Crips autumn breezes and leaves beginning to change color have a mystical way of drawing us outside or to our windows to enjoy the season. We are so blessed to be able to experience the dynamic changes that quietly happen all around. Soon it will be winter and the ground covered in snow, while we dream of the hope of spring.
One of my favorite ways to stay hopeful throughout the winter is dreaming of all the spring bulbs soon to peer up out of the snow. These bulbs need to be planted now. Just a little bit of work this fall can really make a difference next spring. I always enjoy planting crocus.
These little surprises are one of the first to bloom in the spring, even showing their purple, yellow, and white blossoms through the snow. Another favorite of mine is daffodils. They tend to naturalize easily and can make a great woodland display. Mass them together for a dazzling effect that you will want to photograph often.
I often overlook the importance of caring for my lawn; yet, driving through the neighborhood and looking at houses, the ones with a full, weed-free lawn are the ones that are most attractive. Next time you are driving through, take a moment and consider the difference a healthy lawn makes.
Fall is the most important time for lawn care if you have a cool season grass (Fescue, Bluegrass, and others; they are green in the spring and the fall but may go dormant in the summer). If you fertilize your established lawn and reseed the bare spots in early fall, next spring your lawn will be lush, green, and healthy. On established lawns, use a fertilizer product containing a broadleaf herbicide and this will also prevent many weeds from emerging next spring. On newly seeded grass, use new lawn starter to fertilize and wait until after the third mowing before applying herbicides.
“That’s all great,” you may say, “But what do I do now about all those fall leaves? Are they good for my plants?” Fall leaves are part of the fun of the season. I suggest raking them into a large pile with the help of your children, grandchildren, young neighborhood friends, or those who are children at heart. The next obvious step is to jump full force into the middle of the pile and have a leaf throwing competition! When the festivities are over, simply add the leaves into your compost pile or mulch them into the lawn where they will slowly decompose. When cleaning up, be sure to blow out your landscape beds with a leaf blower and remove any fallen fruit from the ground. This will discourage insects and diseases from making their winter home next to your house and valued plants. Also tear out dead annuals and cut back spent perennials for the same reasons.
The last tip that I am sharing with you today is to protect your young trees. First, let’s talk science. Trees that are young tend to have thin bark and not enough branches to shade the bark. In the winter, the sun’s rays beat down on the south west side of the trunk during the day, heating the bark. Then at night, the below freezing air temperatures rapidly cool the same bark. After several weeks of this drastic fluctuation of warm/cold, the cells are damaged and they die, leaving a dead spot on the south west side of your tree. This is often called South West Exposure or South West Sunscald. So, how do you prevent this problem? Simply wrap the trunk of your tree with a tree wrap in late fall. We use Tanglefoot Paper Tree Wrap or a simple burlap wrap tied on with twine to protect our trees. The extra protection will slow the change of temperature and stress on the tree. Be sure to remove this wrap in the spring! If you keep it on too long, it can actually damage the tree as well.
Take advantage of the time that we have now, before the first frost, to spend some last moments outside. Spring tends to be a busy time of the year, so prepare now so that you can relax a little more come spring!