Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fall Lawn Care

Fall Lawn Care

By Willi Evans Galloway

Even if you have only a small plot of sod, you still want it to look its best and be free of problems. The cool-season grasses (bluegrasses, perennial ryegrass, and fescues) grown in the northern half of the United States need more care now than warm-season grasses (bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, and St. Augustine). Whichever type of grass you have, there are some steps you should take this fall to ensure a healthy, green lawn next spring.

Get a soil test. Assessing your soil health now gives you time to correct nutrient deficiencies and pH problems before spring.

Shred the leaves. Fallen leaves can smother a lawn if left in place all winter. Use a mulching mower to shred leaves into vital organic matter that you can leave right on your lawn.

Throw off thatch. Compacted soil and too much thatch—an accumulation of undecayed and decaying plant matter at the soil surface—denies grass roots the air, water, and nutrients they need to thrive. (Thatching, by the way, is caused by excess fertilizing, not by mulching grass clippings.) Increasing organic matter will stimulate the soil microbes that consume thatch. If the problem is so bad that water cannot penetrate the thatch, remove the thatch now with a stiff rake or thatching rake.

Mow high. Continue to mow grass until it stops actively growing. For the final mowing of the season, cut cool-season grasses to 2½ inches and warm-season grasses between 1½ and 2 inches, which is just a little shorter than you should cut it during the spring and early autumn.

No fast food. Fertilize cool-season grasses in fall with a slow-release, organic fertilizer, such asFall Lawns Alive!® Application timing varies among regions, so check with your county extension office for local recommendations. Don't fertilize warm-season grasses in fall.

Reseed bare areas. Prevent weedy patches next spring by seeding now. Grass seed grows well in fall because the temperatures are perfect for cool-season grass and because it has less competition from annual weeds. Just be sure to give the lawn enough time to establish itself before winter weather hits. Plant and renovate warm-season grasses in the spring.

Article from Organic Gardening .com

Monday, October 15, 2007

Putting Your Garden to Bed for Winter

Putting Your Garden to Bed for Winter

With fall here and winter being not far behind, it will soon
be time to put your garden to bed for the winter.

Houseplants that have been luxuriating outdoors for the
summer need to be brought indoors when nighttime
temperatures drop below fifty degrees. Many houseplants
come from tropical regions and they won't appreciate cooler
temperatures. Before bringing them indoors, carefully
examine the leaves and the pots for any insects that may try
to hitch a ride inside your house. A couple of good douses of
insecticidal soap applied a few days before the plants are
brought inside will eliminate many pests before they can
infest your home.

Fall is a good time to plant perennials. Fall-planted
perennials should be thinly mulched after planting. More
mulch should be added after the ground has frozen to prevent
the newly established plants from heaving out of the ground
from repeated freezing and thawing. Mark where all of your
perennials are planted so you'll know where they are once the
foliage has died back at the end of the season.

Tender bulbs and tubers such as gladiola and begonias
should be dug up after the first light frost and stored over winter
in a cool, dark place that won't freeze.

Stop fertilizing your trees and flowering shrubs as fall
approaches. This will allow the new growth to harden off
before winter and will help prevent winter damage to your

Clean out all weeds, plant debris and unharvested vegetables
from the vegetable garden. Compost can be added to the
vegetable garden now, and you might consider planting a cover
crop of winter rye, oats or clover. Cover crops help keep
weeds down and prevent erosion in the garden. Come spring,
the cover crop is tilled in to enrich the soil.

Putting the garden to bed can be a sad event for gardeners,
but it also reminds us that another glorious season of
gardening will be here soon.

(personal stuff about Mike and Pam, more added all the time)

Have a great week!
-Mike McGroarty

P.S. The message board is here:

McGroarty Enterprises Inc.
P.O. Box 338
Perry, Ohio 44081

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mulch Your Spring Flower Bulbs in the Fall for a Beautiful Spring Display

Mulch Your Spring Flower Bulbs in the Fall for a Beautiful Spring Display

Flower bulbs need a good, long, winters sleep. Like some people we know, if they wake up before they are fully rested, they get kind of cranky, and then they don’t bloom well at all.

Actually what happens is during a mild winter, the soil stays too warm, and the bulbs begin to come out of dormancy early. They start to grow, and once the tips emerge above the soil line, they are subject to freezing if the temperatures dip back down below freezing. And that’s usually what happens. After the bulbs have emerged, they freeze and then don’t bloom at all, or if they do it’s a very sad display.

Another reason this happens is because the bulbs are not planted deep enough. They may have been deep enough when you planted them, but as the soil goes through the freezing and thawing process, the bulbs can actually work their way up in the ground. One way to keep your flower bulbs sleeping longer, which will protect them from freezing, is to mulch the bed.

In the fall just apply a 3-4” layer of well composted mulch. This layer of mulch will do a couple of things. It will maintain a higher moisture content in the soil, which is good, as long as the soil isn’t too soggy. Well composted mulch also adds valuable organic matter to the planting bed. Organic matter makes a great natural fertilizer.

A 3-4” layer of mulch also acts as an insulator. It will keep the soil from freezing for a while, which is good because you don’t want the bulbs going through a series of short cycles of freezing and thawing. Then when the temperatures drop below freezing and stay there for a while, the soil does eventually freeze. Then the mulch actually works in reverse and keeps the soil from thawing out too early. Keeping it in a frozen state is actually good because the bulbs remain dormant for a longer period of time.

When they finally do wake up it is spring time, and hopefully by the time they emerge from the ground the danger of a hard freeze is past and they will not be damaged. If you can keep them from freezing, they will flower beautifully. The extra organic matter will help to nourish the bulbs when they are done blooming, and the cycle starts all over again.

We also plant annual flowers in the same beds with our spring bulbs. By the time the danger of frost is past and it’s time to plant the annuals, the top of the bulbs have died back and are ready to be removed. The mulch that is added in the fall also helps to nourish the annual flowers, as well as improve the soil permanently. Anytime you add well composted organic matter to your planting beds, you are bound to realize multiple benefits. The key words here are “well composted”. Fresh material is not good.

Michael J. McGroarty is the author of this article. Visit his most
interesting website, http://www.freeplants.com and sign up for his
excellent gardening newsletter, and grab a FREE copy of his
E-book, "Easy Plant Propagation".

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Fall Rose Care

Fall Rose Care
Remember that roses require special care in the fall. In early fall, suspend fertilization. Continuing to fertilize causes new growth that could be killed by winter's cold. After foliage drops, spray with fungicide, then cover plants with a minimum of 8" of loose, well-drained soil, mulch or compost. Prune canes back to 36" to prevent damage from winter winds.