Enjoy old and new plants as fall begins

Fall officially began last Sunday and it even feels a little like fall now as we enjoy slightly cooler 80 degree days and 60 degree nights. The days are getting shorter with the arrival of fall and now is the time to engage in full scale fall gardening. This is one of the most pleasant times of year to be outside in the yard to enjoy the annuals you planted this spring and the perennials you have planted over the years. Besides enjoying your existing gardens this is an excellent time to plant new trees and shrubs in your landscape.

Container grown trees and shrubs can be planted most anytime of the year but fall plantings often have the highest success rate as they can get well established and rooted into their new soil home before having to endure our hot and dry summer weather next year. New plantings always need to be watered but there is not as much pressure to water fall plantings as often. The fall and winter weather is not as hot and does not cause as much evaporation and dehydration. If you have been wanting to add more trees or shrubs to your yard this is a good time to get some healthy garden exercise to dig holes and plant more trees in your yard. Remember to dig a hole about twice as large as needed and amend the soil by mixing about one third sphagnum peat moss or other good organic matter with the natural soil. Then place some of the amended soil back in the hole to the proper depth. Do not plant the trees too deep. Plant it so that the top of the soil matches the top of the existing ball of soil.  Put your new tree or shrub in the hole and back fill with the amended soil. Water the new plantings thoroughly to soak the rootball and surrounding backfill. Water periodically this fall and winter when the soil is dry and get ready for years of enjoyment from your new trees and shrubs. I am getting ready to plant several new bald cypress and caddo maple trees in my yard this next week. Trees are one of the greatest things we can do to improve our home and the environment and to leave as a legacy. Each tree helps clean up the environment by absorbing carbon dioxide and air pollutants and produces large quantities of clean filtered oxygen. Well placed trees and shrubs can also reduce our energy use by providing natural windbreaks and natural cooling to reduce home air conditioning and heating costs. As an extra bonus they can transform the appearance and beauty of your house, improve the resale value and make outdoor living much more pleasant and inviting.

The use of fall color plants has really grown over the years and we have many great choices to add an exciting splash of seasonal color to your yard. Hardy mums have been the star attraction of the fall garden for years. There are hundreds of varieties and colors to choose from with many new varieties introduced each year. Some varieties are already in full flower while other varieties are just showing their first color. They will be quite showy up through our first hard freeze although the flowers may be bronzed or slightly burned with the first light frosts in late October. If you are entertaining during the next few weeks or just want a special burst of fall color nothing can compare with the mounds of colorful flowers from fall chrysanthemums or hardy mums. Hardy mums bloom naturally with short days and are perennials that usually come back year after year. They will bloom naturally in future fall seasons as long as they are not planted under street lights or security lights that extend the daylength.

The early pansy crops are now ready and on display at most all the nurseries and garden centers. Unlike the hardy mums which freeze back and die for the season with the first hard freeze the pansies will keep growing and flowering all through the winter. These are available in lots of bright colors so you can plant the color pattern of your choice. I especially enjoy the varieties that have two distinct colors on their flower face, yellow with black, purple with yellow or other fun combinations. Fall planted pansies do best planted in the full sun or mostly sunny locations. With regular watering and an occasional feeding they will grow and produce flowers throughout the winter and into mid spring when the extended daylength and warmer temperatures will start to wear them out. Next spring it is best to replace them with new spring annuals to give you spring and summer color. I especially enjoy pansies in full bloom peeking through light winter snows or looking cheerful during depressing winter cold spells.

When you are at the garden center don’t forget to select some spring flowering bulbs to plant this fall so your can enjoy tulips, hyacinths and my favorites, crocus and daffodils next spring.  We offer a special Oklahoma welcome to over four hundred garden writers from all over the United States that are here in Oklahoma City the next four days for their national meeting. A special thank you to all the Oklahomans who are sharing their yards and gardens and hospitality to welcome these good folks to our state for this national event as we celebrate our state’s centennial and Oklahoma gardening.

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