Fall Garden Preparation

Lee Fields  |  8/23/2017 6:38:59 PM

irisjpgFootball season and fall go hand in hand. This season also reminds me it is time to get back into the garden. Do you recall that cool spell we experienced recently? It’s a promise of cooler days to come – and sooner rather than later, we hope!

So where do we start? If you have a new planting area you want to establish, start with a soil test. Get your kit from the Lincoln Parish Extension office. Someone there will be able to provide guidance for you based upon your soil test results. Amending the soil now based on soil test results allows time for the soil conditions to become ideal for spring planting.

You also want to plan your spring beds and blooms now – seriously. I’ll be honest, you simply must be disciplined (or an avid gardener!) to order bulbs when it’s 95 degrees outside with 80 percent humidity. Yet that glorious display you desire starts with planning and planting in the fall. So pull out the catalogues, check online, or head to your local nursery or garden center.

Five local favorite spring bulbs include ‘Ice Follies’, ‘Saint Keverne’, ‘Thalia’, ‘Trevithian’ and ‘Tete-a-Tete’. Order them now while they are available, then plant them between Thanksgiving and Christmas. What do you get? Beautiful flowers next spring and lots of oohs and ahhs from passersby.

Iris are beloved perennials that need to be divided and transplanted from time to time. How do we know it is time to tackle this task? When blooming decreases or the rhizomes, that horizontal, fleshy root-like stem of the Iris, heave out of the ground because they are overgrown and overcrowded.

The perfect time to transplant Iris is after they finish blooming in the summer up through fall. Lift the clump out of the ground with a spade or fork, dust off as much dirt as possible, then divide the rhizome into pieces approximately 3 to 4 inches long with at least one fan of leaves. Do not remove the roots from the rhizome! There may be an area towards the center of the clump where no leaf fans exist. Discard plants in these areas.

To plant the rhizomes, trim the leaf blades back to 6 to 9 inches long. Less foliage to support allows the plant time to reestablish its roots. Plant the rhizomes in a sunny, well-drained area with the rhizomes approximately 18 inches apart and pointing away from each other if you are planting multiple rhizomes in the same area.

In the vegetable garden, pull out and compost all those straggly crops. Amend the soil with a little compost ,and your garden is now primed for a new fall planting. Add some cole crops like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, kale, etc. Include Swiss chard, lettuce, beets, carrots, greens (mustard, collards, rapini and turnips), and possibly another crop of squash, cucumbers or radishes. And of course, fall tomatoes! The good news is you pick (no pun intended!) your preferred crops.

Whether you start with seeds or transplants depends upon when you plan to plant. Our local garden centers have some great selections to transplant if you missed the prime time to start from seed.

Oh, by the way, save the date for the North Central Louisiana Master Gardeners’ fall plant sale. It is scheduled for Saturday morning, October 28, at the Ruston Farmers Market.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and get back to gardening. Times a wastin’!

Susan B. Mead is a Master Gardener and an award-winning, best-selling author.

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