Campbell Vaughn: It’s time for fall yard chores

As summer winds down, so do a lot of our landscape plants. Fall is getting close and prepping for winter is a good idea.

 

To prune or not to prune, that is the question. The big question I have been hearing is what to do with shrubs in terms of trimming. The best answer would be to prune them for shape this time of year.

If you have mop head hydrangea, I would have preferred them cut back a month ago, but there is still some time. Don’t butcher them, but don’t be afraid to cut out any leggy parts of the plants. Definitely don’t cut oakleaf hydrangea back since they are earlier to flower. I actually don’t like cutting them back at all if you can handle it.

Azaleas, gardenias and camellias have set their buds for upcoming blooms, so be careful not to cut off the parts that make them so spectacular in the coming months. A light trimming is OK. I tend to avoid heavy pruning on plants like boxwoods and pittosporum this time of year because when they do get a good flush, their tender new leaves are susceptible to damage from a hard freeze.

In the lawn, there is plenty to do. Get those pre-emergence products out to keep the winter poa annua and henbit in check. Look to use products with the active ingredients prodiamine or pendimethalin. If you can get one with 0-0-7 fertilizer, the seven percent potassium is good for root health. Do not add nitrogen fertilizers to your warm season grasses this late in the season. These lawns are ready to start transitioning into dormancy, so any nitrogen-induced flush can cause harm if we get an early frost.

If you are looking to overseed with ryegrass, I don’t recommend it unless you have a ball field or a grazing pasture. Rye is nice to add green to your landscape in the winter, but it competes too much with your established turf to really justify it. Bermuda grass is the only one of our warm season grasses that is acceptable to overseeding.

If overseeding is unavoidable, now is the time to get your lawn prepared. Mow the bermuda lower than normal over the next two cuttings. Bag your clippings and never cut more than one-third of the grass blade. Mid-September to mid-October is the time to overseed. The rye seed needs to be in contact with the soil, so blow or vacuum before seeding. Perennial rye is preferred over an annual variety. Perennial rye is treated like an annual, but it has better turf properties, including good wear tolerance, quicker germination and a darker green color. It may cost a little more, but it is worth the few extra dollars. Use a rate of 8-10 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet. Make sure to keep the soil moist until the seed is completely germinated even if this means watering lightly once or even twice daily. Wait until November when the bermuda has gone dormant to fertilize. Using 2-4 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet is all the fertilizer you will need.

Dividing and replanting perennials like daylilies, iris and hosta should be done now. If these spring and summer bloomers can get back in the ground now, they can re-establish before going dormant. I always like planting container perennials now as well. When spring rolls around, the roots will be comfortable in their surroundings and the plants can really jump when temperatures get right. Avoid planting pansies until later into October.

All this and then here come the leaves.

 

Reach Campbell Vaughn, the UGA Agriculture and Natural Resource agent for Richmond County, by e-mailing augusta@uga.edu.

 

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