After a frozen out spring, a battle with the summer heat and drought — is it year number four, five or six? I have lost count — the fall is a refreshing time for all of us. After a dismal spring with most of our blooming plants frozen into mush and our mid-spring blooming plants compromised, I was ready for the fall season.
What a wonderful time of the year for the festivals and chilly day walks. I also love the fall season for the cool crisp mornings and the lovely fall colors (if we get the rain at the right time). The cool evening sunsets in the fall are gorgeous and give many great opportunities for getting spectacular autumn pictures.
Fall means a more relaxed time in the hammock knowing all my flower beds are winding down for the growing season. I enjoy taking a walk about in a cozy sweater enjoying the last roses of the season, their intoxicating fragrance lingering in the crisp cool evening air. My Crape Myrtle and Rose of Sharon are the best with their show of “flower power” for more than a month now.
Beware, though, as the onset of fall also brings out certain fungal problems in your flower beds, mainly whitish-gray powdery mildew (which looks like its name). You should spray your roses or other flowers to knock out this fungus with the first sign of infection. There are several products on the market; E-Rase, an environmentally safe product and the stand-by copper fungicide that is normally recommended safe to apply by your local nursery or greenhouse for each specific plant. There are several homemade recipes you can find on the Web that you could try.
I know also that fall is the optimal time to do a little plant and shrub pruning along with the spraying.
It’s time to start the fall dead leaves and other plant debris cleanup. You might not see any black spot on your rose leaves right now, but the spores are there to re-infect your roses next spring. Now is the time to do a meticulous removal of dead leaves and other debris around your rose bushes and other flowering plants susceptible to the black spot infestation. Black spot is devastating to roses; loss of leaves to black spot means that the rose loses ability to get nutrients, also failure to flower and more likely to not survive the winter.
The fall is not a good time to fertilize your roses or other perennial plants. You do not want the plants to start lots of new growth at this time. You want your plants to wind down for the season and get ready for the winter rest. The new flourish of green growth at this time will only add to this year’s plant damage from the early spring freeze (a condition we want to avoid).
After the first killing frost is a good time to also start putting your more fragile plants to bed for the winter. MU Horticulture Guide “Rose Care After Planting” has lots of good information for the rose grower, especially pruning. The more fragile roses (floribunda, grandiflora and climbing roses) or any that you bought that are on the edges of our growing zone need extra protection during the winter. You need to bring in other loose soil and mound around the rose base to a height of about a foot. You can add some loose straw or evergreen boughs over the soil for added protection.
Do not forget to water your plants and shrubs well this fall, sometimes into December depending on the rain fall we get. Our plants need all the help they can get after a stressful growing season.
Check out all the small-twon festivals with all the delicious fall foods; enjoy the outdoors and happy fall gardening to everyone.
Karen Ballew works at MU Environmental Health and Safety Department and has been a master gardener since 2002. A transplanted farm girl from Indiana since 1973, she lives on her husband’s family Century Farm with their three sons. She enjoys volunteering planting time with Habitat for Humanity homes and digging in the soil. Her favorite plants are the fragrant ones, hostas, good-mannered perennials, ornamental shrubs and food for the birds. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.