FALL IS THE BEST TIME TO FERTILIZE YOUR LAWN

I normally fertilize my lawn just twice a year. I consider the fall application more important than the spring application. Anytime from now until the end of November is effective. If you have not irrigated your lawn this summer, wait until rains start. Fall lawn fertilization keeps the grass green all winter and into early spring. It allows you to wait until May to apply a spring fertilization. Then the spring application lasts through the summer.

I prefer a lawn fertilizer which has a 3-0-2 balance of nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium. A typical formulation would be 24-0-16. An organic lawn fertilizer would be more like 9-3-6. The numbers do not have to be exact, but approximately in this ratio. I like to have at least 1/3 of the nitrogen in a slow release form since nitrogen is very soluble and some leaches below the grass roots. The most effective slow release mechanism is coating or encapsulating some of the nitrogen with sulfur or a poly coating. There are also chemical nitrogen compounds such as methyline urea which are slow release. Check the “guaranteed analysis” to see if some of the nitrogen is slow release. The analysis label will also list iron, which is also helpful, even in small amounts. Special lawn fertilizer formulations for fall application (usually called “winterizer” blends) are also suitable. However, I usually apply the same fertilizer in both fall and spring. Liquid applications by lawn care companies do not last as long as granular fertilizer. They are satisfactory as long as they are applied more often.

If you have broad leaf weeds in you lawn, a weed and feed product is a convenient way to apply both fertilizer and weed killer at the same time. We can apply lawn fertilizer or weed and feed for you for a reasonable cost.

PLANT BULBS IN GROUND COVERS OR BETWEEN ANNUAL FLOWERS

You may not have considered two very good ways to enjoy spring bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. They can be planted between summer annual flowers such as petunias, impatiens and marigolds with very little disturbance. You can continue to enjoy the annuals until frost kills them. Then as the bulb flowers start to fade next spring, you can plant new annual flowers between the bulbs. Spring bulbs also look attractive growing in ground covers which do not get more than 6 inches high. Sometimes you have to dig up a piece of ground cover to insert a bulb. The ground cover will quickly recover.

PLANT PANSIES, FLOWERING KALE, MUMS AND ASTERS

September 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 your summer annuals, 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.

If you would like to add some immediate fall color now, Chrysanthemums and asters are available in small to large sizes already in bud and bloom. These are permanent perennial flowers that will bloom again next year. Asters generally have a longer bloom period than mums.

ROOT AND LEAF VEGETABLES FOR FALL AND WINTER HARVEST

There are a number of root and leaf vegetables which can be planted in September for harvest in the fall, winter or next spring. My favorites for September planting are leaf lettuce, kale, spinach and Swiss chard. Most root crops are sown in the fall for overwintering. Radishes are ready in about 3 to 4 weeks. Started plants as well as seeds are available now.

GARLIC PLANTING TIME

Garlic planting is backwards of most herbs and vegetables. Garlic is planted in the fall and harvested during the spring and summer. It is one of the easiest herbs you can grow. It can be planted where your summer vegetables have been harvested or in almost any spot in the landscape. Typical planting time is mid September to early November.

You can plant almost any garlic you find in the store or for a wider selection of varieties go to your garden store or order on line. Territorial Seed Company (territorialseeds.com) has about 2 dozen varieties. When you get your garlic bulbs, separate them into individual cloves. Plant cloves about 6 to 8 inches apart at a depth of an inch or two.

THIRSTY TREES AND SHRUBS

If you have not watered trees and shrubs this summer, it is time to give them a drink. We have had no measurable rainfall for well over a month. A deep watering which gets moisture a foot into the soil is in order. An inexpensive drip irrigation hose is a great tool for deep watering. Simply snake it around a tree or between a group of shrubs and let it run for several hours or overnight. With the slow application rate, there is no runoff even on the hardest clay soils. Check with a shovel to see how deep it has penetrated. Remember that most of the water absorbing roots are under the outer edge of the branches.

REDUCE IRRIGATION

Even if we do not get much rain in September, the cooler temperatures and shorter days reduce plant and soil water loss. If you have an automatic sprinkler system, it is time to reduce the amount of water applied. It is better to lengthen the interval between irrigations than to cut down on the number of minutes for each irrigation.