Cool morning air as the sun rises over the horizon, the deep rumble of the diesel engines warming, and the rows of finished crops just crying out to be picked. There’s nothing quite like fall harvest. Our harvest is a bit different at the nursery: we don’t get to harvest our entire crop of trees each fall. We do, though, feel that same rush I’m sure many of you feel with your harvest when we see fall colors coming onto our trees and we can begin our harvest. To me, fall really hasn’t arrived until I see the combines in the fields and the trucks moving the crops into town or our equipment digging fresh trees from our fields.
Every summer I long for the return of fall. I look forward to the cooler weather, the fall colors on the trees and, of course, Husker football. And while all of us can be very busy everything seems a bit more “relaxed” once fall rolls around. The many hours of work growing our crops is behind us, the promise of the harvest has arrived, and all too soon fall will have passed, winter will be here, and we will be longing for spring.
And every year as the fall harvest arrives, whether it is acres of crops or fields of shade, flowering and evergreen trees or our home landscapes and vegetable gardens, I believe we all smile a bit larger as we enjoy the fruits of our labor.
Plenty of Time To Plant
Our fall harvest, while similar to other farmers’, is also slightly different. Just like crop farmers will wait for the beans or the corn to dry sufficiently to harvest, we need our trees to show good fall color before we can safely harvest them from our fields. But once harvested, we will spend the remaining time before winter arrives planting our harvest in the landscapes and yards of our clients. This means there is still plenty of time to install a new tree, shrub or even perennial in your landscape. Generally we say you can safely plant perennials until early November, shrubs and evergreens through November, and shade and flowering trees until the ground freezes solid. Of course, some years Mother Nature is kinder and other years a bit meaner, so that schedule can vary from year to year based on weather.
Beyond the harvesting and planting activities, don’t forget that fall is also a great time to prepare for next year in our landscapes and gardens. Fall landscape cleanups and fall turf care are some wonderful ways to get ready for next year.
As cool fall weather arrives and our plants go into their dormant winter sleep, proper cleaning of our landscapes prepares our plants to sleep through winter and come back ready to grow next spring. Removing dead annuals opens the beds for next year’s planting and trimming off browned-up perennial tops cleans them up and prepares them to re-grow next spring. Also, by removing annuals, you can rototill in some compost or peat moss and manure to prepare the beds for next spring’s plantings.
Fall Turf Care
On the turf side, when the leaves begin to fall, don’t forget to spend time on your lawn. September to early October is the time for the third step of the four-step lawn programs and November is perfect for the fourth step, the winter turf food. Proper fertilization of your lawn will give your turf what it will need next spring for a healthier lawn. Fall is also the time to aerate your turf to reduce compaction, encourage a vigorous root system and increase water/air movement into the soil.
And while you may need to mow a few more times, make an effort to rake up fallen leaves every week or two. Frequent rakings will reduce the possibility the leaves will get left in place under the snow. Short-term, leaves aren’t really a problem but if they are left to sit under the snow all winter, they can mat down the grass and leave areas to reseed or patch next spring.
Finally, if Mother Nature doesn’t give us some reasonable moisture this fall even as the weather gets cooler, make sure to water your turf and plants to keep them hydrated. By properly hydrating your plants, especially your evergreens, you ensure they are prepared for their winter sleep and your plants will be better prepared to begin growing again next spring – especially with the drought we experienced this year. Just remember to detach your hoses between waterings to eliminate the potential of frozen or cracked pipes in your home.
When I think about it, I really don’t know what it is about fall that I enjoy so much. Choices abound from the beauty of the fall foliage, the moderating weather, the return of Husker football, the harvest, or any of the many other events that fall brings. What I do know, though, is that the events of fall including the harvest are such major parts of our lives here in Nebraska. So I will make the most of a glorious fall this year and celebrate it before that evil beast winter shows up again.
Andy Campbell is manager of Campbell’s Nurseries Landscape Department. A Lancaster County Farm Bureau Member, Campbell’s is a family-owned Nebraska business since 1912. It offers assistance for all your landscaping and gardening needs at either of its two Lincoln garden centers or through its landscape design office. http://www.campbellsnursery.com.