After the long harsh days of summer, the cooler breezes of autumn bring relief to the plants and prompts a second bout of energy among gardeners. The weather feels like spring but instead of increasing temperatures, they are increasingly getting colder. The day-length, instead of increasing, is continually getting shorter in the fall.
These fall trends in temperature and day-length affect the physiological processes of plants in a different way than in the spring. In the spring, plants are poised to actively grow while in the fall, they prepare to go into dormancy. Some gardeners fail to take this fact into account. With the best of intentions, gardeners may do more damage than good when activities are poorly timed. Here is a list of some of the most common gardening blunders committed in this area (Zone 9) during this season.
1. Under Watering
This is probably the most common gardening blunder in the fall. The cooler temperatures and the angle of the sun are deceiving. They make the color of the soil and the leaves deeper mimicking the color of well watered plants.
Gardeners often take this as an indication that they can take a break from watering. The fact is - plants will continue to need water to function well. Water loss will continue through transpiration (from the plants) and evaporation (from the soil). Check the soil moisture and water whenever necessary.
2. Not Adjusting Irrigation Timer
The lawn is often the victim of this mistake. When the days get shorter and the temperature drops, water has a greater chance to linger in the soil and it remains more available for the plants. Overwatering can be avoided by judiciously adjusting the watering timers.
3. Applying Nitrogen to Woody Plants
Fertilizing is important but make sure to use the right fertilizer at the right time. Nitrogen promotes growth. Although growth is good, time may not be on your side. Application of nitrogen in the fall results in new growth that will still be young before the cold season sets in.
Young, soft branches are susceptible to frost damage and pests. Also, a young branch that has not fully hardened before it goes into dormancy (in the winter) does not have enough stored energy resulting into a weak and unproductive branch in the spring. If you must give in to the urge to fertilize, then apply one which is rich in phosphorous, which promotes stronger roots.
4. Pruning Woody Plants
Pruning early in the season has a similar result to the use of nitrogen fertilizer. In our Zone 9 area, fall temperatures are still warm enough that pruning will induce new buds to emerge. Beware!
Fall is not the time to encourage this to happen. The plants will be more vulnerable to frost damage. Instead, wait until the plant begins to turn color or drop leaves – this is a sure indication that the plant has begun dormancy.
5. Watering in Late Afternoon
This is generally a bad habit, but during fall it is even worse.
Wet leaves, especially with warm afternoons, promote the spread of diseases. Watering is better done early in the day so that moisture can evaporate quickly from the leaves.
6. Lawn Seeding
Just because the fall weather allows successful germination of grass seeds, it does not imply that the new lawn will be healthy.
For best results, sow grass seeds when weather is still warm in late summer or early fall. This allows for uninterrupted development of foliage and roots prior to the cold winter months. If you simply must have that lawn in the fall, then opt for sod.
7. Ignoring Wildlife
As summer bounty dwindles, wild animals run out of their natural food supply and tend to search your front yard for nutritious meals. Pansies that adorned your front porch in the spring and summer may suddenly turn into a delectable salad in the fall for your four-legged-antlered friends (a.k.a. deer). If you were successful in evading disappointment last season, then maintain that success by choosing plants more carefully.
So there you go. This list is not exhaustive, but if you can avoid these common pitfalls, then you are in for great autumn of gardening.
At Green Acres, we offer a wide variety of nursery supplies for your fall gardening needs such as:
- Soil moisture testers
- Water-timers that coincide with local weather conditions
- Fertilizers for all types of plants
- Deer-resistant plants and deer-repellant sprays.