Fall gardening tips to enhance your green thumb

Quesnel's Richbar Nursery horticulturist Jean Atkinson offers tips on what to do in the fall.

Spring isn’t the only time to get down and dirty, fall’s cooler temperatures make it an excellent time for planting and transplanting. Fall planting has many benefits: the root system of trees and shrubs establish themselves quickly because the soil temperature is warmer; there are no scorching summer temperatures; plus there are some great deals to be had on our homegrown perennials, hardy trees and shrubs – make sure to check out our Dutch auction.

Here are some things to put on your garden calendar in the upcoming weeks.

• Seed a new lawn. Getting an early start gives the lawn a chance to establish itself and avoids early spring erosion problems.  Fall planting gives you a head start on the mud, followed by nasty seed-eating birds and then the heat of summer. Roy develops his own blend of grass seed so you know the mix is the best one for your specific use and area.

• Transplant and divide perennials. Perennials should be divided up when the centre of the plant begins to die out with age. To divide a plant, dig around its outer edges; separate the clump into pieces with 3-5 buds present. Throw away the centre portion if it is weak or dead. Plants like peonies and day lilies have fleshy roots stocks. Pull these roots apart gently or cut them with a knife. Remember to use bone meal when re-planting these new divisions to help with root establishment.

• Fertilize lawn with 6-4-36. This fall fertilizer is high in potash, K, (the last number.) Potassium is important to the movement of water, nutrients and carbohydrates in plant tissue. Benefits are huge for your lawn and shrubs.

• Apply Plantskydd and keep the deer away. This is getting rave reviews from customers. Plantskydd was developed in Sweden for use in commercial forest plantations that were being wiped out by browsing animals. They needed an animal repellent that could last through severe winter weather and meet Sweden’s strict environmental laws. It works by emitting an odour that animals associate with predators. The odour is not pleasant when you are applying the product, but does not linger – neither do the deer. Save your cedars and other plants by applying now and again in early spring.

• Plastic tree guards. This year was a bad year for mice damage. Mice love to chew on the bark of young trees and once they have girdled the tree – all is lost. It is heart-breaking to lose a tree this way. The plastic tree guard can be used for many seasons and is well worth the couple of dollars. It has the added bonus of reflecting the winter sun that can cause sunscald, resulting in the bark splitting.

• Watering. Before you put the hoses away make sure you give your trees, shrubs, perennials and especially evergreens one final deep watering.  The available moisture in the soil is a definite factor on plant hardiness.

• Mulching. Think of all those fallen leaves on your lawn as a bonus. Mow over dry leaves and rake them up to use as mulch on your plants. Wait as long as possible until the ground is good and cold before applying the mulch. The idea is to keep plants dormant all winter and protected from extreme cold and alternate periods of freezing and thawing in the early spring.

Jean Atkinson is a horticulturist with Richbar Golf and Garden and a regular Observer columnist.

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