Enjoy the nice weather and complete those fall garden tasks, for the days of chilled air and a desire to stay indoors will sneak up on us gardeners. The last week of October typically sees 30-degree weather, with mountain temps slipping below the freezing mark. This week's column will summarize the last few garden columns. But, first, a quick paragraph about this week's "Plant of the Week", one of my favorite winter blooming evergreen shrubs, the Springs Promise Camellia.
Plant of the Week – Although fall colors have been enjoying every landscape's center stage, within days evergreens will claim all the glory. Camellias are a special crop of evergreen shrubs of very unusual specimens that are in limited supply for autumn planting. Springs Promise is an entire climate zone hardier than others, making it a natural for our winters. This camellia deserves front yard staging or positioning at special points around a patio or terrace. One of the first evergreens to bloom in spring, its vivid, rose-colored blossoms reach 2-3" wide on branches easily trained as an espalier to soften retaining walls and fence lines. After blooming, its beautiful evergreen foliage makes a fine informal hedge, screen, or dark background for bright blooming warm weather beds and borders. Even in the grower's pot it's worthy of admiration.
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Enjoy fall colors and free compost. Fall leaves are like a big load of free organic fertilizer strewn about our yards. If those leaves' nutrients were bagged and sold, we'd pay big money for them. In our yards, they're almost free – costing us only the labor of gathering them. Collect the leaves and compost them, and you have a valuable soil amendment. Mountain composting is easier than you think, but our aridness can be a challenge. If you've had trouble with composting or are new to organic gardening, stop in at the garden center and ask for my free handout, 'Composting for Better Gardens'.
Feed everything in the yard! I'll harp on this for a couple more weeks because mountain landscapes, especially the natives in our yards, respond so well to fall feedings. Feed lawns to keep them green, winter blooming plants to get the most flowers out of them, and fall-colored trees and shrubs to maximize the autumn drama. Landscape plants will call upon this most important feeding for their growth next spring. It's really important to feed everything in the yard with a 7-4-4 'All Purpose Plant Food' for best results.
Bring plants indoors. Only days are left to bring the impatience, begonia, geraniums and other plants we want to save back into the Arizona room, the greenhouse, or the sunnier spots inside our homes. Last week's column covered all the details on "Bringing the Outdoors In" without bug issues. Ask for a copy if you missed last week's garden column.
Protect Natives with Plant Protector – Pine scale, tip borers, and all forms of bark beetles delight in the taste of our native evergreens. While the days are still warm it is important to treat "at risk" evergreens with 'Plant Protector', and it doesn't take an arborist to treat even the largest Ponderosa. In a two-gallon watering can mix this liquid plant protector with water and pour at the base of trees and shrubs that have symptoms of insect stress. I even treat my roses to protect them against next spring's thrip damage.
Plant winter vegetables. Unproductive summer vegetables should be pulled out immediately and replaced with plants that will continue to grow well past the holiday season. Lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, kale, and a host of other winter-hardy vegetables are available at garden centers now, but need to be planted while the soil is still warm.
Spot some winter color. Now is the time to prep a landscape full of festive flowers and holiday décor. Replace summer plants with angel-faced pansies, violas, dusty miller, and kales. These plants continue to bloom right through the holidays, so dress up a few containers with these winter hardy flowers. Add the ultimate fall flair by setting a pumpkin in the middle of your soon-to-go-off flowerbeds. After the first hard freeze you'll be happy for that cheery spot of color.
Protect new plants with 'Repels All'. As warm weather plants go dormant, mammals will try other plants in our yards. Repels All, an organic deterrent keeps critters from grazing a path through landscape plants. By spraying this bitter-tasting repellent around the yard, the wilder plant-eating beasts will find your yard unpalatable and will turn to eating your neighbors' landscapes down to ground! This is especially important for newly planted plants.
That's the summary of mountain gardening fall tasks. Don't delay until cold weather to accomplish these items on every gardener's agenda. Instead, enjoy completing your checklist while basking in our perfect fall weather.
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