Fall is for Planting

Monday, October 13th, 2008 by Jenny Watts
    • Chrysanthemums are the brightest flowers for the fall garden. Plant some now.
    • Crimson clover, fava beans and rye grass will fortify your garden soil over the winter. Seed these crops as you compost your summer vegetables.
    • Fragrant Paperwhite narcissus will bloom indoors by Thanksgiving if planted now in rocks and water.
    • Choose shade trees for fall color now and plant them while the soil is warm and easy to dig.
    • Watch out for Jack Frost! On these cold nights, cover summer vegetable plants that are still producing to extend the harvest.

Fall is for Planting!

These recent rains have created the perfect situation for fall planting! With the soil moist and the creeks starting to flow, this is a great time to put some plants in the ground.

Fall is the best time to plant, especially if you’re tackling major projects like putting in a new flower bed or border. Transplanted now, plants ease into the garden naturally. Trees, shrubs, lawns, ground covers and spring-blooming bulbs will all get established over the winter and be ready to survive their first hot summer more easily.

In the fall the soil is still warm and roots begin to grow rapidly as soon as they are planted. Cooler air temperatures put less stress on newly planted trees and shrubs, and watering needs are less. Once the rains begin in earnest, the plants receive plenty of water encouraging deep rooting as the roots continue to develop through the winter. These plants will be much more drought tolerant and not need to be watered as often next summer.

Fall is the ideal time to plant a tree — both for the gardener and the tree! The weather is cooler, so it is more enjoyable working outdoors. The tree also benefits because the soil is better able to retain moisture now than during the hot days of summer, so it becomes established easily. Trees and shrubs will show no growth above ground, but by having time to develop a strong root system over the winter, they will be ready for a major growth spurt next spring. Studies have shown that trees and shrubs planted in the fall will grow between one-and-a-half and two times as much next summer as the same tree or shrub planted next spring.

Lawns and ground covers do best when planted in the fall. The cool season grasses, which do best in this area, are most vigorous in fall and spring. By the time next summer rolls around, your lawn will be well-established and ready to enjoy. They will be able to survive on weekly deep-waterings.

Ground cover plants need to establish strong roots before they can begin top growth. This is the ideal time to plant them to get the most growth next spring and summer.

Perennial flowers like foxglove, coral bells, columbine and lupines need to live through a winter before they will bloom. When you plant them from six-packs in the spring, you have to wait a whole year to see them bloom. But if you plant them in the fall, you can enjoy their blooms next spring.

Daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and other spring bulbs must be planted in the fall to enjoy their beauty next spring. They need several months to develop roots before they can bloom. By choosing different varieties, you can enjoy spring flowers from late winter through spring. For an early glimpse of spring, plant crocuses and grape hyacinth. Daffodils bloom next followed by tulips, iris and alliums. Once planted, these bulbs will brighten your spring garden with their lovely colors each year and need very little care.

Fall is here, so don’t miss the best planting season of the year.

Spring Trees in Bloom

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008 by Jenny Watts
    • Dahlias, lilies and gladioli come in a wide variety of colors. Plant the roots now for flowers this summer.
    • Mulch blueberry plants with aged sawdust and feed with cottonseed meal or an acid fertilizer.
    • When you plant your vegetable garden, why not grow a little extra to donate to the food bank this summer.

The Beautiful Dogwood Family

The Eastern dogwood (Cornus florida) is the species most people think of when the word dogwood is mentioned. Although it is the favorite of the dogwood trees, there are other species that grow here as well.

Members of the dogwood family are fine ornamental shrubs and small trees that are beautiful in every season of the year, but are most conspicuous when in flower.

The Eastern flowering dogwood, Cornus florida, grows in the shade of other trees in the forests of the eastern United States. In the landscape it usually reaches 20 to 25 feet tall and has a graceful, layered branching habit.

Over sixty varieties of this tree have been named, offering a variety of leaf and flower colors. Flowers bloom in April and May and come in white, pink or red. Actually, these are bracts, which are colorful leaves that surround the real flowers. The leaves are usually green but some cultivars offer variegated leaves. The fall color is a brilliant scarlet before the trees drop their leaves to reveal picturesque branches.

The Japanese dogwood, Cornus kousa, is very similar to the Eastern dogwood, but blooms about three weeks later as the leaves are coming out. The tree is more vase-shaped than the Eastern dogwood, and the mature bark has an attractive mottled look.

The Pacific dogwood, Cornus nuttallii, is native to the forests around Willits. It is a beautiful tree but, unfortunately, very hard to grow. A fine variety, Eddy’s Wonder, is a cross between the Eastern and the Pacific dogwoods and makes a handsome tree that grows very well here. It has large white “flowers” on a vigorous tree.

The “Stellar” dogwoods are a cross between the Eastern and the Japanese dogwoods. They are very vigorous and make a tree 20 feet tall and wide in 20 years. “Stellar Pink” is particularly lovely with its bracts of pale pink flowers that cover the tree.

Dogwoods can also be shrubs. Cornelian cherry, Cornus mas, tends to be multi-stemmed and is formed more like a shrub than a tree. It is slow-growing to 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide, and is a rounded, multi-stemmed shrub or small tree. The Cornelian cherry produces showy yellow flowers in late winter and early spring, before the leaves emerge. Fruits are bright red and edible, used for tart jellies and attractive to birds.

The beautiful red-twigged dogwood, Cornus sericea, has bright red stems which intensify in color during the winter. Small flowers bloom with white bracts in clusters in the spring followed by bright red berries that attract birds in the winter. It makes a beautiful addition to the woodland landscape. A closely related variety, ‘Flaviramea’ has bright yellow stems.

Flowering dogwoods prefer an acid, well-drained soil high in organic content. They grow naturally in partial shade, but will also grow in full sun with ample summer watering. Too much shade will cause them to produce fewer flowers.