Archive for Sunday, August 15, 2004

Tis the season to plant

August 15, 2004


Cooler days and brisk nights are looming.

Fall allows gardeners to be creative and rejuvenate their existing landscape with new color and texture.

In the fall, the ground is still warm from the summer, and rainfall is fairly consistent. The season's shorter days relieve much of the stress a plant endures during the summer.

Here's a look at some gardening chores for fall:

Dividing perennials

If a garden area is overcrowded with a zealous perennial plant, now is the time to thin out that area by dividing the plant and re-establishing it in another part of the landscape.

"By dividing perennials or moving a tree now, you are allowing more time for the roots to re-establish growth," said Brian Boyce, nursery manager at Sunrise Garden Center, 15th and New York streets. "You won't necessarily see anything above ground, but below the earth that plant is extremely active, and it should be apparent in the spring."

Most perennials like to be divided every three to five years. Chrysanthemums and asters prefer division every two years because they have a tendency to crowd themselves into non-flowering clumps, while bleeding hearts and peonies may never need to be divided. Perennials are ready to be thinned out when flowers are smaller than normal and bottom foliage is sparse and looks unhealthy.

When dividing perennials, it is best to water the plant a day or two before the transplant, and to have the new area prepared before lifting from the parent plant. Prune the stems and foliage about 6 inches above the ground. Use a sharp shovel and dig 5 inches around the plant on all four sides. Once the plant is pulled, do not allow it to dry out. It should be replanted at the same depth as the parent plant, then watered and mulched.

Marcia Henry looks over 15 varieties of chrysanthemums at Henrys'
Plant Farm in Lecompton. Chrysanthemums bloom in late summer and

Marcia Henry looks over 15 varieties of chrysanthemums at Henrys' Plant Farm in Lecompton. Chrysanthemums bloom in late summer and fall.

Planting bulbs

Gardeners craving daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, crocuses and other spring flowering bulbs need to plant them in the fall.

"Mid- to late-September is when the bulbs come into most nurseries," Boyce said. "You have to plan for tulips and daffodils ahead of time. It is not like you can just walk in to a garden center in the spring and ask for a tulip."

The rule of thumb for bulb planting is to plant the bulb at a depth three times the height of the bulb. For example, a 1-inch-tall bulb should be planted 3 inches deep. The tip or nose of the bulb should point upward, and the base should have firm contact with the soil so the roots can form. A gardener may want to sprinkle some bone meal or fertilizer in the hole and then cover it with dirt.

It's better to group bulbs together rather than scattering them in the yard. When they are in one mass, they tend to be more dramatic.

The following trees can be planted in the fall to get a head start on growth and add color to the landscape from spring through fall:¢ Paperbark maple: A lovely tree with cinnamon bark that peels for a wonderful texture and stays colorful throughout the winter.¢ Green leaf Japanese maple: A great tree with petite yet intricate leaves that turn a gorgeous yellow-orange in the fall months.¢ Purple smoke trees and purple maples: The color purple seems to be quite popular in the fall season.¢ Oak leaf hydrangeas: These shrubs are easy to grow and are interesting year-round, with large, white blooms in the summer. The leaves turn to oranges and yellows in the fall.¢ Serviceberry: This tree grows to about 15 feet tall and is native to eastern Kansas. It sports white blossoms in the spring, produces berries that birds love and has a lovely show of fall colors.¢ Vibernums, specifically "Arrow wood" and "Blackhaw": These shrubs both display a plethora of red and purple fruit and change to a scarlet red color in the fall.¢ Witchhazel: An undemanding shrub with large leaves that turn to orange, yellow or red in the fall. It has either yellow or burnt orange blooms on display from February to late spring.Source: Brian Boyce, nursery manager at Sunrise GardenCenter

Seeding grass, laying sod

Grass will benefit from being planted in the fall months. It should have a strong showing in the spring because the roots will have had time to establish themselves during the late fall and winter months.

When fall rains arrive, it's beneficial to fertilize the lawn with a slow release 3-1-2 ratio fertilizer. Boyce recommends overseeding old lawns with fresh seed to fill in bare spots that may have thinned out during the summer. Overseeding also crowds out weeds.

"The earlier you can get the grass down the better," Boyce says. "September is probably the best and most ideal time to start establishing or re-establishing a yard. The cool temperatures and the timely moisture are the main factors for fall being such a superb time for grass."

Shrub and tree planting

Fall is an ideal time to layer landscaping with new trees and shrubs, many of which will put on a spectacular show throughout the fall months -- and some even into the winter.

"A broad generality is simply that, in the fall, many, many plants have increased root growth and activity," Boyce said. "The ground is still warm, and moisture is more likely. Whether it be a Shasta daisy or a tree, they can be planted now and you get a good four months of growth. Then that plant will really come on strong in the spring."

When planting trees or shrubs, begin by digging a hole roughly twice the size of the root ball. Then slide the plant out of the container and gently tear the roots to encourage them to grow outward. Place the plant in the hole slightly higher than ground level to allow for settling. Fill around the plant with compost and existing soil, then water liberally with a vitamin supplement to spark root development.

Boyce suggests maple trees for a flash of color in a fall landscape.

"The maple family probably gives us the most show of color," he says. "Red maples sell very well for this area. However, it is a good idea to use a diverse group of trees so a disease does not wipe out an entire row."

Daffodils and tulips are among spring flowering bulbs that need to
be planted in the fall.

Daffodils and tulips are among spring flowering bulbs that need to be planted in the fall.

Adding drama

Gardeners can always add a splash of color to yards this fall by planting winter pansies, flowering kale, flowering cabbage and fall mums.

"One good pot of mums will give you at least two months of wonderful color," Boyce said. "And even if you treat the mum as disposable, you'll get your money's worth."

Take advantage of the mild months ahead. With proper planning, your yard will be colorful and lush in the spring rather than waiting to be planted.

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