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Fall is for planting

By Amy-Lynn Albertson
Cooperative Extension

Fall is one of the great highlights in the gardening years. For many gardeners, fall is the best time of the year. The temperatures are much more suitable for outdoor activity compared to the heat and humidity of the summer.

The Rowan County Master Gardeners will be having their annual plant sale on Tuesday, Oct. 11 at the Rowan County Extension Center. This is a great place to find pass-a-long plants, native perennials, trees and shrubs, as well as to get expert advice. The sale starts at 3 p.m. and runs until 6 p.m. Get there early for the best selection.

If you are feeling that your garden is getting a little overgrown, now is the time to divide your spring and summer flowering perennials. Some signs to tell you that a plant needs dividing are flowers being smaller than normal, centers of the clumps that are hollow and dead, or when the bottom foliage is sparse and poor.  Plants that are growing and blooming well leave alone unless more plants are wanted.

Plants with vigorous spreading root systems such as asters, bee balm, lamb’s ear and purple coneflower can crowd out their own centers. These plants can be pulled apart or cut apart with shears or knives. Divide plants into clumps of three to five vigorous shoots each.

Plants with clumping root systems have roots that originate from a central clump with multiple growing points. This group includes astilbe, hostas, daylilies and many ornamental grasses. Often, you will have to cut through the crown with a heavy, sharp knife. Keep at least one developing eye or bud with each division.

Bearded irises are plants that have rhizomes. Iris divisions should keep a few inches of rhizome and one fan of leaves, trimmed back halfway. Replant the iris with the top of the rhizome just showing above the soil line.

Never allow your divisions to dry out. Keep a bucket of water nearby to moisten divisions until they are plants. Trim all broken roots with a sharp knife or pruners before replanting. Plant the divided sections immediately in the garden or in containers. Replant divisions at the same depth they were originally. Mulch the area with pine straw for winter protection.

Plant pansies and mums in the fall. When the weather gets cooler in October is a better time to plant these fall beauties. Some other flowers that will add interest to your garden are dianthus, asters, ice plant, sedum “Autumn Joy,” African daisies and snapdragons.

For foliage, texture and color try the ornamental kales and cabbages.  Some of the ornamental kales can get as large as 3 feet by 2 feet, so think big when placing these plants in the garden. Other greens like mustard, tatsoi and arugula make nice foliage additions to your fall garden and to your salad.

Spring flowering bulbs are on sale now in the garden centers, but it is a little early to plant here in the Piedmont. Go ahead and shop now to get the best selection, but keep those bulbs in the refrigerator, away from ripening fruit, until the soil cools down. The end of October and early November is a better time to plant spring flowering bulbs.

Late fall is an excellent time of year to add new trees, shrubs and fruit to your landscape. The Rowan County 4-H Program has fruit plants for sale. This is a pre-order only sale. Orders must be in by Oct. 27.  We will have blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, muscadines and figs. All varieties are selected for their performance in the Piedmont of North Carolina. All of the plants are in one-gallon pots and cost $10 per pot. To order and ask about plants, call the Cooperative Extension center at 704-216-8970.

Amy-Lynn Albertson is director of the N.C. Agricultural Extension office in Rowan County.

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