There is just something about fall and harvest that I love experiencing every year. Things like the 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. And while our harvest at the nursery is a bit different from more traditional row crop farming we also look forward to our fall harvest. For the Nurseryman, when we see fall colors coming onto our trees and we can begin our harvest, our hearts beat a bit faster. To me, fall really hasn’t arrived until I see the combines in the fields harvesting and our equipment digging fresh trees from our fields.
Every year as harvest arrives, whether it is acres of crops, fields of trees, or our own home landscapes and vegetable gardens, 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 as crop farmers wait for the beans or corn to dry 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 short time before winter planting our harvest in the landscapes 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 feel you can safely plant perennials until early November, shrubs and evergreens through November, and shade & 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 so check with your local nursery professional for specific recommendations about your fall planting.
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 prepare for next year.
As cool fall weather arrives and our plants go into their dormant winter sleep, proper fall cleaning and trim back 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 regrow next spring. Also when removing your annuals or vegetables consider preparing your beds for next spring’s plantings by adding and tilling in 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 early October is the normal time for application of 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. And while you may need to mow a few more times, make an effort to rake up fallen leaves every week to ten days. Frequent rakings will reduce the possibility the leaves will get left in place 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 that could need to be reseeded or resodded next spring.
Finally, if Mother Nature doesn’t give us plenty of moisture this fall even as the weather gets cooler make sure to water your turf and plants to keep them hydrated as they head into their winter dormancy. 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. 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, 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, as 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, 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. www.campbellsnursery.com.