Enjoy the fall flowers and prepare for spring

The football season is in full swing, schools are all back in session, the first few “cold” fronts have passed through and the state fair is starting so we know that means fall has arrived in Oklahoma. Fall is a great season in the yard or garden to enjoy all your annuals as they get re-energized with the cooler weather and produce another round of beautiful flowers. The tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables often bounce back to life after the summer heat and produce a bumper crop of fresh food. Many of your trees, shrubs and perennials produce another flush of growth before they prepare for the first freezes of the fall in late October or early November.

In addition to enjoying another round of flowers on your lovely crepe myrtles, altheas and roses and the bright colors of all your annuals, now is the time to enjoy the special flowers of fall. Probably no other plant is so associated with autumn as the chrysanthemum or hardy mum. You can buy them already in bud or flower and enjoy them throughout your yard up until the first hard freeze. They do great in the full sun in your front flowerbeds, in beds around your patio or in large container gardens. Hardy mums are heavy drinkers and will need more water than most other plants yet good drainage is still important. There are hundreds of hardy varieties well suited to our state in all tones of red, burgundy, yellow, purple, bronze, pink and white. They are available in the traditional cushion mums and the new large mound Belgian varieties. They also come in many flower styles including traditional, daisy and spoon shaped mums. Hardy mums will freeze back to the ground after the first hard freeze but the perennial or hardy varieties will sprout out from the roots next spring and bloom again next fall. Some folks like to plant asters for fall color to complement or in place of hardy mums. It is still a little early for pansies, ornamental kale and cabbage but they are very special plants great for providing late fall and even winter color. Pansies will survive light or moderate freezes and keep flowering and producing color right through the winter. We will talk more about them in our next column after it has cooled down a tad more.

This is the season to shop for your spring flowering bulbs like tulips, hyacinths, crocus, daffodils, Dutch iris and the many specialty bulb crops. Shop early to get the biggest, firmest bulbs in the varieties and colors you want. They should be planted over the next two months for best results next spring. Plant them with a little bit of bulb food, bone meal or blood meal and the roots will grow all winter. They will sprout from the ground early next spring to deliver the first exciting splash of color after our long cold winter. Daffodils are especially good to add to your landscape in Oklahoma as they will often naturalize and come back year after year where tulips usually need to be replaced every year or two with new bulbs.

This is the time to do your final feeding for this growing season on your trees, shrubs and lawn. This feeding can help with root growth to prepare your trees and shrubs for winter. As we discussed in our last visit we are nearing the end of the prime time to apply a fall weed and feed fertilizer with a pre-emergence herbicide or weed killer to your lawn to kill winter weeds before they germinate. I prefer products containing Barricade or Dimension but there are many good herbicides to choose from. The sooner you apply this product the more effective it will be since a pre-emergent can not kill weeds like henbit and chickweed once they have sprouted.

If you want to seed a tall fescue or perennial ryegrass lawn in order to have a green lawn this winter you should sow that seed over the next few weeks. Tall fescue seed germinates in 8 to 12 days after sowing and watering. You can plant fescue in the shade or partial shade for year round turf or over-seed in sunny turf areas to get green winter color for your lawn. You can plant a blended seed mix that includes several fescue varieties well adapted to our area or a single proven variety like Crossfire II or Wolfpack at a rate of eight to ten pounds of seed per 1000 square feet. 

This is one of the best times of the year to plant container grown trees and shrubs. “Fall is for Planting” was an industry campaign promoted for many years to encourage more trees and shrub planting in the fall. Fall plantings allow the roots to get well established before the heat and extra water requirements of our Oklahoma summers. Fall tree and shrub plantings often experience the highest success rate as they adapt and get established quicker in their new home. Take time from your busy schedule to get outside and enjoy your fall garden and the many wonders of nature at this special time of year.

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