Arkansas Gardener Central zone report October 2012
We are all thrilled to put this summer behind us, and start moving forward. There are so many dead plants in landscapes across the state, that replanting is definitely called for. Fall is a great time to plant hardy trees and shrubs, perennials, spring bulbs and winter annuals. With trees, some it is quite apparent are dead, while others may have simply gone into early dormancy. You may want to wait until spring to assess if it is really dead or alive. Evergreen plants that are totally brown you can be sure are dead. If you know for certain a plant is dead, remove it now and consider replacement options. Prepare the soil well, plant, water and mulch. Hold off on fertilization until spring. Now is a great time to dig and divide spring and summer blooming perennials. There are also great perennial plants to choose from that can be planted now. By doing the work in the fall, we allow the roots to get established while the tops are dormant, and they will be in a stronger position by next growing season. Now is also a great time to seed wildflowers and many perennials including poppies, purple coneflowers, columbine, foxglove and the annual larkspur, Texas bluebonnets, bachelor’s buttons and cornflowers. What is in bloom in your garden? If you took care of your yard, you should have colorful perennials, shrubs and annuals now. Beautyberry (Callicarpa) is loaded with purple berries, and the foliage is turning a wonderful yellow. The burning bush (Euonymus alatus) is turning red, along with Itea and oakleaf hydrangeas. Roses are rebounding and the Knock-outs look particularly good. Perennials such as Toadlily (Tricyrtis), turtlehead (Chelone), Japanese anemones, and goldenrod (Solidago) are all blooming. The Hellebores are starting to put on new foliage growth for a winter bloom, and chrysanthemums and asters are readily available for instant color at nurseries. Summer annuals that survived the summer are still going, but if yours died, there are great options now at all nurseries, from pansies and violas, to snapdragons, dianthus, diascia, dusty miller, parsley, edible and ornamental forms of kale, cabbage, Swiss chard and beets. We can even find blooming petunias, callibrachoa and verbena now, which have been overwintering well and blooming through several light freezes. If your garden doesn’t have color in every season, you can quickly remedy the fall color now.
I have some cleome and sweet William seeds. I heard you could plant seeds in the fall. Would now be OK? To plant seeds do I sprinkle potting soil over them to a depth of 1/2 inch and keep moist?
Cleome is a great summer annual that freely reseeds itself in the garden. The seeds are winter hardy from last year’s plants, but won’t germinate until the soil warms up. Wait and sow your stored seeds after all chances of frost have passed in late spring. Cleomes are fairly wild plants once established and would need a large container—they would prefer to be let loose in the garden, so scatter the seed and lightly cover, since they do need light to germinate. For the Sweet William or Dianthus barbatus, they are a biennial that can be planted either spring or late summer. Planting the seeds now, would simply have the seeds overwintering in the garden—they usually won’t germinate until the soil warms up. It is possible to get some germination this late in the season, but it is preferred to plant the seeds either 6-8 weeks before the first frost or indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost, or where they are wanted to grow. Do realize they won’t bloom the first season.
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