REDUCE IRRIGATION FREQUENCY
Plant water use drops as the day length shortens and cooler temperatures return. The cloudy weather and natural rainfall also reduce irrigation needs. The best way to reduce water application is to lengthen the interval between irrigations. If you are irrigating every other day, increase the interval to 3 days. Sprinklers should run long enough so that water reaches several inches into the soil. This usually requires at least a half inch of water. You can determine how long to run you sprinklers by placing tuna fish or similar cans on the ground. Set the sprinklers for a time interval such as 30 minutes. Then measure how much water has accumulated. Drip irrigation systems have a much slower application rate. It may require several hours to apply a half inch. The best way to check depth of penetration is to open the soil with a shovel a few hours after irrigation.
FERTILIZE YOUR LAWN WHEN RAIN RETURNS
Whether you have been irrigating your lawn this summer or not, the best time to apply fertilizer is mid September to late October as the fall rain returns. The shortening days and cooler temperatures stimulate grass growth. Grass root growth in particular is stimulated. Additional side shoots develop, making the lawn thicker. Fertilizer added during the next month or so just stimulates this process. It will also turn the grass a darker green color, usually within two days.
There are many good brands of lawn fertilizer. Some are specially formulated for fall application. Some are labeled as “winterizers”. These winterizers usually contain more potash or potassium. I still feel that the ideal balance for all lawn fertilizers is a 3-1-2 ratio of nitrogen/phosphorus/potassium. This could be 15-5-10 or 21-7-14 or similar percentages. I like to have at least part of the nitrogen from slow release sources, although this is less important for fall application. A fall fertilizer application will keep most lawns green for the entire winter.
Liquid lawn fertilization can be used, but it has a much shorter benefit period. We can apply long lasting granular fertilizer for the same or lower cost than most liquid lawn fertilizer companies.
IMPROVE YOUR LAWN BY OVERSEEDING
Lawns deteriorate in the Pacific Northwest as more and more native grasses invade our perennial ryegrass lawns. These grasses have a variety of textures and colors. Many of them go into dormancy in the hot summer no matter how much they are watered. That is part of the reason why some just give up and let their lawns go brown during the summer. One way to rejuvenate your lawn’s appearance is to over seed with ryegrass in the fall about the time the rainy season returns.
If you decide to over seed, be sure to scratch or loosen the soil surface so seed can come in direct contact with the soil. A thatch removal machine can be used to prepare the lawn for seeding. Adjust it so that the blades or tines scratch into the soil. Fertilize at the same time you plant the seed. Rake the seed into the soil leaving some showing on top. The most critical and important step is to keep the soil surface constantly wet for at least 3 weeks. A thin layer of bark dust, fine compost or peat moss will reduce the drying rate. Light sprinkling 3 times per day is needed during sunny, dry weather.
We can inspect your lawn free of charge to see if it would benefit from overseeding. We can also do the overseeding and fertilization at a very reasonable cost.
PLANT SPRING-FLOWERING BULBS
We are at the beginning of bulb planting season right now. I have planted bulbs as late as the end of December, but it is better to plant earlier. Bulbs need some time to develop a good root system before they bloom.
There are literally hundreds of places to buy bulbs including many good on line and catalog sources. Avoid “bargain” bulbs, which are often disappointingly small. I prefer to purchase bulbs locally where I can see the size and quality of bulbs before I buy. Although you may find a larger selection of bulbs on line, we have several full service nurseries and garden stores with large bulb selections.
I usually try some new kinds and varieties of bulbs every year. However, I get the most satisfaction from the good old standard varieties. Daffodils are definitely the most dependable and satisfying bulbs to plant. They bloom longer than any other spring bulb. They consistently live over from year to year. They multiply so they get more colorful each year. Soil pests like moles do not like daffodils.
Daffodils come in a wide range of types. I have recently planted a lot of miniature varieties where they can be viewed close-up. Daffodils are the best choice to plant in areas where they can naturalize. They will come up through ground cover and grass. One of the most attractive plantings of daffodils I have seen was a bed which was covered with ajuga. The purplish-bronze leaves were a striking combination with the yellow daffodils. Holes can be dug between ground cover plants to insert individual bulbs.
Tulips are the best second choice. They come in a wide range of colors and types. The easiest to grow are the single, tall late spring bloomers. The Emperor varieties are good for early spring bloom. I prefer to plant a single color or 2 color mixture. A cluster of a dozen bulbs or more is needed for best effect.
Crocus is the best choice for extra early bloom. They need to be planted where they can be viewed close-up. Scatter them through a rock garden or perennial flower bed for early color.
Grape hyacinths are widely used as a front border for other bulbs. Hyacinths are the queens of bulbs because of their wonderful fragrance. Plant them near an entry or a window where you can enjoy the fragrance.
I also plant bulbs in beds where I plant my annual flowers. I plant bulbs between annual flowers in the fall and plant annuals again in the spring between the bulbs after they are through blooming.
Fall is also a good time to plant hardy Asiatic and Oriental Lilies. They will be better established for full bloom next summer. Allium, Anemone, and Ranunculus bulbs can also be planted in the fall for late spring and early summer bloom.
PLANT PANSIES AND FLOWERING KALE
Now is the best time to plant pansies and flowering kale for fall, late winter and early spring color. I know it is very hard to replace summer annual flowers while they still look so beautiful. But if you wait until frost and rain have ruined them, the pansies will not have enough good growing weather to become established. If planted too late, pansies just sit there and don’t start to grow until it starts to warm up in late February.