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John Fulton

John Fulton
Former County Extension Director

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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis

The Fall To-Do List

Posted by John Fulton -

It seems like fall has snuck up on us. Of course the weather has been anything but predictable this year. It is very easy to notice the evenings are much shorter, and we have less time to do the things we need to do in the fall. Following is a list of things to get into your schedule over the next few weeks, and in some cases not to do.

Do a good job of raking up old fruit from under trees. This old fruit harbors many diseases and insects that could cause you problems for next year, if allowed to lay under the tree. Don't stop with the ground clean‑up, but also remove mummified fruit and small fruit from the trees and dispose of in another location.

We are now at the "breaking point" for the recommended time to seed grass seed. If you want to try it later, you may have excellent luck or have no luck at all. The next recommended seeding time is mid‑March to the 1st of April. Figure on about two pounds of seed per 1000 square feet of lawn for an overseeding, and four pounds per 1000 square feet for a newly tilled area. Hopefully the temperature and moisture situation will be more favorable than it has been earlier. In past years this meant too dry, and this year it means your seed may have been washed out or buried.

We are also at the breaking point for major renovation projects such as dethatching and aeration. However, the wet soils won't be very conducive to these practices. One thing that is going to work very well with the saturated soils will be rolling to level out uneven lawns. Usually if your problem is due to nightcrawlers, the problem will reoccur.

Now is a great time to go after those broadleaf weeds in the lawn. Make sure that you select the correct product, use the proper amount, and do not treat areas containing fall seeded grass. The rule of thumb is that you need to mow newly seeded grass at least 3 times before treating that area for broadleaf weeds. This means you don't try and do both in the same fall or spring seeding season. Broadleaf weeds that are perennial are sending large amounts of material to the roots to enable them to come up again next year, and translocated herbicides will be sent to the roots as well. Be warned this also means perennials such as shrubs are in the same boat.

Pruning chores for plants with a high sap flow should be done in December, while other pruning chores are best done in early February for deciduous plants, and in June for evergreens. Flowering shrubs are best done after they flower. Pruning now is often a recipe for greater chance of damage to plants. A hard freeze in mid-October will really wreak havoc on evergreens pruned at this time.

And finally, the high rainfall amounts have led to flooding and saturated soils again. This will be extremely stressful on trees and shrubs. They require oxygen in the soil to keep roots active and alive. Since trees don't have gills, they can't get oxygen from water. Try to get standing water away from perennial plants as soon as possible. Two days can actually kill roots of some species. Of course, there isn't a lot you can do quickly for saturated soils. Long term you can look at improving the drainage or re-directing downspouts. The end recommendation is to keep things in good growing condition to allow them to recover quickly. This means fertilizer if you didn't apply it to the grass. We don't need to worry about water at this time. About eight pounds of 12-12-12 per 1000 square feet of branch area will help.

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