COLUMN: Wrapping up the gardening season

As seen here, pine trees will shed their inner needles, or older needles, about every three to five years. Spruce hold their needles for five to seven years during the needle drop season. Depending on the amount of stress that the trees have gone through, it might be more noticeable some years.

Would I be correct in saying this has been one unusual gardening season? I think most of us are ready to call it a year, but don’t stop just yet.

I imagine your irrigation systems will be getting blown out within the next few weeks. Before that happens, give your lawn, trees, shrubs and perennials a good soaking. If this dry summer and spring are any indication of things to come, your landscape will appreciate the drink. Keep your hoses handy because you may need to water around Thanksgiving, or sooner, if we don’t receive any significant moisture.

I bet you’ve noticed, there are some great values on trees and shrubs in the garden centers, and fall is a great time to plant. Just keep in mind that these plants will need to be watered about once a month if we have a dry winter.

You may be tired of mowing the grass, but keeping it mowed to a height of 2 1/2 to 3 inches will help keep your lawn healthy. Long turf will mat down over the winter months, leading to lawn problems next summer. Short, “scalped” grass will dehydrate during the winter months.

If you dread the annual fall leaf-raking ritual, why not try mowing the leaves from the grass instead of raking. This will give you a perfect mixture of grass clippings and leaves that can be used in compost, or as mulch in perennial beds. You can even add it to your vegetable garden and work it into the soil for a great start to next season’s garden. Whatever you choose to do, don’t let the leaves lay thick and matted on the grass or flowerbeds during the winter. This can suffocate and kill your lawn and perennials.

Fall is the most important time of year to fertilize your lawn. This will help ensure a healthier, greener, lush lawn next summer. The fertilizer needs to be watered in, so be sure to do this before you shut off the irrigation for the season. One to two pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet is recommended. You may also want to consider core aerating the lawn if it has thatch, disease or is compacted.

It’s time to time to wrap newly planted or young deciduous trees to protect them from winter sunscald, also known as southwest disease. This is a condition that occurs when the heat of the bright winter sun warms, stimulating bark tissue on the south and west sides of trees or sunburns the tissue.

Thin-barked trees such as honeylocust, maple, hawthorn and ash are more susceptible to this problem. The brown crepe paper commercial tree wrap should wrapped from ground level to the first lower branches of the tree. The wrap can be secured with electrical tape. Remove the tree wrap in the spring when it is no longer needed.

A lot of people are worried that their evergreen trees are dying because the needles toward the inside of the tree have turned brown. Rest assured, your tree is probably just fine.

Pine trees will shed their inner needles, or older needles, about every three to five years. Spruce hold their needles for five to seven years and aren’t as conspicuous as pines during the needle-drop season. Depending on the amount of stress that the trees have gone through, it might be more noticeable some years. When you stand back and see this browning uniformly in the interior, at this time of year it’s usually not a concern. Brown tips of the branches or towards the top are another story. I bet if you look around your neighborhood you will probably see other evergreens that look similar to the natural browning that your trees may be experiencing.

Bulbs, such as dahlias, cannas, gladiola, and tuberous begonias should be dug and stored in a cool dry location. They can be left in the ground until frost has darkened the top foliage. However, you’ll want to dig them before the rhizome or tubers freeze.

Pruning shrubs and rose’s in the fall can cause them to dehydrate more during the winter months. So limit the amount you want to remove to make the plant look good for winter. This is especially true for arborvitae.

Smokey as it may be, it’s still a great time of year and nice to be out enjoying fall right in your own backyard. So enjoy the autumn days before they’re gone.

Linda Corwine McIntosh is an ISA certified arborist, commercial pesticide applicator and advanced master gardener.

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