USE LAWNMOWER TO CONDENSE LEAVES
A rotary lawn mower is an effective way to chop leaves into small pieces. If you let them fall onto the lawn, the smaller pieces will fall between the blades. You may have to run the mower over them more than once.
Leaf fragments will not harm the grass if the quantity is not too large. They will be gradually broken down by worms and micro-organisms and the resulting humus will improve the soil.
You can also use the grass catcher to pick up most of the leaf fragments along with grass clippings and use them to improve soil in other areas of the landscape. There is typically about a 5 to 1 ratio between leaves raked up and mowed leaves. You will have about 1 bag of chopped leaves for every 5 bags of whole leaves. Leaves can be chopped up with a mower no matter where they fall. You may have to rake them out from behind and between shrubs and flowers.
I also run a lawn mower over dead annual flowers and vegetables after frost kills them or they are through being harvested. The finer you chop them, the more quickly they will break down into humus. They can be immediately incorporated with the leaves into the vegetable garden and flower beds. It is all right to leave them on top of the ground until spring, but fall tilling or spading is better. Fall is also a good time to incorporate bark, compost or other organic matter into the soil.
Organic matter improves soil more than sand, topsoil, or any other amendment. If you have a heavy soil which is hard to work, the organic matter makes air pores so water can flow easily into and through the soil. As micro-organisms and worms use the organic matter for food, they produce sticky, glue-like compounds which aggregate soil into small particles up to pea size, which then act like larger particles. If you have sandy soil, organic matter has the ability to hold water and slow down its movement through the soil. Organic matter also holds onto nutrients so they can be absorbed by plant roots before they leach below the root zone.
WEED KILLERS ARE MOST EFFECTIVE IN THE FALL
Fall is an excellent time to control weeds in lawns and other areas. Weeds are busy sending food manufactured by the leaves down to the roots. Weed killer also goes down to the roots quickly. If you have a lot of weeds in the lawn, a weed and feed fertilizer could be applied. If you have only a scattering of weeds, a liquid lawn weed killer is more efficient. A granular weed and feed product should be applied when the grass is wet and should not be watered for 24 hours. The same dry time is needed after liquid lawn weed killer application.
This is also a good time to spray wild blackberries and other woody plants with brush killer. The key ingredient in brush killer is Triclopyr. Crossbow has an additional ingredient and has a higher concentration of active ingredients, making it the most economical.
TURN OFF IRRIGATION SYSTEMS
By early October we usually get enough rainfall to take care of plant needs. If we do get a dry spell of a week or more, a single manual irrigation may be needed. Irrigation systems should be drained or water blown out of the lines by late October or early November to avoid freeze damage.
BARGAIN TREES FROM FRIENDS OF TREES
Friends of Trees is a non profit organization which promotes and subsidizes the planting of trees in most areas of Portland and the city of Vancouver. Large trees which would normally retail for $100 or more are available for $35 to $75. Trees are planted by volunteers during the winter months. If you order a tree or trees, you are encouraged to help with the neighborhood planting under the guidance of skilled leaders. Trees planted within 10 feet of the street must be approved by the urban forestry department. For more information, go to friendsoftrees.org.
NOT A GOOD YEAR FOR VEGETABLE GARDENS
If you are wondering why your vegetable garden was poor this year, you can blame it on the weather. May and June were wet and cold, so all of the warm weather vegetables like tomatoes, beans, squash, melons, peppers and corn did not start growing until July. Corn I planted in May totally fizzled. The corn I planted in early July is producing a good crop right now. 3 of my tomatoes are finally producing a good crop of fruit. Other tomato plants died from disease. I did have some good success with early planted cool vegetables like kale, lettuce, spinach and Swiss chard.
GOOD TIME TO FERTILIZE
If you did not get your lawn fertilized in September, it is not too late. In fact there are advantages to fertilizing in October or November. By late October or November grass is still green but stops growing. Fertilizing in October increases the green color without stimulating growth. It also keeps the lawn greener during the winter.
Root growth is still very active, so grass plants take up the fertilizer, especially nitrogen. The nitrogen is used to make amino acids which are stored in the roots and crown. The amino acids are available for early spring growth before roots can actively take up nitrogen.
October and November are excellent months to feed trees and shrubs. Some of that fertilizer will be taken up by roots and stored for next spring’s growth. Some gardeners apply half rate in the fall and make a spring application just as woody plants are starting to grow.
There are special fertilizers for trees and shrubs available. However, I usually just use lawn fertilizer for my trees and shrubs. In many cases I am fertilizing shrub or tree roots which are growing under the grass when I fertilize the lawn. If you want to make sure the tree roots growing entirely under the lawn get enough fertilizer, make some 3 to 4 inch holes with a spading fork near the outer branches or “drip line”. Put some fertilizer into the holes.
Liquid subsurface feeding can also be done with a fertilizer injector attached to a garden hose. Fertilizer placed in a chamber in the handle is dissolved as the water passes by it.