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Garden Dirt | Fall Into the Garden


The summer of 2013 hasn’t broken any heat records – at least not yet, there are still a few weeks to get through. But compared to the last couple of years, it’s been pretty easy with just a handful of bruising heat-waves driving us indoors. Even so, we’re all looking forward to a crisp, new season. Off with the A/C! And back into the outdoors. It’s cabin fever in reverse.

Fall is the season to re-energize your landscape. Antsy with anticipation is one way to describe our nursery manager and buyer, Maggie Wiles.

“I can’t wait to get into my yard,” says Maggie. “I want to rip out stuff that didn’t work and beef up all of my planting areas with soil amendment. This is my fall project.”

Great landscapes start with great soil. Even the best quality plants won’t grow well in poor soil.

A good soil amendment – like Bumper Crop – builds the soil and will continue to work long after fertilizers have faded.

“Soil amendment is organic matter that contains live stuff and that live stuff is the magic ingredient,” says Maggie. “Worm castings, compost, shellfish, all of those things will continue to build in the soil and your plants will reap continual benefits.”

And yes, the old adage is true: Fall is a great time to plant. Not only does cooler weather and shorter days put less stress on young plants, the seasonal lifecycle makes fall ideal for planting. Plants stop growing and begin shutting down for the winter.  But while the tops are shutting down, the bottoms, or root systems, fire up.  More roots are developed on plants during the fall than any other time of the year. When spring rolls around, the trees, shrubs and perennials planted in the fall will have already started developing a strong root system which in turn will support robust spring growth.

Choosing the right plants for these fertile beds is the next step to a successful landscape. Plants that need full sun won’t thrive in the shade, and shade lovers will wither and die in the hot sun. And, yes, size does matter.

“We’re asked all the time can’t I just keep it pruned to fit,” says Maggie. “The answer is yes, but in doing so you often destroy the natural structure of the plant. It’s better for the plant to choose one that will grow into the space.”

If the mature size of the plant isn’t indicated on the label, ask the nursery sales staff “how big will this plant really get” and if you have a 3 by 3 foot space, don’t plant a variety that, at maturity, will be 8 by 8 foot. Your pruning shears aren’t that sharp! And remember, that beautiful little 6 foot maple will grow to 30, 40 feet or more, possibly into overhead power lines…or the side of your house. Give plants the environment and the space they need to thrive.

Fall is also a good time to divide and conquer. Determine if those overgrown monsters need to move to the compost pile while others may just need a change of address in your yard — or to a neighbor’s. Many perennials benefit from being divided every few years. Those that have dead growth in the center and young, healthy growth on the outside are ready to be divided and replanted as new and separate plants. Shrubs that have outgrown their space or their welcome, but that are still healthy, can be moved now. Just remember that the size of the shrub is directly proportional to the strength of your back and arms! Sometimes it’s easier to start fresh with smaller plants that you can lift than to spend hours moving a beast.

A healthy, well-planned landscape adds to your enjoyment – and value – of your home while helping the environment, both aesthetically and functionally. Now that you know fall is the season to plant, what are you waiting for? Don a sweatshirt, pull on the gloves – and get dirty.

“Every season comes with new opportunity in our yards,” says Maggie. “And the added plus to fall? Now you can breathe the air.”



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