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The Garden Club: Time to Get A Head Start on Next Spring

Performing a few chores in the garden this fall will help give you a head start in the spring.

Fall is a season of bright, beautiful colors. 

Chrysanthemums, or more commonly referred to as mums, are a colorful addition to your fall garden. Long after the summer blooms of other flowers have faded, mums can still be going strong.

Home and garden centers are currently filled with these potted color spots waiting for a place in your fall garden. Mums are easy to grow and require little more than water, sunlight and well-drained soil. They make excellent container plants or can be placed directly in the ground.

Mums can be treated as annuals, meaning they are intended for only one growing season, or perennials. With a bit of care, mums can continue to come back year after year. Mulching around the plant before the first frost will help the chrysanthemum survive the St. Peter’s winter climate.

Mums have a shallow root system and require frequent, shallow watering. Mums require about ten hours of darkness before the plant will bloom, which makes for mid-September flowers. Also, the earlier in the fall that the mum plants are placed in the ground, the better the chance that the plant will come back strong in the spring.

Deciduous Trees

Now is the ideal time to plant trees. While many gardeners are inclined to plant trees in the spring, fall planting ensures that energy is dedicated to building a strong root system rather than producing foliage.

If the tree will be exposed to wind, it is crucial to stake or tie the tree. The ties should be no higher than one third of the way up the tree trunk from the ground. This allows the top of the tree to sway naturally in the wind. Remove the support system within the first year of planting. At that point, the root system should be well established.

Lawn Care

Lawns are hungry in the fall. If you are using a “step” fertilizing program or any other commercial feeding schedule, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions located on the packaging. Lawns can have up to three applications of fertilizer between now and December, according to the Missouri Garden Extension. If performing multiple fall feedings, be sure there are at least six weeks between feeding applications.

Fall is the ideal time to over seed. If it has been more than two years since de-thatching and/or core aeration, those procedures will go a long way in improving your lawn’s appearance next season. Over seed after de-thatching or core aerating.

Allow grass seedlings to grow to at least two inches before mowing. If your lawn needs fertilizing at this point, there are fertilizers made specifically for new grass. Keep grass seed moist, but not wet, until seedlings emerge.

Vegetables and Herbs

Herbs such as rosemary can be dug up, potted and brought indoors to overwinter. The rosemary will provide goodness to hearty soups and stews during the winter months. I have had great luck doing this with chives and thyme, also.

When the weather starts to turn cool, it is a good idea to remove any tiny tomatoes that have no chance of ripening before frost. This allows the plant’s energy to go toward ripening more mature fruits.

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