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Gardening With Laurie: Fall best time to plant perennials, woody plants

Sept. 14, 2010 at 4:14 a.m.
Updated Sept. 15, 2010 at 4:15 a.m.

Laurie Garretson

By Laurie Garretson

This is the time of year many gardeners are planting fall gardens. It does seem a bit odd that we plant cool- to cold-loving vegetables in temperatures that are far from cool. We all know September temperatures are usually just as hot as August temperatures. Stressful, hot weather means new transplants will require extra attention to help them get established. New transplants are very susceptible to drying out when there's not regular rainfall. Regular watering is absolutely critical as long as temperatures stay high. Providing some temporary shade structures over the new plants will help them to get acclimated.

We are coming into the best time of the year to be planting just about anything, especially perennials and woody plants. Contrary to the popular belief that spring is the best planting time, living in our area means fall planting is best. Planting now gives plants a longer time to get established before the stress of next summer hits them.

Now is a good time to start thinking about dividing and transplanting daylilies, Shasta daisies, violets, wood ferns and cannas. Fall is the best time to tackle this job. With a garden fork or sharpshooter, carefully dig up the plant. Use a sharp knife to cut the root ball into smaller sections, and replant them or put into containers. Be careful not to over water the newly-divided plants. Too much water can lead to diseases or death.

Fall weather can bring about many things in the garden, fungal diseases being one of them. Cooler nights and humid warm days are prime conditions for brown patch in the lawn. Watch for circular areas in St. Augustine grass that turn brown. The effected areas can become larger while green blades of grass may begin to show up in the center of the area.

If you have had brown patch before and want to head it off before it gets going in your lawn this season, go ahead and put out some cornmeal. Whole ground cornmeal can be applied to the lawn at any time as a preventative. Use at the rate of 20 pounds for every 1,000 square feet of area to be treated. Cornmeal is good for stimulating the beneficial microbes that are in your soil. These good microbes then fight off the fungus.

Also, cornmeal can be used in the same manner once the fungus is already present. You will also find several other natural products that can be safely used to get rid of fungal diseases.

Another landscape aid to use in fall is releasing beneficial insects. You know the bad insects don't leave on their own just because the temperatures cool off. You always want to encourage beneficial insects to help you keep your landscape pest free. The recent rains have disrupted ant mounds. The ants will be very actively rebuilding new homes for their queens. Beneficial nematodes will help to rid your landscape of ants, fleas, chinch bugs, grub worms and several other pests you wouldn't care to have around.

And mosquitoes are alive and very hungry since all the rain. Be sure to empty all standing water from any vessels. Mosquito dunks can be added to any standing water, and it will kill mosquito larvae that's present.

In addition, this is a great time to fertilize your lawn. After all the stressful heat and then several inches of rain that many of us got, the grass and all other plants could use some more nutrients. Fertilizing blooming plants now will help to assure you of having lots of fall color.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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