Yes, it is here and so welcomed by everyone. After a long hot summer and then a very wet season, we welcome the shorter, cooler brisk days of fall, a perfect autumn season.
Our number one priority at this time should be soil testing allowing all winter for us to correct any imbalances. All instructions, forms and boxes are at the Sampson County Extension Office.
To garden successfully, think of your garden as a living organism requiring simple needs such as organic matter, nutrients, moisture and air. With all the falling leaves it is a good time to start or add to your compost pile. Beginning now with proper composting, you could have rich, loamy soil by spring.
Cleaning our garden and getting it ready for its’ winter bed is easily done at this time by putting debris in our compost piles. You may want to think about over-seeding the garden to improve the quality of the soil. Another idea is to cover the area with a thick layer of newspapers, then add a layer of straw, hay or chopped leaves and a final layer of compost to provide nutrients to the soil.
Just before the leaves start to fall is a great time to plant trees and hedges. Be mindful of sizes of trees and shrubs you are planting and the space you have to plant in. Read tags and labels to make sure they do not outgrow the space you have chosen for them. Do not improve the soil for trees. If the roots cannot live in our native soil, the tree will not survive in our area. Cooler weather allows them to establish a good root system for going into summer. A great idea when “facing” your heavy tree or shrub is to fill the hole you dug by twice the size of the root ball, with water two thirds of the way up. The water and mud gives buoyancy to the root ball and makes it easy to spin around and “face” the plant any way you want.
Now is the time to dig and divide many perennials and bulbs. If you have plants that are not blooming, as they should or have a hollow center, this indicates that they need digging and dividing. Most gardening friends or neighbors would be delighted to receive your extra plants if you have no room for them.
Another fall project is to make a home for ladybugs. Use an empty clean can, cut large drinking straws the length of the can, and fill it with straws. Find a space a few feet off the ground in a hedgerow or shrub and turn the can sideways so the rain does not get in. The ladybugs will thank you for giving them a safe, dry winter home.
If you have not done so, it is time to wash and scrub your pots and seed trays for sowing seeds in the spring. Gather Christmas greenery early and place it in water in the garage to make the Christmas garland two weeks before the festivities. Read seed and plant catalogues and dream. Soon it will be time to order; a time to look forward, and in doing so, we complete the eternal cycle and once again greet the new spring.
Eloise Register is a certified Extension Master Gardener Volunteer, who represents and supports the Cooperative Extension Center in Sampson County. For more information or to reach an EMGV for help with your gardening needs, please call the Extension Center at 910-592-7161.