Early fall is a busy time in the garden with lawn care, perennials

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 4, 2013

SALISBURY — There are many garden tasks which need attending to before the permanent arrival of cold weather. The cool morning weather this week is a sure indicator that cooler fall weather is on the way.
The challenge with lawn care is to keep them free of fallen leaves. Spent leaves block light necessary for maximum cool-season turf growth. Newly planted grass is very tender and great care should be taken with leaf removal. Mowers with baggers work well removing unwanted leaves, as long as leaves are not wet. Put the leaves in the compost bin for next spring’s compost.
Some shrubs need a light pruning, which should not be a problem now. Wait until spring at mid-March to do heavy-duty pruning on most evergreen shrubs. However, try to avoid pruning azaleas and other spring-blooming shrubs until after they bloom in the spring.
Cool season lawns can also be fertilized now. Fescue needs constant feeding in the fall to maximize root growth and strengthen the plant over the winter months. There is also time to over-seed lawns. Weak lawns need to be re-seeded as soon as possible to establish good growth before the winter.
House plants need to be moved indoors when night time temperatures fall under 40 degrees. In the early fall, low temperatures, not freezing cold, damage many tropical plants we use as houseplants. The oil and waxes within plant cells are easily damaged at cool temperatures.
Ants, spiders and other creatures often find a summer residence in houseplant media. Drench the soil with a household insecticide a few days before bringing indoors to eliminate harboring insects. Follow label instructions carefully as if to spray the plants and then pour the solution as to water the plant.
Now is the time to divide and replant perennials. Dividing them now gives the plants time to re-establish an extensive root system necessary for good growth in the spring and summer months. Daylilies are one perennial that must be divided at least every three years to maintain vigor and bloom production.
Most of the summer blooming annuals are looking ragged and it’s time to take them out and plant winter annuals. Pansies and other fall blooming plants can be planted now.
It’s never too late to have your soil tested. Fall is an excellent time to sample soil, avoiding the new costs now assessed for soil testing. Usually the results arrive in time to correct problems before planting. Soil sample test kits and information are available from the Cooperative Extension Office.

Darrell Blackwelder is the county Extension director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Learn more about Cooperative Extension events and activities by calling 704-216-8970, Facebook or online at www.rowanextension.com