil, breaking up clods of dirt and removing stones, roots and other debris. Once finished with the raking, immediately sow grass seed; do not delay.
Use a spreader to sow the grass seed evenly across the ground. Spread the seed from different directions for a total of three spreads. That is, first walk the entire lawn space scattering seed from east to west; then repeat the entire distance but walk north to south; on the third repeat, walk northeast to southwest.
Next, rake the soil lightly to cover the seed to about one-third of an inch. A bit of the grass seed may still be visible on the surface of the soil.
Finally, scatter a very light layer of mulch such as straw or peat moss over the seeded yard to conserve moisture and protect from heavy rain. If you apply straw thinly enough so that half soil and half straw shows, you will eliminate the need to rake off the straw once the grass is up and growing. Otherwise, it is best to rake off half the straw when the new grass grows to 2 inches tall. There is no need to rake off the thin layer of peat moss used as mulch.
If desired, the newly prepared lawn can be lightly rolled as long as the soil is not too wet. Keep the surface of the soil moist. Sprinkle lightly twice each day, keeping an eye on temperatures and rainfall forecasts. Water less often once the seedlings are up and growing.
For more information, call The Ohio State University Summit County Extension Hotline Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon at 330-928-4769, ext. 3, and request Bulletin 546, “Lawn Establishment.” Please note fact sheets are sent out free; there is a fee for bulletins. Many bulletins are available online at ohioline.osu.edu and can be printed from home or accessed at the public library.
Dayle Davis is a freelance writer and avid perennial gardener, with a B.A. in communications and course work in botany, geology and wildflowers. Davis is a master gardener emeritus under The Ohio State University’s Horticultural Extension. Readers can send in questions regarding lawn and garden issues, which could be featured in a future edition, as well as about the OSU Master Gardener program. Questions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, faxed to 330-665-9590 or sent to Leader Publications, 3075 Smith Road, Suite 204, Akron, OH 44333. Please do not send any leaves, seeds or other organic material. Inquiries about area garden clubs or groups should be sent directly to the particular organization in question.
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