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Prepping for spring


September 2015

Homeowners should not let any grass grow under their feet when it comes to fall prep for next spring’s landscape wonders. There are many tasks necessary this autumn to secure a good-looking lawn and garden by the time robins are at their hop-hop-hopping best. To help, landscape experts have plenty of seasonal suggestions.

If you are going to enjoy early spring bulbs/flowers, you need to plant them in fall, says Gary Urban, vice president of landscape design and sales for Hawks Landscape. He warns homeowners to use more resistant varieties like daffodils if there are deer or rabbit issues.

Many perennials can be cut down in fall. Some plants, like huechera, are considered to be semi-evergreen and should not be cut down at all or the plant may be harmed, Urban says. He adds that some perennials, such as sedums and most ornamental grasses, have a great deal of winter interest, so it’s nice to keep them up in winter, cutting them back in early spring.

Urban advises that shrubs and young trees can be protected by surrounding them with hardware cloth secured with wooden stakes to ward off rodents. Tender plants and evergreens can be protected from winter winds and winter sun with burlap.

The timing on a final mow can be a moving target, he laughs, suggesting mowing grass to a length of about 2 to 2.5 inches. Mowing low helps prevent snow mold, as well as mole and vole damage. Plus, this allows most of the fallen leaves to blow away.

Mulching as plant protection is best for hybrid roses, according to Urban. He suggests laying evergreen boughs to help insulate them. He adds, "Most roses planted in recent years are the shrub rose type, which need little if any protection. Yet it is still necessary to protect any hybrid tea roses."

"The way you put your landscape to bed in the fall greatly influences how it will wake up in spring," says Urban.

Jackson "Kip" Lindsay, Flagstone Landscape Design operations manager, indicates that proper fall lawn and garden preparation for the upcoming winter and spring can produce countless benefits to a yard.

To brighten spring gardens, Lindsay suggests, like Urban, to plant bulbs (think tulips, daffodils, narcissus, scilla and allium) anytime from September to November.

Bulbs are best planted in small pie-size holes 6 to 8 inches deep, with a small handful of bone meal and five to seven bulbs per hole. This will set the stage for a fuller display of foliage and color, he explains. For the most part, multiple bulbs per hole provide the most stunning results, according to Lindsay.

When selecting tulips, some are more reliable as perennial bloomers than others, though all will provide at least one to two years of show in a spring garden. For year-after-year blooming, Lindsay suggests crocus tulip, Red Hunter, Lady Jane, Ballade, Apeldoorn’s Elite, Ad Rem and Orange Emperor.

What to do in the fall with perennials is always up for discussion, Lindsay acknowledges. For winter interest, there is no need to cut most ornamental grasses and the faded blooms of hydrangeas, while others say it is best to trim to ground level and remove from the garden when foliage begins to brown.

When trimming evergreens, it is best to avoid any hard pruning after late August since the new growth needs to properly harden off before winter. Finally, if any new evergreens are exposed to harsh winter winds and/or sun, covering them in evergreen boughs or burlap is never a bad idea, he says.

Preparing the lawn for winter is no great science, but Lindsay says three things can help tremendously: core aeration, a late "winterizer" fertilizer and cutting the lawn one last time to no less than 2.5 inches.

This story ran in the September 2015 issue of: