By Lelia Kelly and David Nagel, Extension Horticulture Specialists
Fall is a good time to reapply mulch. As you begin to tidy up the garden, removing old foliage and seed-heads, consider putting down a fresh layer of mulch — particularly if you did not apply mulch to your beds this spring.
The benefits of mulching just cannot be stressed enough. Although getting it hauled in and applied to all landscape beds is one of the more strenuous garden activities it is well worth the effort involved. It makes everything look fresh and “sets off” or “frames” your plants. I don’t know of anything that gives the impression your garden is well tended than a fresh application of mulch — even if it is not! Besides all the esthetic benefits, it retains moisture, moderates soil temperature and helps control weeds.
Mulch should be 4 to 6 inches deep in most cases. Do not pile the mulch directly next to the trunks of trees or shrubs or the crowns of herbaceous plants. Shredded bark or pine needles work best where rain may tend to wash the mulch as these types of mulch tends to stay in place. For other more level areas, pine bark, chips or other types could be used. I prefer organic mulches as these over time will decompose and add to the organic content of the soil.
Do not mulch beds where you rely on reseeding plants, such as spider flowers, poppies, larkspur, hollyhocks, to repopulate the beds.
Vegetables: Soaking rains have made soils much easier to till. Now is a god time to remake raised beds and incorporate fallen leaves and the last of the grass clippings. It is good to put both types of lawn detritus at the same time as the nitrogen in the grass will be used by the microorganisms to break down the nitrogen deficient leaves.
It is also good to plant into recently watered soil. Brussels sprouts are one of the most disliked vegetables in Mississippi. Most of us were introduced to them in school lunches where the cooks just opened the cans and heated them. Garden fresh sprouts are milder flavored and have a more agreeable taste. These miniature cabbage heads are nutrient dense and will survive temperatures that damage turnip greens, broccoli and cabbage. The downside of Brussels sprouts are the long growing season. It may take 15 weeks from planting to harvest.
Gardeners with summer squash now are having excellent harvests. Write on next year’s garden calendar to plant zucchini, yellow or pattypan squash next August
Remember Flower and Garden Fest Oct. 18 and 19 at Crystal Springs.
Lawns that have been frequently mown with clippings removed may benefit from a late-season application of potassium fertilizer. Many garden centers carry 0-0-60 (potassium chloride) or 0-0-50 (potassium sulfate) fertilizers. Apply 1 pound of potash per 1,000 square feet of lawn, which is 1⅔ pounds of 0-0-60 or 2 pounds of 0-0-50. The fertilizer should be applied by mid-October.
Remove fallen leaves weekly. Leaves left on the lawn block sunlight and prevent moisture from evaporating. The dark, damp conditions under leaves are ideal for disease organisms.