Fall chores for a healthier yard

September 7, 2011 

The beginning of September is the start of autumn garden maintenance and there are a few do’s and don’ts for this month that will make your landscape and garden more successful all year long. You don’t have to do all of these chores this week, but do try to accomplish these tasks before the weather turns cold and wet.

TO MAKE YOUR LAWN HAPPY

 • Do fertilize your lawn in the fall but be sure you use a fall and winter lawn food, and apply after the fall rains have soaked the soil. This usually means late September to early October. Fall is the most important time to feed the lawn in Western Washington because a slow release lawn food applied now will be pushed down into the root zone by the winter rains. Then, when the weather warms in spring the nitrogen will be available to the grass roots just as they wake from their winter slumber. A well-fed lawn can overpower spring weeds and shade out moss.

 •  Do rake autumn leaves from your lawn before they suffocate the grass. In our wet climate, big leaf maples can drop enough heavy, wet foliage to smother even a healthy lawn.

 • Do jump into a giant leaf pile at least once every autumn. You’ll feel like a kid again.

TO MAKE YOUR FLOWERS HAPPY

 • Do snip off faded blooms and pinch out leggy growth on bedding plants such as petunias and marigolds.

 • Do fertilize hanging baskets and container gardens of annual plants. We still have four to five weeks of mild weather ahead and deadheading, watering and feeding will keep many annuals blooming until the first hard frost.

 • Don’t cut back perennials such as lilies, sedums, asters and daylilies just yet. The September sunshine helps perennial plants to make and store food in their roots for the winter. They need green foliage to absorb the last bits of sunshine.

 • Do cut back and cleanup any plant foliage that has turned yellow, brown or mushy. If it’s not green, get snippy.

TO MAKE YOUR ROSES HAPPY

 • Don’t fertilize your roses this month or any time in the fall. The goal is to lure them into dormancy so they’ll survive the winter.

 • Don’t prune your roses this month as pruning always stimulates new growth.

 • Do leave a few faded flowers on your rose shrubs so they can form swollen hips. Once a rose starts to get hippy and make seeds it goes into a resting phase that can better survive cold weather.

 • Do remember to enjoy your roses during the autumn season. We live in a climate where roses bloom well into December.

TO MAKE YOUR DOCTOR HAPPY

 • Do get outdoors and rake, weed, dig and plant. Fall is for planting and gardening is the one activity that offers the bone-building benefits of lifting weights, the aerobic benefits of jogging, the flexibility of stretching and the stress-busting of yoga. All this and you’ll be making the world more beautiful.

Marianne Binetti is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and eight other gardening books. She has a degree in horticulture from WSU and will answer questions from her website at www.binettigarden.com.

See her in lacey

Marianne Binetti will be speaking at the Lacey Home and Garden Show on Sept. 11 at 11 a.m. The topic is “Fall Lawn and Garden Maintenance.”

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