Now is a good time to plant fall annuals, such as a pinta plant, top, since summer annuals — like the Pride of Barbados, bottom — will usually scale back during the fall and winter months. (Anne Robicheaux / American Press)
Last Modified: Monday, September 17, 2012 4:45 PM
With the first day of fall peeping right around the corner — it begins Saturday — it’s time to think about ways to prepare your lawn and garden for the fall and winter months. A few local experts have offered help.
Steven Abrahams, nursery stock manager at Prien Pines Nursery, said fall is the time to change out summer annuals, such as periwinkle, for fall annuals, like marigolds, petunias, celosia, salvia and zinnias, or winter annuals, such as pansies, violas, kale, snapdragons, dianthas and ornamental cabbage. You basically want to rotate your annuals according to their blooming season or seasons. Summer annuals are generally planted in late spring or early summer and will grow until fall.
Daniel Chimeno, retail manager at Greengate Garden Center and Landscaping, said now is also the time to think about planting trees and shrubs, if you want to do landscaping. This is because trees and shrubs put out their roots during the winter, and by the time spring rolls around, they will have a good hold on the soil. Some shrubs that do well during the fall include sasanquas, camellias, cyclamen and mums.
Chimeno said that if you haven’t already done it, now is the time to plant fall vegetables. These include mustard greens, cabbage, brussel spouts, broccoli, kale and lettuce. Everything but tropical plants should be planted in the fall, he said.
Chimeno said the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center makes available brochures at Greengate Garden Center and Landscaping. These brochures give tips on when to plant which plants.
Chimeno said, “Homeowners should stop fertilizing their lawns with high nitrogen fertilizers after summer ends. During the fall-to-winter months, lawns are going dormant while their root system continues to grow.”
Chimeno said that dormant lawns are less susceptible to the cold, whereas high nitrogen fertilizers keep grass growing actively, making it more susceptible to death, disease and stress. For those who wish to maintain a green lawn throughout the winter, planting rye grass may do the trick, as it flourishes during the winter but dies off during spring, meaning it can alternate with native grass.
“Most plants, including our lawns here in southern Louisiana, are chosen not by the cold that they can stand but actually (by) the heat that they can stand during the summer months. If someone in south Louisiana wants to have a green lawn during the winter, they need to plant rye grass. Those seeds will come up between the already existing grass, and you’ll have that nice, lush lawn. You’ll be out there mowing your lawn on Christmas Eve,” Chimeno said.
“October through December is the ideal time to winterize your lawn with a low-nitrogen, high-potash fertilizer,” Chimeno added. “If you are still fighting weed problems in the fall, talk to your local nurseryman about a winterizer with a weed preventer.”
Chimeno recommended bringing in a sample of the pesky weed for the nursery worker to identify, so that he or she can help you find an effective treatment.
Abrahams said that transitioning your garden from a summer style to a fall or winter fashion is not usually a laborious task, as many gardeners have designated areas in their landscape for seasonal colors, and when the right season rolls around, they will change out annuals, pull weeds and add compost. Tools needed to get the job done include a shovel and a pair of pruning spears. Chimeno said that other tools you may need include leaf rakes, a lawn mower with a mulcher, a hand trowel and various weeding tools.
Chimeno recommended mulching whenever possible, because it replenishes organic matter in the soil.
Dana Fagan, landscape office manager at Greengate Garden Center and Landscaping, said, “Soil is the life source for your plants; it is how they get their water and nutrients. It is important to have a good balance of topsoil and organic material, but there is no one formula that works in every situation.”
“Soil that is too dense may hold too much water and may be difficult for the roots to grow through. When soil is too dense it can also cause water to run off quickly instead of being absorbed. Soil that is too loose may not have enough structure to hold moisture or to give the roots anything to grab on to and grow strong,” she added.
“You can’t just pull a landscape design out of a box and have it work in every situation,” Fagan warned. “A good landscape design should complement and enhance the architecture of the home.”
As far as what is popular in gardening during the fall season, Abrahams said, “The first wave of activity in the fall colors is around Thanksgiving, so a lot of people go for the warm colors — varying shades of orange and yellow — and then the next wave would be Christmas. A lot of people will bypass the fall color and go straight for the winter colors. It just depends on your budget and what you’re interested in.”
Abrahams said that he has noticed a trend in landscaping toward “containerized” gardening, meaning potted plants with seasonal colors, because they are generally smaller, simpler and more manageable. Abrahams has also noticed a growing trend in food gardens, including fruit trees, vegetables and herbs.
“By far, vegetable gardens are huge. I’ve been in this industry for 13 years now, and I have never seen personal vegetable gardens so popular. I have people coming in 10 years younger than me interested about it, and then you’ve got the people who have been gardening for 20 or 30 years still going at it. It is more popular now than ever,” Chimeno said.
Chimeno attributed this trend in part to the degree of control gardeners have over what chemical treatments go on their plants.
“We’re fortunate to live in Southwest Louisiana. We can grow just about any item. We can grow tropicals; we can grow pretty much anything. The downside is we’ve got all the problems. We’ve got all the insects, the diseases. We take the good with the bad,” Chimeno said.