By Mike Lorenc, Conservation Garden Park
It may still be summer on the calendar, but fall has more or less arrived. You may be relieved that the end of watering and mowing is in sight but did you know that the real seeds of great landscape are sown in the fall? Between now and the first hard frost is the best time of year to prepare your landscape for the heat of next summer. Here are our favorite tips to help you improve your landscape this fall:
Time to find the sales. Every fall, most nurseries around the valley start reducing prices on trees, shrubs and perennials. Sure, the selection isn’t as strong, but there are still lots of deals to be had and fall is a great time to plant. Cooler air is easy on plant leaves and the soil is still warm–perfect for establishing new roots. This combination gives new plants the best chance to survive. As a bonus, we’re far away from next summer’s intense heat which gives new plants plenty of time to get established.
Clean your tools. Putting shovels and pruners away with dirt on them really takes a toll. Dirt carries water which can cause rust. Dirt in pruners can cause the mechanism to fail early. Clean off the dirt, oil as needed and sharpen your loppers and pruners. They’ll be in good shape and ready to use when spring rolls back around.
Plant bulbs and divide your perennials. Now is the time to create that perfect spring bulb show. Tulips, Daffodils, hyacinths, Iris and other spring blooming bulbs are planted in fall as they need to go through the winter cold in order to flower next year. Large clumps of perennials can also be divided- it’s just like getting free plants!
Rake up the fallen leaves, but add compost. Leaves left on the ground can allow diseases to overwinter or they can kill grass if left on the lawn—it’s best to rake them up. However, now would be a great time to put down a new 2-inch layer of compost. Remember to pull compost away from the trunk of trees and shrubs as mulch touching the bark can encourage the trunk to rot. Wrap trunks of newly planted trees now to help protect them from winter damage.
Aerate and fertilize lawn between now and the first frost. It’s time to encourage next year’s deep root system. When you cut the grass that last time this season, cut it much lower than the 3 inches we recommend for summer to help prevent fungus from taking hold over the winter.
Dial down the watering. All plants take less water this time of year, especially lawns. Changing your sprinkler timer to match the season is a good way to save money—and water.
You can learn how best to accomplish each of these tasks at the final Conservation Garden Park class of the season. The class, “Turning Over Your Garden” will be held on Saturday, September 17 at 9 a.m. at the Conservation Garden Park. Taught by USU Extension. Pre-registration is required. Register online at http://conservationgardenpark.org/events. Those without internet access may call 801-256-4400.