GARDENING ... AND MORE: Make a ‘to do’ list as summer ends
by Ronella Stagner, Columnist
Sep 03, 2014 | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Now that summer is just about over, soon the temperature will be going down and it’s time to think about the chores for fall. It seems to me that I am always discouraged to think that all the work of spring and summer is to do over again next spring.

The dismal ragged beds need to be cleaned up now for fall and winter. You have surely noticed that all the annuals are done for the year. The best thing for them is to put them on the compost if there is no sign of mildew. Zinnias usually have some mildew and the best thing for them is to burn them.

Make a “to do” list and stick to it. Order those bulbs you always wished that you had when blooming time comes around. Order new roses. Clean up the flower borders and a host of other things.

Transplanting peonies gives most gardeners cold chills. Here’s the low-down. Get the job done about the 15th of September. Let that be your deadline. Only move a few each year so you don’t risk losing all blooms next year. Remember that they need a sunny location without roots from trees and shrubs. They will bloom in medium soil but prefer a well-prepared soil. Prepare the hole in advance. Dig down at least 12 inches and mix the soil with well-rotted manure and some course ground bone meal. Tamp the soil down and water well a few days before planting. Now prepare the topsoil with a few handfuls of wood ashes. Carefully remove the old plant, allow the root ball to be exposed to the sunfor a few hours. Roots will then be pliable. Rinse off with a hose and cut back the tops to 2 inches. Bend the clumps to find the weak spot to divide. Each new root should have four or five eyes. When planting, the crown must be exactly two inches from the surface. Firm the soil with your hands and lightly water to settle the soil. It is ultra important the root is not planted too deep. Now you know as much as I do about transplanting peonies. I won’t repeat this for at least another year.

Many gardeners like to plant perennials in fall and if planted early enough to get roots established before a freeze, this works well. I prefer fall planting but it must be done in early fall.

I am often concerned that my friends who are not native to Kentucky don’t realize that many venomous snakes are active in fall. My dear old wise Pa said that copperhead snakes come out of hibernation in March before rattlesnakes and go into hibernation earlier in fall. Rattlesnakes come out of hibernation later in spring and stay out later in fall. He was most careful to wear “gum boots”, high topped, loose rubber boots, when out in the woods at any time of the year but he was mindful that he could walk up on a rattlesnake quite late in fall. All venomous snakes in Kentucky are pit vipers. That is they have pits on each side of their heads. They also have vertical pupils and I throw that in for those of you who get close enough to notice. The diamond shaped head is not always an indication of a venomous snake and neither does a rattler always rattle. A cottonmouth is not always in the water and the others are not always on dry land.

As Ma so often said, “Mind where you walk.”

While you’re cleaning up your flowerbeds, don’t cut back your perennials. That must wait for a killing frost when the leaves turn brown.

It’s very important to water all your shrubs well before the ground freezes. It’s especially important for azaleas and rhododendrons. Those last two also need some extra mulch before late fall.

If you don’t get your perennials cut back before a hard freeze, nothing drastic will happen. In fact, many winters, when I fail to cut them, they just stand there like good soldiers till spring. I rarely have had time to get all the day lilies cut back before spring. You must cut back the grasses, however, those beautiful tall plants with their plumes, before spring comes and the little leaves start coming through all the dead grass. It makes for a really hard job.

For those readers who enjoy reading about Ma and Pa, they will be back next week.

Thanks for your comments. You can reach me at 270-522-3632.
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