Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Fall is for Planting… Trees, Shrubs, Bulbs and Vegetables
Yea, I know. I blogged about this last year. But this message is worth repeating because fall is such an outstanding time to plant trees, shrubs, bulbs lawns and, as I wrote in mid August, many vegetable crops, too.
OK, the basics one more time, then some particulars… the reason fall is such a good time to plant: soil temperatures are warm which is good for root growth; air temperatures are cooling and rainfall is usually plentiful which reduces the need to do maintenance irrigation; deciduous plants are dropping leaves but roots remain active long afterwards which allows for establishment; winter dormancy is followed by Spring, another season of cool, moist weather that aids establishment before the stresses of summer; plant material at nursery/garden centers is plentiful and often a bargain as retailers try to shed inventory.
This was such an outstanding year for turfgrass growth that the number of people feeling the need to re-seed is probably lower than normal. However, if you want to re-seed a lawn, Penn State has outlined the steps is this publication. The key is to suppress the weeds, raise the fertility and then seed the correct species by lightly incorporating the seed into the soil. A “slit seeder” available at most good rental places is the ideal tool. It cuts a small groove into the soil and drops seed in one operation.
Penn State has dozens of publications on lawn management that deal with fall lawn care. Besides planting, there are other chores that are best performed in the fall such as broadleaf weed control, liming, fertilizing and aeration. Check it out.
Penn State Master Gardeners will be planting trees in our little Almshouse Arboretum at Neshaminy Manor Center in November. We’re hooked into the Tree Vitalize program that provides” bare root” trees to public areas in an effort to re-vitalize tree cover in Southeastern Pennsylvania. We’ve planted more than fifty trees, both spring and fall, with a one hundred percent success rate. Here’s a link to specifics on tree planting instructions. Buy good quality plants and you, too will have great success.
Finally, back to the vegetable garden. Last night I seeded spinach. I was waiting for soil temperatures to cool down a bit because spinach germination is adversely affected by high soil temperatures (above 85 degrees). Some of that spinach will be harvested this fall. Some of it I’ll allow to overwinter, providing an early harvest next spring.
There are still about 6 weeks until our first frost and we often experience a long warm period of growing weather after that first freeze. That’s what make the fall vegetable garden so nice and productive. The leafy vegetables, root crops and cole (cabbage family) crops all thrive in the cool fall air.
My first broccoli is ready for harvest and a bunch more is on the way. Brussels sprouts buds are beginning to swell, lettuce plantings are up and more are on the way. Broccoli rabe always germinates in about 3 days and I look forward to my own sausage sandwich, South Philly style in a few weeks with that rabe on top.