flowers

"Flowers" by Nouhailler is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Triple-digit temperatures are nearly a memory. Pumpkin spice flavor has made its first splash in coffee. The days are getting shorter. It’s a fall trifecta and time for pruning and planting. Grab your gardening gloves, hoe and seeds and let’s get started

Pruning

The growth of the mesquite and palo verde trees was likely very aggressive this summer. Go ahead and trim and shape them, especially to clear a path because the overhang is too low. They require pruning twice a year.

Pro Tip: Prune and mow before over-seeding. Why? Because if you have branches that need to be cleared away and you seed first, you will sweep away the seeds. First, move the branches. Otherwise, you will have to wait another month for new grass to be established.

Fertilization

We have early, mid and late-season fertilization schedules. Be sure to hit the fertilization season at the right time. In this round, you can give any tree, citrus or otherwise, a light fertilization which will provide nutrients before and to store during winter and will help the trees recover. Many landscape companies offer their three-time fertilization schedules at this time of year. Call now to get on their schedule for 2022.

Flower gardens

For a beautiful burst of spring flowers, plant your wildflower seeds now. Petunias, pansies, snapdragons, alyssum and violas, commonly known back east as Johnny Jump-Ups, will last until we reach 90 degrees.

It is also a great time to plant African Daisies. In the spring, you will have bold, beautiful, orange and yellow blooms. As they dry up, gather the abundant seeds off the blooms and put them in a jar for use in the next planting season.

Vegetable gardens

For a bountiful vegetable garden, plant cabbage, root crops (beets and carrots), spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, lettuce and onion.

Rosie on the House’s garden and landscape expert, John Jay Harper, noted during a radio broadcast, that the record rainfall this year softened the ground, thus making it easy to till your fall garden. He suggested preparing your garden soil over three weekends for 30 to 60 minutes each week to make the task less daunting and easier on your back. On the first weekend, till the soil to the depth of the shovel blade. The next weekend, add the compost and turn in a bit of gypsum. On the third weekend, add organic fertilizer. Finally, create the trenches, rows or plots and add the seeds. “It makes it a lot less like work and you will do a more thorough job,” said Harper.

Don’t be afraid to use starter plants from the nursery. You may have better gardening success than starting from seed, (as long as it is not a root vegetable). To ensure the seeds are not bunched together, put potting soil and seeds in a mason jar. Mix it thoroughly so the seeds separate. Then put the mixture in the plots.

If you are not confident about your gardening skills, try seed tape. The seeds adhere to biodegradable paper tape. Just prepare the trench and lay the tape in. The seeds are already pre-spaced. Seed tapes save time and help space out tiny seeds, such as radish, lettuce, beets and carrots. With seed tape, there’s no measuring the spacing or worry about over or under seeding. Just place on loose, well-drained soil. Water the seed tape frequently. The paper protects the seed during germination and dissolves throughout watering.

“Planting in the fall is like gaining an extra year of harvesting because the soil is still warm,” said Harper. “The air is getting cooler, and nights are getting longer. The plants get rooted, and the tops are not stressing for water.”

Speaking of water, summer vegetables should be watered daily until the cooler temperatures arrive, or there is humidity. In the cooler months, two to three times a week is sufficient. For plants going into the ground, mix 50% potting soil with 50% of land soil. For raised beds or pots, just use potting soil. Remember to fertilize herbs and vegetables over the winter so they grow.

Wood chips

To maximize the growth and vitality of trees, plants and flowers, put down wood chips. In comparison to finished compost, wood chips are an amazing contributor to tree health. Because they have not decomposed, they have a lot of nitrogen to give back to the soil. The wood chips will promote nitrogen cycling under the trees. If you rake the leaves away, you rake away the needed nitrogen.

Wood chips also serve as dust and weed control. “Most importantly,” said John Eisenhower, tree specialist, “wood chips moderate the soil’s temperature and improves its microbiology. The chips create an environment for producing a layer of soil just below them that will be an active zone for microorganisms and beneficial bacteria to promote root growth.”

In early fall, rose bushes and other plants may see a renaissance and push out a few new blooms after a long, hot summer. Put down the wood chips to encourage moderate-temperature soil. “It will perk your plants up,” said Eisenhower.

Back off birds and bunnies

Now that the seeds and the wood chips are down, you need to protect them from uninvited diners. Fencing off special planting zones is your best weapon against rabbits. Put pots of tasty plants on walls or shelves. Trim the bottom of low-lying shrubs so they have few places to hide. Build a barrier.

Keep birds away from your seeds and new growth. The Farmer’s Almanac suggests securing mylar balloons to posts with shiny ribbons. Place inverted crates or disposable cups (with the bottoms cut out) over vulnerable seedlings. Chicken wire can also be placed over a seedbed. Construct an inexpensive net framework to cover plants. A hi-tech spinning screech owl fitted with a microchip emits the sound of an attacking hawk.

Now that you have the knowledge, get out there, enjoy the fall weather, and garden to your heart’s content. JN

R.C. ‘Romey’ Romero is co-owner of Arizona’s home improvement radio program ‘Rosie on the House.’