“Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.” Unknown. “I loved autumn, the season of the year that God seemed to have put there just for the beauty of it.” Lee Maynard. “Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn.” Elizabeth Lawrence. “Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.” Samuel Butler.
Each season offers unique landscapes for our personal enjoyment. Fall is almost here as the temps continue to cool down a bit and remind us that something is about to change. It’s a fine time to work, play and relax in the landscape.
Transitioning into fall is also time to work with your plants, change the landscape, and prepare the site for the new planting of herbaceous and woody plant materials. Fall landscaping is exciting! As September winds down, your landscape focus should include the following items as they relate to your individual needs.
Birds: Make the necessary preparations to help our feathered friends in the hunt for food this fall and winter season. Start by cleaning existing feeders and placing them in strategic locations for bird activity and window viewing which will provide much enjoyment from the comfort of your home. Replace bird food as necessary to ensure an adequate supply for their survival. Also left undisturbed, the dry seed heads on many of your plants is another great way to supply fall and winter food for birds.
Houseplants: Plan to bring houseplants indoors (that summered outdoors) as the temps begin to cool down. After months of humidity and sufficient light outdoors, they must now adapt to the drier air and lower light levels inside the home. Proper acclimatization is critical in that the plants should be slowly transitioned from the outdoors to a one- to two-week holding area (carport or garage) before placement indoors. Before leaving their outdoor environment, check each plant for problems such as insect or disease activity, fertilizer deficiencies, and general plant health. The problem is easier addressed outdoors rather than indoors later. Also, clean exterior of each pot thoroughly along sides and bottom using garden hose and scrub brush. Use pruning shears to snip any root activity exiting the pot. If the plant is root- or pot-bound, then transplant to next larger pot size while outdoors.
Irrigation: Don’t forget the water! As the weather gets cooler, your landscape can still be exposed to long spans of dry, sunny weather. It's particularly important that all newly planted perennials, groundcovers, trees and shrubs don't dry out. The strategy is to water deeply (not a light surface application) to establish self-sufficient plants. Plants use less water during cooler weather.
Leaves: As fall color approaches, we will all enjoy the leaf color and arrangements designed by nature. However, as fall color plays its course, the leaves will eventually drop from the trees and accumulate all over the ground on the lawn and bed areas alike. We must take measures to clean up the leaf debri and properly dispose of our collection or recycle through composting. A small price to pay for the beauty and curb appeal of deciduous tree leaves in the fall season. Unless, of course, you have a totally natural area that is left undisturbed, then leave them alone.
Overseeding: Overseeding with cool season turgrasses is the practice to achieve winter color on your warm season lawn during host dormancy. While it is cosmetically beneficial, it also offers some competitiveness which may reduce the density of your host turfgrass come spring. Upon evaluation of turfgrass texture and density, bermudagrass is more overseeding-friendly than other lawn grasses. Centipedegrass, St. Augustinegrass, zoysia, and paspalums are not as overseeding-friendly. It is very important to understand the end result on your host turfgrass come spring and next season. Overseeding of bermudagrass can be effectively achieved using mixtures or blends of ryegrass and other cool season grasses between mid-October and late November. An alternate approach to overseeding for winter coloration of your lawn is the application of color pigments that match the natural color of your host turfgrass. These pigments will last throughout the season with one to two applications and are turfgrass- and environmentally-friendly.
Perennials: Fall is the best season to plant such perennials as iris, daylilies, and Shasta daisies. If established perennials have become overcrowded, dig and divide them. Complete planting and transplanting as early as possible to allow plants enough time to become established before cold weather arrives. First killing frost is usually about November 15, but varies each year (even into December or later).
Planting: Planted now, container grown and B&B (balled and burlapped) trees and shrubs will have plenty of time to become established before cold weather actually begins. Next spring, the plants will get off to a strong start, as the roots will be established and plant energy can be spent on leaf and flower production.
Root pruning: Young trees and shrubs to be moved this winter should be root pruned now. Insert a spade into the ground in a circular pattern around the plant (18- to 24-inches from the trunk pending size of transplant) with minimal disturbance to the rootstock soil. This severs the roots and encourages new feeder roots which minimizes suffering and stress during the transplanting process. Maintain optimal cultural practices, especially sufficient watering.
As fall landscaping approaches, think in terms of native and sustainable plants. Be on the lookout for children playing and bicyclists riding along the streets and roadways throughout our communities. Pay attention to school buses and respect their stop signs and other signals as they transport our children to and from school and home. And remember to safely share the road with motorcycles. Pray for all those in harm’s way as the hurricane season continues. And as you receive blessings, always pay them forward and share with others.
“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age...” Titus 2:11-12.
Eddie Seagle is a Sustainability Verifier, Golf Environment Organization (Scotland), Agronomist and Horticulturalist, CSI: Seagle (Consulting Services International) LLC, Professor Emeritus and Honorary Alumnus (Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College), Distinguished Professor for Teaching and Learning (University System of Georgia) and Short Term Missionary (Heritage Church, Moultrie). Direct inquiries to email@example.com.