Fall is here and isn’t it great! I know that by the end of the summer, many people are just plain sick and tired of mowing the lawn. This may be especially true if you have trees scattered through the landscape that must be mowed around. There is a way to make lawn mowing more enjoyable while saving time and money. Create natural areas or plant beds by connecting areas under trees with mulch. This will reduce the lawn area and keep lawn areas separate from other plant and in the sun where grasses belong. By increasing mulched areas in your yard you also have opportunity to plant other ornamentals that will enhance the landscape throughout the year. If you don’t have trees in your yard and want the many benefits they provide including cooling shade, remember that fall is for planting.
I am sure you have heard this statement before. Let me give you the reasoning behind it. As fall approaches, plants slow down. Deciduous plants drop their leaves eliminating water loss through transpiration (water lost as evaporation through leaf surfaces). Because temperatures drop in the fall, evergreen plants tend to also lose less water. What does this mean for plants? It all boils down to one simple phrase, less transplant stress.
Another advantage is that planting in the fall gives plants an opportunity to develop a strong root system over the winter. Some of you may be thinking this can’t be true since I said plants slow down or go dormant in the winter. Well, the stems do not grow in the winter. However, in our climate, we have many days when the soil temperature in the root zone is above 40 degrees. At soil temperatures greater than 40 degrees, root growth continues to occur. That means plants get established over the winter and are better able to withstand heat and water stress the next summer than those planted in the spring.
If you decide to reduce your lawn or add trees plan now and begin to plant soon. When you plant it is best to group plants together in large beds that are tilled and mulched. If individual specimen plants are not planted in large prepared beds then make sure to dig planting holes two to three times the width of the root ball but no deeper. If planting in areas with clay subsoil you might need to dig a posthole in the bottom of the planting hole to break through the clay layer and allow drainage to occur. Fill the posthole with gravel and cover with a small piece of landscape fabric to make sure the gravel drainage hole does not fill in with soil. Make sure to score the outer root ball of container plants with a knife to prevent root circling. Plants that are dug from fields should have the burlap cut back from the top and sides as far as possible and the upper part of the wire basket removed once the plant is in the hole. It is usually better to plant a little shallow, leaving 1 to 2 inches of the root ball above the soil line. Backfill the hole with the soil that came out of it, water in well, and pull soil just to the top edge of the root ball but do not cover the top of the root ball with soil. Use a very thin layer of mulch on top of the root ball to prevent it from drying out but do not pile soil against the stems of plants. The plants will thank you by performing well.
If you are interested in learning more about planting trees and helping out the community at the same time, I encourage you to participate in Greenville Community Tree Day on Saturday, October 12. The event is sponsored by ReLeaf and the City of Greenville. ReLeaf is a community organization devoted to raising money to help the City of Greenville plant canopy trees. Community Tree Day is an opportunity to get involved with the “Greening of Greenville” by planting trees in areas with identified need for trees. Volunteers will receive instruction from City of Greenville staff on proper tree planting and work in teams to plant trees. The South Greenville Church of Christ will be hosting the event at 1301 Cotanche Street in the Glen Arthur neighborhood from 9 am to 12 pm on Saturday, October 12 (rain date October 26). If you need more information or would like to register for the event contact Kevin Heifferon with the City of Greenville at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have questions about landscaping and gardening in Pitt County, give the Extension Master Gardener Volunteers a call at 902-1705 or email email@example.com. Find out more about N.C. Cooperative Extension in Pitt County at http://pitt.ces.ncsu.edu including gardening information and links to our social media pages.