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The Journal Gazette

  • Pixabay It's not too early to get prepared for fall. There are some chores you can start now.

  • Associated Press Ricky Kemery says to use fertilizer applications in late August or early September and once again in late October or early November.  

Saturday, August 26, 2017 1:00 am

Bracing for the fall

Ricky Kemery

Other fall tasks

Here are some other fall tasks that experts recommend:

• Clean your tools. Before you put your tools away for the winter, wash off dirt and chemicals to prevent rusting. Sharpen and oil your tools. Drain gasoline from power tools and your mower. In addition, change your mower's oil, grease the engine and change the spark plug if needed.

• Clean and degrease your grill.

• Early to mid-fall is a good time to spray lawn weeds such as dandelions and harder-to-kill perennial weeds.

• Rake leaves. When the leaves are falling, blow or rake them away as often as you can.

• Plant spring-blooming plants. When night-time temperatures are in the 40s and 50s, it's time to plant those bulbs.

• Get houseplants ready for indoors. Get rid of pests from potted plant soil by watering several minutes apart outside. Spray your plants with insecticidal soap a few days before moving them inside to also give pests the boot.

• Save seeds. To grow more plants next year, gather seeds from spent plants and place them in paper envelopes or paper bags. Just make sure the seeds are completely dry before storing and label them so you know what you have.

• The final lawn mowing should occur between late October and early November. Lower the mowing height to around 2 inches.

– Source: Various websites

Question: As summer draws to an end, what tasks should I be thinking about as we head into autumn?

Answer: The folks at the National Weather Center continue to predict above average temperatures for the fall and winter with normal precipitation during that same time period. The Farmer's Almanac predicted that the summer of 2017 would be cooler and slightly drier than normal, with the hottest periods in early and mid-July and mid-August. The almanac also predicts that the 2017-2018 winter will be warmer than normal, with slightly above-normal precipitation and below-normal snowfall. The coldest periods will be in early to mid-December, late December, early January and early and mid-February. The snowiest periods will be in mid-December, early February and mid-March.

As always take weather predictions with a grain of salt because if anyone could be 100 percent correct when predicting weather, they would be rich beyond their wildest dreams.

Mid-August is a great time to sow fall vegetables such as lettuce, kale, carrots, Chinese cabbage and other greens. I found transplants of broccoli at a garden center and they will do well in the cooler weather of fall. Make sure to fertilize about every two weeks until the winter.

August and early to mid-September are great times to plant most woody trees and shrubs and perennials. It is important to make sure the plants' roots are teased apart as the pants certainly will be root-bound. Planting a bit earlier gives the plants time to establish some roots before the winter. Since it appears the winter will be mild, the plants should do well.

I would wait to cut back perennials until October or even November this year. Cutting back too early can stimulate growth that might be zapped by cold temperatures later on.

In September, give your amaryllis bulbs a 10 to 15 week rest period by placing the plant on its side – either outdoors until the first frost or inside in a cool basement. Do not water at all. Trim back the foliage a bit. Once the plant has received its rest period; place the plant in a sunny window and begin to water again.

If you time things right, the plant can once again bloom at Christmas.

Mid-August to mid-September is the optimal time to renovate and re-seed the lawn. Rent a slit seeder and use a premium bluegrass blend to re-seed an existing lawn. Fall is also a good time to core aerate the lawn. Fertilizer applications in late August or early September and once again in late October or early November are the best “bang for your buck” applications for a healthy lawn next year.

Be on the lookout for potential grub damage to lawns where the adult Japanese beetle populations were high. Sections of the lawn could turn brown and lift up like a carpet, revealing the grubs. Use a grub rescue treatment such as Dylox for control.

As another year comes to an end, realize that garden tasks never end. Such is a gardener's life.

The Plant Medic, written by Ricky Kemery, appears every other Saturday. Kemery retired as the extension educator for horticulture at the Allen County branch of the Purdue Extension Service.