Autumn already?

>> Friday, September 12, 2008

It seems like just yesterday….

I don’t know why summers seem to go by so quickly these days. They say that as you grow older time does seem to fly by faster. I am beginning to see the truth to that statement.

Since the night time temperatures here at nearly one mile above sea level in the Utah valley are dipping into the 40’s the call to dig out my Fall work list is getting stronger. It seems I cannot put it off any longer.

I finally relented and planted a Geranium, at my wife’s insistence, this year. Don’t get me wrong, I like their foliage and flowers but they seem to get leggy, although this one didn’t, and they need to be dug up every year (this is the true reason I resisted planting one). So, now the time has come to add this chore to my list. Oh, I complain but it isn’t really that big of a deal. The first step is to cut back the plant so it will be easier to dig up. Wait a few weeks for it to recover from the trimming before putting into a container. I am going to also take some cuttings for new geranium starts. Over the winter they will be grown in bright light with cool temperatures. We have a food storage space in the basement that would be just about right for this as the garage would tend to get too cold. There is an excellent post at Ventnor Permaculture that addresses how to take cuttings.

Now is a great time for bargain shopping at nurseries. Which is great because early fall is also an excellent time to set out new perennials to fill in those empty spots that are a constant reminder of past failed plants. Also, dividing and re-planting spring-blooming perennials should be done now so they can get rooted before the ground freezes. Use a spading fork to lift plants and divide them.

I have several Chrysanthemum Alaska that will be divided next year. They have grown in size since planting last year but have not yet begun to die out in the center, which is how you can tell they need to be divided.

The next three plants will all keep their heads this year to both feed the birds and hopefully drop some seed onto the ground in order to start new plants.
Bee Balm Monarda Blue Stocking

Echinacea Magnus

Echinacea Bravado

The Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia Goldstrum) has already started some new plants and I will leave them untouched, also for the birds. The Goldfinch especially loves picking seeds right off of the heads.

Earlier this year, I dug some daffodils up to divide them and to move them to a different location. September is perfect doing this so they can establish roots while the soil is still warm. They need to be planted deep, with at least 7-8” of soil above the nose of the bulbs. Deep planting assures they will last and multiply for many years to come. Hopefully, the spot I put them in will be their final location, but who knows, plans are always open for change.

September is also a great time for planting "hardy" pansies for both their late-season color and to get an early start next spring. This is one annual that will actually survive winter to return early in spring. They will grow and bloom well into December. This photo, Delta Violet Face, is from spring 2008 which was planted in winter 2007.

Herbaceous and tree peonies can be planted now in full sun where the soil has been enriched with compost and sphagnum peat moss. Don't plant too deeply because that can cause failure to bloom. I haven’t grown Peonies yet but the neighborhood I live in have had success with them.

Cooler temperatures mean a sort of mini re-birth of the perennial garden. Plants that were stifled during the heat of summer are beginning to respond and grow with cooler conditions. Aster’s are known for their fall bloom and are usually tall 24” up to 48”. This Aster, Snowdrift, was supposed to grow to a height of only 6” and 24” wide and makes a great groundcover.
The first photo shows one which gets all day full sun, and is now 8” tall and has spread to 40” across, has been developing small white buds for several days now and some are beginning to open. This plant will soon be covered with bright white star-like flowers.

The second photo shows another one, in a different location, that is overshadowed by dozen or so Zinnia California Giant opened its blooms about a week ago.

As a side note, if you are experiencing problems with powdery mildew, now is a good time to get a handle on this fungus. You can control the spread and kill off a bunch of spores to lessen the problem next year by spraying a baking soda wash on the plants. Prepare a the wash by mixing 1 tablespoon baking soda and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (canola oil or dish washing soap works too, it helps the mixture stick to the plants) into 1 gallon of water. Pour the mixture into a tank sprayer and apply to upper and lower surfaces of leaves. Doing so will inhibit the germination of the fungus spores.

This is just the beginning of Fall clean up, and if you take it one step at a time so you don’t overwhelm yourself at the last minute, it shouldn’t be viewed so much as a job as a preparation for next year. Remember, the garden is for your enjoyment so have fun.


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