10/02/2016 22:57

Autumn Decisions

By: Julie Barnes

Autumn is officially here. Are you tired of watering yet? Before bidding goodbye to this year’s garden there is a lot to do. Some chores must be done. Others involve decisions. Should you or shouldn’t you? And if you are maybe still feeling a little rakish the prospect for something new is still a possibility. It is up for you to decide.

As temperatures cool, many gardeners stop watering their plants either to conserve water or to force them into dormancy. But withholding water now can actually be harmful if they still have leaves to manufacture and store next year’s food. Moist soil shields roots and protects them from killing frost while dry soil provides less insulation. It’s true that plants do not dry out as quickly as they did in summer but they may still need water

through autumn. Let the hose be the last tool you put away with fall clean up. So, before the plants doze consider using the hose.

To rake leaves or not to rake them is a debated question. On forest floors fallen leaves naturally break down adding nutrients. But, when they are clumped together on lawns they can trap moisture, inhibit sunlight and harbor insects or diseases. Strong winds may blow them into other yards or all over the neighborhood. Sometimes wet leaves on sidewalk or street surfaces can form slippery mats dangerously similar to black ice. If leaves are chopped up by a mower into

smaller leaf pieces they can be left to further break down enriching the lawn. Some municipalities pick up leaf litter composting it in their own facilities when raked to the curb. Leaves are nature’s gift to the gardener who wisely takes advantage of this valuable resource; winter protection around landscape plants, a layer of mulch, leaf mold that can be added to soil from a decomposing leaf mound, or as a supplement to a compost pile

whether it’s now or else next year when carbon-rich organic materials are more difficult to obtain from what you bag and save. Leaves are a key ingredient for rich, fertile soil. So, for goodness sake grab a rake.

The experts are divided on the best time to plant a tree, spring or fall. The cooler fall enables a tree to concentrate its energy into root growth and not feeding the leaves as well. Roots grow best in cool soil and the amount of water needed should be reduced. But there are fewer tree choices. Garden centers often offer bargains but

purchasing a tree now really depends on its overall condition. Once spring arrives again you will have far more selections to pick from. Spring planting will give the tree a chance to grow all summer but more water will be needed as it makes both new roots and leaves to feed the plant. According to Purdue University, some trees are more susceptible to winter injury from fall planting and are best left for spring. They include Magnolia, dogwood, tulip tree, sweet gum, red maple, birch, hawthorn, poplars, cherries, plum and many of the oaks. No matter when you plant any tree please keep in mind the damage deer, particularly the males, can do to them. Bucks will rub their antlers on young, flexible trees to remove the velvet covering them. Rubbing is also their way to attract receptive does or to mark their territory. Therefore it is imperative that you surround the tree with a type of barrier to keep them away from the trunk. So, the best time for planting is influenced by the gardener. You will see, even if you obtain one for a reasonable fee, there is no such thing as maintenance free. Either plant the tree or let it be.