As foliage begins its last act of the year, see what our green thumb guru says you should do now to prepare your garden for bountiful blooms next year.
It’s hard to believe it’s October already. Our gardens will show that last burst of color before going into the long rest of winter. Our trees and shrubs are going to lose the green provided by the chlorophyll in their leaves and go to their true colors of red, orange, purple and yellow. We’re fortunate to live an area with hills and valleys where we can get a great perspective on the amazing colors of our fading gardening season. A walk in a city or state park is always a good idea this time of year.
After that walk, we’ll find that there is still plenty of work to do in the garden. One of my primary goals will be dividing and moving perennials so that I can fill in all open spaces in my garden. Now, that doesn’t have to be your goal at all. There is something to be said for open areas of mulch and space between plants. Depending on your preference in how you want your property to look and the types of plants chosen to achieve that goal, you may just be dividing plants to keep them from taking over. In my garden, I divide with the idea of filling in spaces that don’t have a plant. I just like that really full and kind of crowded look.
The first plants I’m going to work on are my hyperion daylilies along my back steps. In just two seasons, they’ve gone from a handful of flowers per plant to a dozen or more per plant and the leaves are hanging halfway over the steps. I’ll remove the entire clump, use a sharp garden knife to separate the roots, install some in the original spot and move the remaining to areas around the front and back gardens. Daylilies recovery quickly and will bloom next year.
I’ll also be moving many of my ostrich ferns. I love a plant that easily spreads without being a headache to deal with and ferns fall in that category. In the shady areas of my backyard, I continually add more ferns from my existing stock. Ferns look great as a foreground to my hydrangeas, viburnums, serviceberry, arborvitae and dawn redwood. And, the deer don’t eat them, which is a bonus.
Another plant that I’ll be dividing is my gooseneck loosestrife. This plant does spread rather quickly but with a little bit of work in the fall, I can have it under control for next year. I’ve actually taken to adding the roots I remove to the bank of a wooded creek in our backyard and its doing a fine job of holding back the hillside. And it’s much better looking than the wild mustard there currently. The flowers on this plant are very eye-catching.
Other plants that will come under the dividing knife are my sedum, ornamental grasses, daisies, and beebalm. Plants that will receive a pretty heavy fall pruning without risk of ruining any spring color are my oakleaf hydrangea and low-gro sumac. The former just gets a little too tall in some areas so I head it back by about one third to one half every few years and the latter just needs a heavy pruning once a year. After it sheds its scarlet leaves, I give it a heavy pruning knowing it will take off again in the spring.
It’s important to keep in mind that while the growing season is wrapping up, our gardens still have plenty of work that can be done in the fall that will provide big dividends next spring and beyond. Do this work before it gets too cold out and we get too near the busy holiday season.
Our landscaping expert explains how the recent hot weather can stress your yard (without showing it), and the most important things to do for it as we head into September.
If you’re really interested in gardening, the odds are that you also follow the weather pretty closely. While many people who spend their days indoors only encounter the weather when they walk out of the air conditioning for lunch or late in the day on the way to their car, it’s different for those of us in the Green Industry. We tend to subscribe to weather services, have weather apps on our phones and sometimes think that we could do just as well as the forecasters in predicting what’s on the weather horizon.
Depending on the summer weather we’ve had so far, August can be kind to our gardens or it can be a tough month. If we’ve had weekly thunderstorms and few days in the 90s, our landscapes are happy and our fall work will be easier. If we’ve had a hot dry summer with a couple of dozen days above 90, we’ll have more to do this fall and possibly well into the future.
One of the main features of our landscape that is particularly susceptible to a hot summer would be our lawn. Our lawns can go dormant and come back with the first rains of September but they can be under enough stress that they finally say enough is enough. Not only are dead roots not going to revive but a lawn under stress is also more likely to be hit by disease or insect problems. It’s also very susceptible to weeds looking for an opening. If things get bad enough, it’s time to start over.
While it may seem counter intuitive, August and into early September is the best time to over-seed or completely renovate a lawn in our area. Unfortunately, many people seem to think that this work is something that should be done once the weather turns cool and crisp in October. The problem with that strategy is our days are getting much shorter and the growing season is waning quickly. And, let’s not forget the falling leaves that would have to be removed from the newly seeded area. While not impossible, it is a challenge to produce optimal results. Take a look at your lawn now and if its needs re-seeding or sodding start to make plans. The warm days and cooler evenings of late summer are optimal for lawn restoration.
While it’s easy to let the lawn go dormant knowing it could revive, allowing our trees to do the same is not a good idea. Our large trees are simply not as forgiving. We need to first consider that trees are really designed to grow in the woods. They want the protection of other trees so that their roots are not exposed to the hot sun. The forest canopy also helps retain any moisture that does fall. The natural mulch provided by years of falling leaves helps replenish the soil and also helps to preserve moisture.
Planting trees in a lawn puts them in a more stressful situation. Not providing adequate moisture can have long-term consequences with slowly declining roots systems. Keep in mind that our trees don’t react as quickly as our lawns and herbaceous shrubs to drought stress. It may be two, three or more years before our tress tell us there is a problem. It’s not unusual that we have a tree in distress during a summer with seemingly perfect weather. The declining canopy is likely the result of harsh conditions from years past.
The lesson here is to keep an eye on the weather and on our landscapes. We have to provide the water that the clouds may not. The cost of the water, even with our increased rates, can be a bargain compared to renovating lawns and removing and replacing mature trees.
Our landscape expert explains why an increase in the water bill this month will be much less than replacing your mature trees, shrubs, and lawn in the future.
After the prepping our gardens in March and April, planting annual color and possibly trees, shrubs and perennials in May and June, we may find that July is a nice month to just sit back and enjoy the hard work. There are still weeds to pull and lawns to keep mowed but for the most part the garden is on cruise control.
That being said, we still have to be aware of what’s going on with the weather. We really need to be sure we’re providing enough water to our landscape and the heat of July can present some problems. We’ve had summers where we have some significant weekly rains and others where we wont see much rain for six to eight weeks. One of the most costly natural disasters we’ve ever had in the US was the drought of 1988. In today’s dollars, its cost would be over $120 billion, second only to hurricane Katrina. The drought affected 45% of the continental US. The wildfires in Yellowstone National Park occurred during this period. I recall that here in Cincinnati we didn’t have a significant rain from about mid-May until September.
While that extreme doesn’t happen often, we can see a lot of damage in our landscapes from even just a week or two of hot weather with no rain. While a lawn may go dormant and have resurgence later in the summer or early fall, the stress of a drought can cause all kinds of problems. Our lawns stay weed free with much less effort when they stay thick. Insects are also attracted to lawns under stress. What looks like a lawn that may come back can actually be a lawn in need of complete reseeding.
In the case of our trees, the damage from drought could take years to be recognized with slowly thinning crowns, a sign of declining roots. Trees under stress are also more likely to be attractive hosts to insects and diseases. Watering a lawn is a great way to also take care of our mature trees.
Our shrubs will also let us know when they need a drink. While wilting leaves late in the day aren’t uncommon on a hot day, we want to watch out for leaves that are not perking up over night. Hydrangeas, viburnums, barberries, azaleas, and rhododendrons are all going to tell us when they need help.
My first preference for a well-watered landscape would be an in ground irrigation system. The ability to assign watering frequency by various zones around a property is really a wonderful feature. The fact that they keep on working while you’re out of town is another. If the in-ground system isn’t an option, then the good old oscillator is the next choice. If you add a timer at the faucet your can “set it and forget it,” at least in that one part of the property. You still have to move the sprinkler around to ensure complete coverage.
Impact sprinklers also work well but I find that if you need some height in applying the water they are somewhat limited. My least favorite is the soaker hose. They’ve been shown to only apply water right under the hose with very little very actual coverage.
Whether from the clouds or the spigot, our landscapes need about an inch of water per week, sometimes more when the temperatures climb into the mid to upper 80s and beyond. An inexpensive rain gauge is a great investment. The next investment would be some time on your part to look at your plants and landscape for signs of drought stress like wilted leaves, faded color, dropped leaves, cracked soil, etc. The increase in the water bill will be much less than replacing mature trees, shrubs, and lawns.
Our gardening columnist shares his favorite part of landscaping in June. Click to learn all his blossoming expert ideas.
If I had the choice to rotate through one month endlessly I’d pick June, and not just because I’d have a birthday every month. June just has that great mix of leftover spring and start of summer weather. We can have cool mornings and warm afternoons with blue skies and big white clouds. Our longest days will also come at the end of the month. What’s not to like?
In the garden, we’re still looking at installing annuals for that seasonal color but it’s also a great time to look into flowering shrubs and perennials. If you want to have growing season interest in your landscape that changes throughout the season, you really do need a blend of plants that provide color from spring through fall. Here are some that you should consider and, for the most part, they’re pretty easy to care for as long as you provide enough regular water.
In the world of perennials, and there are literally thousands that do well in our area, look into the many varieties of daylilies. The come in an array colors including red, orange, and yellow, sizes, and bloom periods. They’re drought tolerant and you’ll end up with plenty more to divide and move around the landscape later on.
Other favorites would be purple coneflower and the many varieties of daisies, sedums, yarrows, and monarda. The key would be to look for perennials that won’t spread out of control and don’t need excessive water. Choosing the right mix will give you color well into the late summer and fall months.
Flowering shrubs are another great option for any garden. Whether as a single specimen or in groups, they can give that big eye-catching impact to your property. As we discussed in an earlier article, you do have to be cautious with the pruning. When in doubt, just don’t prune much at all and never shear them. The internet is full of helpful information if you have questions, it’s better to do a little research before you start removing branches.
Some great options for our area would be any of the spireas, some of the hydrangeas like Annabelle and Oakleaf, Crepe Myrtles, beautybush, butterfly bush, caryopteris, and even old fashioned hibiscus. As you can see, there’s no reason to have nothing but evergreen shrubs in our gardens or have nothing but the most common spring flowering shrubs. Once again, a little research and planning will allow you to have color throughout the summer.
In terms of general maintenance, this is the time of the year that we need to be diligent in our weed control on our beds. They’re also taking advantage of the long days to grow like crazy. Hand-pulling or careful spraying done on a weekly basis will keep your garden weed-free.
Proper pruning of our shrubs is also important. Remember to go for the hand shears first. We want to maintain natural shapes with our plants. Shearing your plants just creates more work as you have to prune them more often and also can ruin their flowering potential and longevity.
Enjoy this wonderful time of the year not only in your garden but visit the gardens in our city parks, especially Ault Park. Seeing plants in person as opposed to in a catalogue is always preferable before buying.
Our garden guru is excited for the outdoor’s Spring show to begin! Read on as he offers helpful tips and tricks for making your yard a show-stopper this year!
This is it! The start of the finest time of the year in our area, at least in my opinion. We may have cold, grey winters with just sporadic snow. We may not have mountains and lakes outside our window. But, we do have one of the greatest displays of spring color and this month will start the show.
One of the great things about living in Cincinnati is that there are so many wonderfully landscaped properties and when their flowering trees and shrubs start to bloom we all get to enjoy them. Pick any neighborhood and you’ll see crabapples, cherries, dogwoods, azaleas and even some rhodo’s. And, lets not forget the bulbs like daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths. All I can say is that you should get out and enjoy the season after our long winter.
So, what’s going on in terms of maintaining our gardens? One obvious job is controlling the weeds popping up in our beds and lawn. Just like the flower plants taking advantage of the season, so are the weeds. In my beds, I do equal amounts of pulling and spraying. I make the decision of which to use based on the type of weed and its proximity to other plants. Herbicide drift, or just plain bad aim, is the cause of many desirable plants meeting an untimely death. For that reason, I use a very simple one gallon hand held sprayer. Its easy to carry around in my garden cart and even easier to get right on the target plant. For dandelions and other deep rooted weeds, it really does the job. Hand pulling, especially on wet days when the weeds release from soil so easily, is actually kind of therapeutic. Rather than allow the weeds to ever get out of control, I peruse my beds a couple of times per week so the weeds never gain an advantage.
April is also when plants start to appear at local garden centers. While internet shopping has become the standard for so many things in our lives, buying live and decent sized plants still requires a trip to a store. Rather than look at it as a chore, look at it as a great way to spend part of a Saturday or a weekday morning with some friends. I can guarantee you that you think you’re going to just buy a few bags of mulch but you’ll come home with some daylilies, some spirea, a hydrangea or two and probably a really neat flowering tree. Its just hard to say no to the potential of plants. You’re happy to pay for what comes in the container and even happier to know its going to get better and better over time.
While its tempting, and even irresistible, to buy plants, its even more important to have an idea where they’re going to go. I have to admit that I’m completely guilty of buying plants and then walking the yard trying to find a spot. I can’t recommend enough having a long term plan for your property whether you do it yourself or hire a professional. Even though plans will change over time, its still better to have some guideline on a theme(s) for your property, awareness of areas that are shady versus sunny or somewhere between, how water flows through your property, how the sun tracks across it and the wind hits it, and the uses of the property that are important to you whether it be for entertaining or harvesting herbs and vegetables or providing play areas for children and pets. Spring, when we’re inspired to get out and start to enjoy the landscape, is a fine time to plan not just for this season but for many seasons to come.
Yes, we’re launching a landscaping column in January. According to our new guru, this is a great time to be thinking about your plant options. Click to find out why.
Over the course of the next 12 months, we’re going to offer some ideas on what you can be doing to make the most of your landscape. We’ll be looking at plant options, some ‘how to’ ideas ranging from pruning to planting, and suggesting tools that you should and shouldn’t have among other tips given my personal 40+ years working in the industry and the combined 250+ years of my staff at Wimberg Landscaping.
So, whats going on in the garden in January? From a growing standpoint, not much. It’s amazing to think that in just eight weeks or so things will be emerging but for now lets think about what we can see. Assuming that we’re not buried under a blanket of snow and running from house to car to avoid the wind-chill, January can be a productive time to do some gardening.
If the weather cooperates, I’ll use January to cut back any perennials and grasses. If the grasses are still holding strong I’ll leave them into February but there is a good chance that many are breaking apart anyway. Doing some thinning of ornamentals trees is also an option. With the leaves long gone the branch structure is very obvious. Removing damaged and crossed branches, waterspouts, rootsuckers would be the goal. Topping any trees, even ornamentals, is never a good idea.
Winter is also a fine time to remove the ever invasive non-native honeysuckle. While its preferable to remove roots and all its also fine to cut within several inches of the ground and then treat with an herbicide in the spring. Be sure to leave enough stump so you can make a fresh cut before applying the herbicide.
On the chance that we just can’t get outside, this time of the year can be used for garden planning. When spring arrives, do you know what plants you want to remove and replace or divide and re-plant? Have you made plans for mulching your beds? Are you thinking about making major changes to your landscape? While it may seem too early to be thinking about these things just remember how hectic things get in the spring at garden centers and with local landscape companies. A little planning ahead will have you ready for the nice weather that is surely coming.