10 Easy Steps to Fall Mastery

10/01/2011 | Ken Lain, mountain gardener Plant Care, Uncategorized

It’s time to make out and start checking off items from that fall gardening to-do list. These are things I do every fall; my aim is to complete all ten items by the end of October. Today’s column lists these very easy but significant tasks in order of importance.

Step One – The most critical job of fall is also the easiest: feeding everything in a landscape. The entire yard and garden should be fed within the next few weeks. I get the best results from my specially created organic “All Purpose Plant Food”. It makes a huge difference in my garden because it helps plants survive harsh winter weather and promotes better spring growth. A must for spring blooming plants from lilac to forsythia, I also apply it to my native plants for better color through the winter.

Step Two – This is the time to treat pinion pines for scale. Each tree gets treated with liquid “Plant Protector”, and it doesn’t take an arborist to apply this bug killer. Mix it in a 2-gallon watering can and apply it to the base of each plant; the roots will do the rest. I think of it as an antibiotic for trees. Reapply in March and you will have the best-looking pest-free pines in the neighborhood.

Step Three – Change from Round-Up type weed killers, which are completely ineffective in cold weather, to a cool season weed killer like “Weed Beater Ultra”. I never waste my time and money using inappropriate products that deliver ineffective results.

Step Four – Watch for large aphids. If the leaves and rocks at the bases of trees are glistening like a morning’s dew, aphids have begun their assault. Get on them right away by hosing down these pests with “Multi-Purpose Insect Spray”. It will eliminate aphids from any landscape.

Step Five – A layer of household insulation should be laid over irrigation valves, but under the valve lid. For those of you that followed last year’s garden column advice this bit possibly saved you from a plumber bill. Every fall I buy next spring’s mulch, manure, and shredded bark product because the bags make the best insulation! They are perfect to use as hearty protection over the valve box lid, around the well house, around the back flow preventer. I use several bags to insulate my hot tub, which keeps down our heating bills. My garden will need them anyway next spring, so why not get double duty out of those bags of soil amendments?

Step Six – Replace summer flowers and vegetables with winter varieties: pansies, kale, violas, broccoli, cabbages, lettuces, and cauliflowers. Bring planted containers close to the house because they benefit from the building’s residual heat absorbed from the sun and with even a bit of shelter from the elements. As perennials turn brown, cut them back.

Step Seven – It’s important to change the irrigation clock. Water the lawn during the day to reduce freeze damage; my clock is set to water the lawn once a week at 10:00 a.m. After Halloween I turn off the automatic irrigation and operate it manually on warm winter days. This prevents freeze damage on my plants and to the irrigation system. November through March I water my trees and shrubs twice a month.

Step Eight – Make sure the well house is adequately insulated. Before Thanksgiving seal cracks and doors and make sure the heat lamp is working or reconnect the heat tape.

Step Nine – If your lawn looks heat-stressed or doggie-damaged, it’s best to de-thatch before adding that one last feeding of ‘All Purpose Plant Food’.
Two weeks after applying plant food add a granular supplement called “Soil Activator” by Natural Guard. It encourages growth in bare patches and keeps the lawn an intense green longer into winter.

Step Ten – If you have a rock lawn apply “Weed & Grass Preventer”. Winter weeds like fox tails and dandelions will emerge after the next few storms and become a serious problem just after the holidays. “Weed & Grass Preventer” prevents any weeds from coming back by seed. This is especially important if you missed this summer’s monsoon application.

That’s my list. You may want to put several of the items on your list. With these minimal maintenance tasks you’ll find your winter-blooming flowers brighter, the evergreens greener, and your spring growth more exciting than ever. If you have questions about any of these listed items please stop by the garden center where my staff and I will be glad to help you.

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This week I’ll be covering the fall tasks needed in Arizona’s mountain gardens on my radio show, “The Mountain Gardener”. You are invited to tune in every Saturday at KQNA 1130 AM or 99.9 FM from 11:00 a.m. to noon. It’s an on-air hour of enlightening and entertaining gardening talk.

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This week’s Plant-of-the-Week is the breathtakingly beautiful Autumn Blaze Maple. There’s just no other maple to consider for landscaping at this altitude. It loves mountain soils, extreme conditions, and withstands our wind better than ‘most any other shade tree I know. It’s just starting to show its fall color; its leaves glowing like embers in a blazing hot fire, thus its name. This is the tree for anyplace a spot of autumn color is needed; use it near patios, hot sunny walls, or as a street and driveway tree. An extreme growth of 3 feet or more can be expected each year. Trees are available in sizes limited only by your wallet, but a lot of tree can be had for under $60
Until next week, I’ll see you at the garden center.

Throughout the week Ken Lain is at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd, Prescott, and can be contacted through his web site at www.wattersonline.com. See Ken’s personal gardens via Facebook at www.facebook.com/wattersgardencenter