By Mary Sattler
For the Nevada Appeal
Autumn is the gardener's reward for all the hard work that was put in over a long, hot summer. It is a time of recharging the batteries and enjoying the change of the seasons in a bold and colorful way. Mother Nature, in Northern Nevada, blessed September with unusually warm weather, extending the harvest of summer vegetable gardens. Liquid Fence FreezePruf is a frost protector product that when applied when the temperature is above 50 degrees may protect warm season vegetables when the temperature drops to freezing.
If a fall vegetable garden is planned, it's not too late to begin with vegetable starts. Lettuce, cabbage, peas, kale, Swiss chard and broccoli all enjoy the cooler temperatures and will survive freezing mornings. Plant radish seeds for a snappy addition to the dinner salad. Now is the time to plant garlic for harvesting next summer. Greenhouse Garden Center recommends the hard-neck varieties and has German Red, California, and Spanish Roja varieties in stock. Onions sets can also be planted at this time of year.
Summer flower beds are starting to look tired and this is the perfect time to do some rejuvenation. Areas of annual color can be replaced now with ornamental kale and cabbages, pansies, and Pennisetum rubrum, a colorful ornamental grass with red foliage and fuzzy, long seed heads. All of these annuals can be enjoyed long after the ground freezes and the snow begins to fly. This is also the time to divide perennials and Iris.
Look for areas of the perennial beds where the only color for the last few months has been green. Right now is the time to think about extending perennial color in the flower beds with dwarf plumbago, autumn joy sedum, chrysanthemums, and asters. All of these perennials provide great color well into October.
Don't forget to plant fall bulbs which include tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, crocus, allium and more. Plant these bulbs in clumps to maximize their dramatic color effect in the spring.
Consider bringing into the house zonal and ivy geraniums and any begonias before the first frost. They make great winter houseplants. Don't forget to treat them with an insecticide so the house isn't buzzing with unwanted insects.
Now is the best time to plant trees and shrubs. The weather makes it comfortable to be out working in the yard, not too hot and not too cold. The soil and water are still warm which allows the roots to acclimate and grow even as the top of the plant is going dormant. When next spring arrives fall-planted trees and shrubs will be a step ahead and ready to put good energy into top growth.
At this time of year the homeowner can get a good visual by visiting Greenhouse Garden Center or looking around the neighborhood to see what this plant material looks like decked out in fall regalia. Fall colors can range from yellow and bronze all the way through the oranges, reds, and purples. Some of the ornamental trees and shrubs will produce colorful berries and fruit which make for great fall and winter interest and a great source of food for birds. Don't forget about conifers. Every one of these evergreen trees produces great pine cones which can be used in holiday decorating besides being a source of nutrition for local wildlife.
Water is still essential in the fall. As we advance into October, watering should go to once a week when the daytime highs reach into the 70s and once every two weeks when the daytime highs are in the 60s. When the nighttime lows are consistently below 27 degrees, shut off the irrigation system to avoid freeze damage and unhook the hoses from the hose bibs.
Now is the time to aerate and give the lawn a last organic fertilization along with a sulfur/iron supplement. In November, the final fall and winter lawn fertilizer can be applied.
If Northern Nevada does not have measurable precipitation in any month from November through February, all trees and shrubs will need to hand watered at least once a month.
Finally, the more that is pruned back (excluding roses and spring blooming shrubs), raked up and pulled, out the easier it is when spring rolls around again. Composting is a great way to continue the circle of life. Cleaning now will cut down on overwintering insects and disease spores.
Amend around existing plant material with an organic soil supplement. Turn your garden and put organics into the soil to ensure better fertility for next season. Winterize the pond and pond plants and stop feeding the fish when the water temperature drops below 55 degrees. Happy gardening.
• Mary Sattler is with Greenhouse Garden Center.