Category Archives: Fall

Be a Smarty Plants

Recently I asked my friends on Facebook what their word of advice would be for someone new to gardening and just starting out. Many offered some well rooted advice to mulch or water or be open to change. Having a vision, a good foundation of organic soil and to start small were other popular words of well grounded wisdom. One of my Facebook friends suggested that frozen berries in wine was a good pain reliever. Another suggested buying Motrin along with a lot of plants. Those who had thrown in the “trowel” suggested the new gardener give up before their backs and hips, have a drink and hire someone to do it for them. I liked the fact some felt variety was important and that gardening is good therapy.
In the spirit of turnabout is fair play, I asked myself the question. If left with suggesting one thing, I would recommend that a “smarty plants” invests time in their garden in September and October. Along with great deals on plants, the fall climate is perfect for plant establishment. In fall the soil cools down after a hot summer but is still warm and rainfall is more plentiful. Plants put in the ground focus on root establishment instead of top growth. Plants put in the ground in fall are well rooted and take off quicker in spring. This applies to woody landscape plants, trees, perennials, bulbs and even annuals like pansies. Frost tolerant pansies provide color in fall and then overwinter under the snow to outperform spring planted pansies the following spring.

These Pansies are waking up in spring after their winter nap. We're beautiful in the fall and now doing it again!

These Pansies are waking up in spring after their winter nap. We’re beautiful in the fall and now doing it again!

The weather in fall is enjoyable for yard work, even mundane work such as the lawn. Feeding your lawn in fall is important to develop a thick well rooted lawn. Grass seed grows well in the fall for patching or starting a new lawn, September is arguably the best month of the year to start a lawn in Michigan. And when it comes to weeds, well “weed” need to talk. Perennial weeds send their food reserves to the roots in fall just like the trees. If you apply weed killer you’re getting good translocation of the herbicide into the roots instead of just top kill. Also many annual weeds like Henbit germinate in the fall to become rampant and blooming in the spring. Fall applications of weed control keep these weeds from becoming a problem in spring.
If you “plant”-asize about gorgeous flowers in spring, September is the perfect month to plant flowering bulbs. It can be as easy as dig, drop, done. Bulb selections go way beyond tulips with many of the “minor bulbs” like Scilla, Fritillaria and Alliums or Dutch Iris to name a few. Planted in a well drained soil these miracle orbs will pop up and surprise you next spring.

These fall planted Pansies are reblooming in spring with the Pink Tulips that were planted at the same time.

These fall planted Pansies are reblooming in spring with the Pink Tulips that were planted at the same time.

September planted Mums provide brilliant fall color. Mum-Ma-Mia! Hardy Mums and Asters can be displayed in pots for fall color and then if planted in the ground before winter with a light mulch covering should come back next year.
Be a “smarty plants” and make a date with your yard and garden this September.


Oh Deer

Oh deer….time to protect those trees from deer damage. As deer remove velvet from antlers and during their pre-mating and mating season (often referred to as the rut) they can do significant damage to young trees in the suburban landscape. I’ve read that a typical male whitetail deer “rubs” from 400 to 800 trees in a season. Our suburban environment invites in wildlife because our habitat is better than theirs. We set the table by planting grass, trees, vegetable gardens, and we put out birdseed, mulch and garbage. No wonder they want to crash the party.

Fresh deer damage on a young tree

Check out this young tree just planted by my neighbor replacing a previously deer damaged tree in his yard. I’m going to wrap my trees tonight and protect them….not tonight deer!

See the deer tracks on the right side of the picture?

Hoe Hoe Hoe

November is no month to throw in the “trowel” on your yard and landscape. While you string some holiday “electric ivy” on the homestead and bushes there are yard and garden projects to consider even though Thanksgiving day is looming on the horizon. Read my latest story in Women’s Lifestyle magazine (see link below) and Hoe Hoe Hoe!

November issue of Women’s Lifestyle Magazine…..look for my article!

Leaf Lasagna Recipe

If you want to convert some lawn area into planting beds without the back breaking work of digging up sod or expense of a sod cutter this is the time of year to act! Benefit from the free gift of leaves falling off trees to establish new planting beds for next spring with a simple “leaf lasagna” recipe. Leaves are nature’s cheap (as in free) renewable resource. Mulch them into your garden or planting beds in October and November and watch the earthworms take up residence!

“Leaf Lasagna” planting bed creation

Place newspaper on top of turf areas approximately 4 pages thick. Try to stick with black and white print as opposed to color ads. Have the hose handy and place the papers in the pattern or area where the new bed is to be established. Water down the paper as you go, obviously a calm day is preferred for this activity or you’ll be chasing the sports section through the neighborhood. Next layer on the leaves over top of the newsprint again watering the leaves in place as we go. Finally cover the leaves with soil to hold the leaves and newsprint in place. If you don’t the leaves may end up in your neighbors yard and they probably won’t be too happy.

Just add soil to the top and let it cook all winter!

The top soil will be the final layer of your “leaf lasagna” providing the gravitas needed for your project.

Now allow the “lasagna” to “cook” under the cover of snow all winter. With the arrival of spring the grass will have died below the newsprint and you’ll be able to till and plant! You can speed the process by running the lawnmower over the leaves before putting them into the ground “lasagna” to speed the process of what I call “passive composting”…….stay grounded my friends!

October Women’s Lifestyle Magazine

I write a monthly article for Women’s Lifestyle Magazine.
My article “A Window of Opportunity” appears on page 22 in the October issue. October is a great month for the opportunistic to improve their landscape for next year! Enjoy the article……….’s Lifestyle Article

“Raking” up is hard to do

During the growing season branches in our yards extend their leaves like hands with palms outstretched to catch the sunlight.

Like hands held up to the sunlight

Now that the work of chloroplasts in the foliage fed by sun, water, nutrients and carbon dioxide is done for a season, the spent leaves carpet the earth’s floor. Their work done, their season in the sun gives way to the dead of winter and branching hope for renewal in a next generation of leaves the following spring season. Having moved amassed sugars and carbohydrates from their manufacturing “plant” to the roots for storage, a healthy plant in essence saves for a rainy (or snowy) day. Technically if allowed to do so, the spent leaf can find a second calling as a beneficial compostable soil amendment when worked into the soil or compost pile.

“Raking” up is hard to do

Why not use the free leaves as some composting benefit and reward because like Neil Sedaka used to sing, “raking up is hard to do” (or something like that). The process of going into dormancy as we head towards winter is inevitable and non-reversible, fall then winter IS going to happen. Fortunately once dormant , dormancy itself is a reversible stage as on cold snowy days we dream of spring days to come.

Pumpkin Smash 2012

Fall officially arrived at 10:49 AM on Saturday September 22 with the fall equinox. After a hot dry summer I think a lot of people are ready for some cool fall weather. We decided to celebrate with Pumpkin Smash 2012. After this summer’s drought it seemed appropriate considering a pumpkin is 80% to 90% water. We rang in the fall season similar to the New Year’s Eve ball drop by dropping a giant pumpkin on it’s gourd to celebrate the moment!

Countdown to smash

Pumpkin Smash 2012

Flowerland Show on the Air

Preparing for the drop

Doug prepares to drop George the Pumpkin

Action shot just before impact!

Pumpkin smashed

Fall has arrived