Wednesday, September 26, 2007

October Gardening Tips!

If you want to reduce your work load next Spring, I recommend you start any new garden beds now.

As you empty annual beds this Autumn, there are two main ways to enrich the soil.

1. Spread compost or plant cover crops.

Before you spread compost, dig or lightly till in any plants that aren't diseased to return nutrients to the soil. Spread compost, even if it's not well decomposed yet. It will protect the soil over the winter and break down by spring planting time.

2. Plant cover crops, such as buckwheat or annual rye that will grow this fall and early spring until you till it under several weeks before planting.

Now on to those weeds. Make sure you remove them or next Spring I guarantee you will get some kind of backache. Since bare soil invites weeds, cover bare soil with mulch, such as layers of wet newspaper covered with straw, compost, or manure. This will control late Autumn and early Spring weed growth and provide organic matter.

Begin preparing tools for storage by cleaning them once you're finished with them. Wipe the soil off shovels, spades, and trowels using a rag or wire brush, then wipe blades with an oiled cloth.

Make sure pruners are free from dirt and plant debris, and wipe down the blades with the oiled cloth. Empty any pots of dead plants and soil, adding the debris to the compost pile unless the plants were diseased. In that case, dispose of the plants in the garbage or a location far away from your garden. Rinse pots, or better yet, soak them in a bucket of water to which some bleach has been added. Rinse well.

Plant garlic now for harvesting next summer. Purchase garlic sold specifically for planting, or buy organic garlic. Commercial, non-organic, supermarket garlic may have been treated to inhibit sprouting. Break the garlic head into individual cloves, keeping the largest ones for planting. (Use the small cloves for cooking.) Plant cloves about three inches apart with the pointy side up. Try some different varieties to see which you prefer. Mulch the bed well with straw.

Test your soil and add any needed amendments now, the soil will be ready for planting when you are in the spring. Some amendments take time to break down and become available to plants.
Lastly, give your lawn a good low cut, and cover bare areas with a layer of mulch.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Lawn Care Tasks for Autumn!

Lawn Care During the Autumn Period

So here we are in September and there are things to do for our Lawn to prepare for the coming Winter.

1. Rake Up Autumn Leaves.

Don't leave Autumn leaves on the lawn as they can lead to bare patches. Rake off into a bag. Removing leaves is best done when the Lawn is dry, so get this done in early Autumn, before the weather turns wet. Don’t leave this job too late. The leaves can then be used for composting, along with any grass cuttings.

2. Scarifying

Scarifying removes the build up of dead organic matter or thatch, which can smother the soil and new growth. This should only be necessary where the soil is compacted or very acidic. Look after your Worms which remove dead organic matter naturally.

The main benefit to scarifying is that it helps to cut back the stems and creeping roots of the grass encouraging root growth and a thicker turf.

Scarification is a job for late Autumn, when the frequency of mowing is less. Use a spring tined rake. New seeded lawns should not be scarified or raked for about 2 years. Scarification is not a job for spring. Always be careful that you don’t tear up the grass and never rake from disease or moss infested areas onto healthy lawn areas.

3. Aerating.

Aerating is done to counteract compaction. Compaction prevents the roots and soil micro-organisms from breathing. Aerating can be a major task, so you need to concentrate your effort first where most attention is needed. Free draining sandy soils may never need aerating. Work on the trouble spots you’ve identified. Hopefully you’ll be able to move to another area next year. If the whole lawn needs aerating then you might work on a different area each year.

Aerating is achieved by sticking a fork into the surface to about 3 inches deep or more and in rows 6 inches apart. Gently move the fork back and forth before pulling out vertically. You will achieve a more thorough job by using a hollow tine fork. This withdraws soil cores.

Pricking can also be useful before scattering fertilizer but it only penetrates half an inch. By contrast to aerating, manual pricking machines make this a relatively quick and easy job.

4. Top Dressing

Top dress after aerating which will improve the consistency of the lawn soil. Fill in any hollows in the Lawn with a mix of 4 parts loam, 2 parts sand and 1 part leaf mould. Increase the proportion of sand or grit and reduce loam content for heavy clay soils. Increase the leaf mould and reduce the sand for sandy soils.

Lay the mix down along a line 1 or 2 metres long, then spread with a rake or brush. Aim for about 1.6 Kg per square metre.

Lawn Sand is a traditional lawn fertilizer/weed killer material composed of iron sulphate and ammonium sulphate. If you wish to make a fine lawn from a large area of weedy grass then lawn sand is a far better option than hormone weed killers and is more organic.

If you’re using a traditional mix of lawn sand, with no nasty herbicide or hormone additives, it is reasonably safe to use. It kills all broad leaved weeds and moss. However, a considerable problem arises because lawn sand kills clovers and acidifies the ground.

The lawn sand is spread during lawn-moist conditions after which the grass is left un-trampled for a couple of days then well-watered. The iron and ammonium both help to green-up the lawn after an initial blackening.

5. Liming

When soil ph is below 5 consider spreading ground limestone or dolomite on the lawn in Winter. Obviously liming has a counteractive effect on any ph reduction from lawn sand. But don’t use lime for this purpose, indeed avoid using it within a month or two of lawn sand.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Key Gardening Jobs for Autumn!

Well, the nights are drawing in here in England and there is a slight chill in the air. September is here and Autumn is upon us once more. I thought this "To Do" list
might help in jogging a few memories of things to do around the garden at this time of year.

Early Autumn

. Bring in tender plants under cover before the first frosts
. Plant or move evergreens and conifers, while the soil is still warm
. Plant spring bedding, such as wallflowers and polyanthus
. Plant spring bulbs

Mid Autumn

. Tidy perennials, removing dead stems but leaving seed-heads for birds to eat
. Plant deciduous trees, shrubs and climbers
. Lay new lawns, so long as soil is not too wet
. Batten down the hatches, ensuring nothing can blow about and cause damage on windy nights.

Late Autumn

. Plant shrubs, roses and hedging plants sold with bare roots
. Clear up fallen leaves and compost them
. Plant tulips and hyacinths
. Move deciduous trees and shrubs once they have lost their leaves
. Take hardwood cuttings from shrubs and roses

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Ornamental Grasses- Care and Maintenance!

I am often asked questions about care of Ornamental Grass in the garden. I came across this excellent Article by the University of Illinois at
which sheds light on the whole subject and which I recommend to all gardeners.

"With the popularity of ornamental grasses and their use in the landscape, it is a good idea to understand how these plants grow. This understanding will lead to better use of these plants and often avoid disappointment or frustration.

Grasses respond and start to grow based upon temperature. Some grasses will start to grow in early spring when temperatures are still cool and others will wait until the soil is warm and temperatures are more stable.

Cool Season Grasses

Cool season grass will start to grow early in the spring and may even remain semi-evergreen over the winter. Cool season grasses also seem to do better and have better foliage quality when temperatures are cool or if they are given sufficient water during drought periods. If they are not watered during drought, they tend to go dormant resulting in brown foliage.

These grasses may require more frequent division to keep them healthy looking and vigorous. If not, they tend to die out in the center. For the ones that remain semi-evergreen, you should only cut off the brown or winter injured foliage in the spring. Some of the more popular cool season grasses include, Fescues, Blue Oat Grass (Helictotrichon), Tufted Hair Grass (Deschampsia), and Autumn Moor Grass (Sesleria).

Warm Season Grasses

Warm season grasses will do better during warmer times of the year and remain good looking even when temperatures are high and moisture is limited. Warm season grasses do not begin to show growth until the weather becomes stable and the soils warm. The previous seasons growth usually browns out in the fall requiring the cutting back of plants to about 4-6 inches in the spring.

Warm season grasses usually do not require as much regular division as cool season grasses. Some warm season grasses include Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium), Japanese Silver Grass (Miscanthus sp.), Hardy Pampas Grass (Erianthus), Perennial Fountain Grass (Pennisetum), Switch Grass (Panicum) and Prairie Cord Grass (Spartina).

Growth Habits

Before planting you should also understand the growth habit of the grass. Grasses can be either clump forming or rhizome forming. The latter is often called "running" grass. The clump forming grasses will grow in very nice, neat mounds or clumps. They tend to mix very well with other perennials and will not become invasive. They will increase in girth slowly over time.

The rhizome forming grasses spread by underground stems and can become very aggressive and invasive. These grasses have their place but it may not be in a well-tended perennial border since they can soon take over an entire area. Before selecting a grass, be sure to understand how it grows so you won’t be planting a future problem. Some attractive but aggressive grasses include Blue Lymegrass, Cordgrass, and Ribbongrass.


As with any other perennial, success depends greatly on soil preparation before planting and having good drainage. Ideally, the planting areas should be prepared in the fall, beginning with deep tilling of the soil. Fall tillage facilitates freezing and thawing action during the winter, and improves soil tilth and workability. If this is not possible, spring tillage is also satisfactory.

Incorporate ample organic matter during the tillage process. Ornamental grasses do not require high amounts of fertilizer. Adding about one pound of a general-purpose fertilizer (like 10-10-10) during soil preparation per 100 sq. ft. of planting bed should be sufficient.

Ornamental grasses can be planted in the spring or the fall. The advantage of spring planting is to give the plants adequate time to develop a good root system before winter. Fall planting is often not as reliable without some additional precautions, particularly in years with early or severe winters. You should try to complete fall planting during August and September.

Then provide a light cover of straw or hay during the first winter for best results. Apply the mulch after several hard frosts. Plants should be planted no deeper than their previous growing depths and should be well watered after planting. Maintaining uniform soil moisture around the plant hastens establishment. Plants planted too deep tend to develop root diseases or simply rot in the ground.

Ornamental grasses require relatively low levels of fertility. By keeping the level of nitrogen low, lodging or flopping over can be kept to a minimum. Leaf color and vigour are good guides to nitrogen requirements. Application of one-half to one pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 100 sq. ft. of garden area or about one-quarter cup per plant is sufficient. Apply fertilizer just as growth resumes in the spring. An application of a slow release fertilizer in the spring is enough to take care of the plant's needs throughout the summer. Fertilizer should be watered in thoroughly.


Plants should be well watered the first season after planting so they can develop a good root system. Established plants do not need regular watering, but may need supplemental watering during drought periods. The amount of water will depend on the grass species, the site, and on the quality, size and growth rate desired.

Weed Control

Cultivate around grass plants to control weeds. Application of mulch will greatly reduce the need for cultivation as well as watering. It also tends to keep grasses in check that have a tendency to be heavy reseeding types.

Winter Protection and Spring Clean up

Grasses do not need to be cut down before winter. In fact, they are attractive when left standing and the foliage helps to insulate the crown of the plant. Cut back the foliage to about 4-6 inches in the spring before growth resumes. When foliage is removed, spring growth will begin earlier. Old foliage left on the plant can delay the crown’s warming and subsequent growth by as much as 3 weeks.


Division depends on the spacing and visual appearance of the plants as well as the overall health. Plants suffering from die-out in the center should be divided to improve appearances. Division is done in the spring before growth resumes or in the late summer or fall after the growing season. Plants that bloom late could be divided in the spring."

My Ficus Ginseng Plant!

My Ficus Ginseng Plant!
Cool or What?

Get Rid of Lawn Clover Video!

How to Create Good Growing Soil!