There is something about fall and harvest that I love. The cool morning air as the sun rises, the deep rumble of the diesel engines warming and the rows of finished crops just crying out to be picked. While harvest at the nursery is a bit different, we also look forward to our fall harvest. For the nurseryman, when we see fall colors coming onto our trees and we begin our harvest our hearts beat a bit faster. To me, fall really hasn’t arrived until I see our equipment out digging fresh trees from our fields.
And every year as the fall harvest arrives, I believe we all smile a bit larger as we enjoy the fruits of our labor and the return of the fall.
Our fall harvest, while similar to other farmers, is also slightly different. Just like crop farmers who 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. Once harvested our job is just beginning as we will spend the remaining time before winter planting our harvest into landscapes.
This means there is still plenty of time to install a new tree, shrub or even perennial in your landscape. Generally we feel 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 or other years a bit meaner, so that schedule varies 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 cleanup and turf care are important ways to prepare for next year.
As cool fall weather arrives and our plants go into their dormant winter sleep, proper cleaning of our landscapes prepares 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 and prepares them to regrow next spring. Also when removing your annuals or vegetables consider preparing your beds for next spring’s plantings by adding some compost or peat moss & manure to further enrich your beds.
On the turf side when the leaves begin to fall don’t forget to spend time on your lawn. September to October is the time for the third step of the four step lawn programs, and November is perfect for the fourth step usually known as the Winter Turf Fertilization. Proper fertilization of your lawn this fall 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 to increase water/air movement into the soil. 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 caught 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 plenty of moisture this fall make sure to water your turf and plants to keep them hydrated. By properly hydrating your plants, especially evergreens, you ensure they are prepared for their winter sleep and prepared to begin growing again next spring. Just remember to detach your hoses between waterings to eliminate the potential of frozen or cracked pipes in your home.
–Andy Campbell is manager of Campbell’s Nurseries Landscape Department. A Lancaster County Farm Bureau Member, Campbell’s, a family owned Nebraska business since 1912, offers assistance for all your landscaping and gardening needs at either of their two Lincoln garden centers or through their landscape design office.