Fall for a beautiful landscape with these garden tasks

Article by Jeanne Hilinske-Christensen, Interim Horticulture Educator, Kenosha  and Racine counties
Originally published in the Kenosha News.

With the record-setting heat our area has experienced lately, it is hard to believe the growing season is coming to a close. Some garden tasks that are best done in fall can be done at this time.

“Dig. Drop. Done.” is the slogan used by the flower bulb industry to remind and encourage gardeners that now is the time to plant spring-flowering bulbs such as tulips, crocuses and daffodils. When purchasing bulbs, select those that are firm and have no visible signs of disease or damage. The depth to plant the bulb is dependent on bulb type, with most of the larger sized bulbs needing to be planted deeper than smaller bulbs.

An attractive and easy way to plant a spring flowering bulb display is to plant in layers using one hole. Put the large sized bulbs, such as daffodils, in the bottom of the hole, add some soil, then add a layer of small sized bulbs, like grape hyacinths, in that same hole. Add soil to cover the bulbs and water thoroughly.

Another slogan commonly heard at this time of year is “Fall is for Planting!” Warm soil temperatures and cool air temperatures make great conditions for planting trees, shrubs and perennials. Due to the lack of rainfall in our area this month, many of the soils are quite dry. Make certain all newly planted stock is thoroughly watered at the time of planting and then begin a watering schedule to fit the needs of the specific plant. Wait for spring of next year to fertilize new plantings.

Fall is the time to dig and divide spring flowering perennials like peonies, Bergenia and Brunnera. Tall bearded iris can be dug and divided through October. Dig the entire plant, divide as needed, remove any diseased or damaged material and replant. Water thoroughly.

Controlling perennial broadleaf weeds, such as creeping Charlie, is best done in fall when these weeds are storing carbohydrates for winter. The active growth of these weeds at this time of year increases the effective uptake of post-emergence herbicides. Post-emergence broadleaf herbicides should be applied when the air temperature is between 60 and 80 degrees F, when there is little to no wind and when rain is not predicted for a 48-hour interval. Read and follow all label instructions when handling and applying herbicides.

If some plants in your yard did not perform as expected this year, perhaps an issue with the soil is the culprit. Now is a good time to take a soil test. Soil test kits are available at the UW-Extension office in Bristol. After taking a soil sample and submitting it to the soils lab, the lab will follow up with an analysis of the soil and offer recommendations for the type of plants being grown.

Visit the UW-Extension Learning Store at learningstore.uwex.edu for informative publications.

Jeanne Hilinske-Christensen is the UW-Extension Interim Horticulture Educator for Kenosha and Racine counties. Submit plant care questions to the Master Gardeners Plant Health Advisers. Phone 262-857-1942 or email master.gardeners@kenoshacounty.org