As seasonal plants go into hibernation, there is still much to do

The seasons are changing. The leaves are changing color and many tree leaves are already dropping back to earth to turn into mulch or compost for their next life. This is the season in the plant world where we get to witness important transitions in the cycle of life. Most of the annuals will wrap up their short but colorful lives with the first hard freeze. Some tender annuals are frozen into compost by the time we drop to 32°. Tougher annuals may survive to 28° or even the mid teens but few annuals make it through a whole Oklahoma winter. Some will seed back on their own next spring from seeds left by this year’s crop, but most annuals will not survive on their rootstock and will need to be replanted next spring.

The perennials will generally freeze back to the ground but their roots will usually survive and they will hibernate over the winter ready to burst out with new growth next spring. Deciduous trees and shrubs will sacrifice their foliage to the winter freezes but their trunks or stems and branches will usually survive as they hibernate for the winter and then leaf out anew next spring. Most all of our lawn grasses are perennials and will die back for the winter as their foliage freezes back to the ground. The grasses will green up again next spring as they greet a new growing season.

Even as most of our garden plants of this season die or hibernate until spring there are still many things we can do in the garden. This is a great time to select and plant your spring flowering bulbs. I love tulips, daffodils or narcissus, Dutch Iris, hyacinths, crocus and the many other bulb crops that planted now, will be the first garden color to welcome us to next spring. As your pretty summer annuals freeze out this is a great time to replace them with pansies and viola to produce color and excitement in your yard all winter long. Hardy mums have been flowering late this year from the heat delay caused by the intense summer heat but they will usually stay colorful until we get a hard freeze.

We have lost a great many trees and shrubs this summer from our extreme drought and searing heat after the hard winter last year. This is a good time to remove trees and shrubs you know are dead and to begin planting replacements. There is a great supply of container grown and balled and burlapped trees available at your local nursery and garden center and fall is a great time to plant new trees and shrubs. Make sure to keep them watered this winter as the roots will begin to grow and help the plants to get established before leafing out next spring.

Enjoy the fall colors on the trees in your yard and neighborhood and consider planting new trees and shrubs to add more fall colors and summer cooling to your yard in the future.

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