Landscaping & Lawn Care

1. Fall is the time to sow grass seed for a great looking cool-season lawn. Homeowners in the piedmont and mountain region will find a plethora of tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass blends and mixtures at garden shops. The amount of seed needed for renovating a lawn will vary from 3 pounds per 1000 square feet for thinning turf, to a seeding rate of 6 or more pounds for starting a new lawn. If there are no bare spots, then treat your lawn with an application of fertilizer. Nitrogen is important for building a strong root system and maintaining a dense sod that minimizes weed problems.

2. Consider overseeding shady lawns in the piedmont and in the west, using a grass mixture containing fine fescue. There are three types of fine fescue grass: chewing, hard, and creeping red.

3. Warm-season lawns are heading into their dormant season and should not be fertilized or aerified. (St. Augustine and centipede lawns can survive with minimal care at this time of year.)

4. Bermuda grass lawns can be dethatched and overseeded with perennial ryegrass for a nice green lawn in the winter months. However, warm-season turfgrasses may be weakened by this overseeding practice.

5. Weedy lawns are a sign that soil fertility is an issue. Conduct a soil test and correct acidity or nutrient deficiency problems. Don’t guess when purchasing limestone for a lawn or garden. You may be surprised at the amount of lime it takes to positively impact your soil. Recommendations vary from 25 pounds per 1000 square feet to 100 pounds or more.

6. Irrigation systems will soon need to be winterized. Contact a landscape service soon if you plan on getting professional assistance in repairing leaks and draining irrigation systems. Fountains or water features may also need to be cleaned and winterized.

7. Please help keep our streams clean. Sweep fertilizer and weed ’n’ feed granules off of impervious surfaces such as driveways, walks, and streets. Rain washes granules, pet waste, oils, etc directly into storm drains, which empty into streams and other drinking water sources.

8. Power equipment, especially those with 2-cycle engines, should have their gasoline treated with a stabilizer additive. Many people run out the gasoline of mowers before storing them at the end of the cutting season. Maintenance service guides are the best reference for your equipment’s needs. A seasonal oil change is also an important practice for keeping engines running well.

Fruit and Vegetable Gardens

9. Sow your salad patch before frosty nights arrive. Leafy greens, such as mustard, rape and turnips, and leaf lettuce mixtures/mesclun have time to mature as the holiday season commences.

10. Gardeners in the mountain region should be prepared to use old bed sheets, portable cold frames, or floating row covers to extend the life of their fall garden. Often, a few cold snaps can be avoided and ensure that a crop is harvested well into November. Collards are always sweet following a period of frost.

11. Water vegetables early in the day to avoid excessive leaf wetting; moist foliage encourages numerous late season diseases.

12. Cover crops, such as rye grain and crimson clover, are frequently used to improve poor garden soils and add essential organic matter. Rotating vegetable plantings with cover crops will help break disease cycles and enhance gardening success. Also, rotate vegetables by plant family.

13. It is important that diseased plants, including blighted foliage of tomatoes and squash plants, be removed from the garden at the end of the season. They should not be added to the compost pile. Don’t forget to dig out the roots also!

Flowers & Other Plant Care

14. Flower gardeners should ready their tender annuals and foliage plants for a storage space indoors as night temperatures dip into the 40’s. Help acclimatize plants by withholding fertilizer, moving into shade, and reducing water. Clean dirty pots, and inspect for snails and other insects that often hitchhike with the plant move.

15. It is mum and fall-flower planting time. Frill out the roots of pot-bound plants and place the roots in well-aerated soils. Mulch with leaf compost or pine bark soil conditioner. Fall planted flowers do need routine watering, especially during their establishment period.

16. Groom landscapes by shearing broadleaf shrubs and hedges that have wild, rangy growth. Withhold fertilization and consider mulching them after an autumn freeze.

17. Many shrubs go into winter with active insect infestations, most notably azaleas, camellias, and hollies. These pests can be eliminated with an application of horticultural oil or insecticidal soap applied to the underside of their foliage.

18. Many of your deep-rooted, herbaceous perennials can be divided and reset while the ground is still warm. Peonies, asters, cannas, German iris, and hibiscus fall into this category. Dig and store tend perennials: caladium, elephant-ears, dahlias, tuberoses, amaryllis, etc.

19. Shade trees begin dropping their leaves soon, which means it is the perfect time to construct a bin for preparing compost. In preparation for the fall leaf season, many municipalities offer free compost to make room for new leaves at their composting facilities. There’s no better time to befriend someone with a long-bed pickup truck!

20. Beware that herbicides containing glyphosate are very harmful to desirable woody plants when misdirected in the fall season. Suckers and low-growing foliage can absorb the chemical, resulting in branch dieback or plant death the next spring. Of course, a gardener can use this information to eradicate nuisance plants, brambles, and many invasives.

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For more than 30 years, Toby Bost has been a resource to North Carolina gardeners and growers as an agricultural extension agent, a trainer for master gardeners, and an author. His books include The Successful Gardener Guide: North Carolina, North Carolina Gardener’s Guide, and The Carolina Gardener’s Guide. He can be reached through Our State magazine at gardening@ourstate.com

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