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Ensley: garden prognosticating

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Posted: Tuesday, October 18, 2016 3:00 pm

Trees and shrubs will probably lose their leaves early this year due to the drought. So long as they turn color and fall normally, do not worry too much about it. Delay the process as long as possible with regular watering. If the leaves brown suddenly and do not fall, the tree is in trouble. Of course, all you can do is water the tree very well (wetting the soil 18 inches deep) once every week or so. There are not usually any pests that are killing them – just drought.

As we approach fall, we need to slow down certain garden jobs. Do not prune or fertilize shrubs after September 1. The new growth this produces will be too tender to survive the cold of winter. Do not fertilize lawns with nitrogen containing fertilizers after September 15. This is especially important for centipede lawns. They need water now – not fertilizer.

Some people fertilize their lawns in early winter with fertilizers containing potassium. They feel this improves hardiness. There is no evidence that using these in a well – fertilized lawn reduces winter injury. In other words, it does not hurt, but there is also no evidence that it helps. Just do not use fertilizers containing nitrogen after September.

An exception to this rule is lawns that have not been fertilized well or suffered badly from drought. You should water drought stricken lawns well, at least once a week, with three quarters to one inch of water. Then fertilize them with a fertilizer high in potassium. Potassium is the last number in the fertilizer’s analysis. Select one with a high last number like 5-10-15.

You can move irises and daylilies now, but I would consider waiting until we get a rain. If you move them now, water them well. Till the soil deeply, adding lime if needed, and add organic matter to improve the soil. Apply little if any fertilizer. You do not want them to grow now; just develop roots for next year. Use a soil sample for best results.

Learn this lesson if you miss all the others. Fall is the best time to plant! This secret of successful gardeners will help your plants survive and prosper. Plan now, prepare beds and plant when temperatures decrease and fall rains begin.

Fall and winter is the best time to plant trees, shrubs and perennials. When preparing beds, do not use fertilizers with a lot of nitrogen in them unless, the plant is a winter growing plant.

These encourage top growth which we do not want. Cooler temperatures provide an opportunity for roots to grow and the plant to get established. You can use fertilizers now that are low in nitrogen and high in phosphorus and potassium which can encourage root growth.

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