Fall leaves are beautiful to look at and to rake up and run through…but did you know some of them have little tiny insects that can be most annoying in your homes? Did you know some of your trees can become sunburned in the brilliant winter sun? and do you know why white rock may not be the best type of stone to place around bushes?

According to area professionals, fall is a very important time of the year for lawn, tree and shrub care. Certain tasks taken care of in the fall can make the spring growth more healthy and vibrant.

“Pansies are great for fall color,” said Judy Jantz of Marion’s Main Street Flowers. “They are a cool weather flower and do real well in our winter weather. In fact,” she continues, “I have even seen pansies bloom in the snow. They are beautiful.”

“They will bloom in December, and again in March,” she said, “we have become such an instant society,” she went on, “that pansies are good for that instant gratification. People don’t want to wait on the bulbs, though they are beautiful in th spring.”

Sharon Boese of the Hillsboro Garden Center reminds people to do the “housekeeping” that needs to be done to maintain a healthy lawn and flowers.

She says this is the time of year to remove all the diseased plant material and weed debris from the garden, to divide and transplant the perennials, and to dig tender bulbs such as the glads and cannas and store them for the winter.

Boese points out this is the time to plant flowering bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, crocus, and hyacinths for their spring flowers.

Roses need to be mulched after they have gone dormant, which is usually around Thanksgiving time with at least one foot of soil to protect the bud graft.

“Be sure to drench houseplants with an insecticide before bringing them inside for the winter,” she cautions, as the bugs could come right on inside with the plants.

While working with the flowers it is important not to forget to “winterize” fescue lawns by using fertilizer, and to mow it at 2 1/2 inches.

Fall is a good time for planting trees as well. According to Mary Schuler, of Schuler Landscape Designs, Marion, it is the time to plant deciduous trees, evergreen tress and evergreen shrubs.

Schuler, who has a degree in Landscape Horticulture from K-State, says there are some very exciting new cultivars of plants now available for landscaping.

The ‘Royal Red’ Norway maple has a mature size of 40’x25′ and will fit into most yards. Schuler says this maple has deep red leaves all year round, has a very uniform branching pattern, dense leaf growth and no disease and insect problems.

Other cultivars that might be used in the smaller yards are the ‘Sentury’ and ‘Emerald Lustre’, a green leafed variety. ‘Sentury’ has a mature size of 35’x20′.

Schuler points out that bagworms are a problem in our area, and it is important to consider planting evergreens the bagworms do not like. She says Yews do not get bagworms, and a new type of yew, ’emerald spreader’ which was introduced onto the market two years ago is an ideal evergreen. It reaches 2’x5′, needs no pruning, is insect-free, disease-free, rich in green color and will grow in sun or shade.

If you are looking more for an upright type of evergreen that bagworms don’t care for, you might try the Vanderwolf’s Pyramid Pine. This pine, Schuler says only reaches 20’x10′ and is a gorgeous evergreen with a mixture of green and blue long needles. She advises those who are looking for an exceptionally full, dense evergreen, to ask the Nursery to order one that is being grown as a specimen plant.

While it can be hard to think of shrubs that flower in the fall while planting the bright spring flowers, Schuler says the Crepe myrtle is a flowering shrub that provides beautiful fall flowers. They will flower from July through October with vivid displays of red, purple, pink and white.

Schuler says the flowering shrubs can provide as much color as perennials and annuals, but require less care. However, they must be planted in the spring because they need the summer months to develop enough root growth to survive the Kansas winter.

“After this past summer of heat and drought, I can not emphasize how important it is to mulch plants,” says Schuler, “Lay down weed barrier on vegetation-free soil and apply 2-3 inches of mulch. This keeps roots cool, you can water less often, and there is not competition for water and nutrients by weeds or grass.”

If the sun hits the soil it becomes very hard like clay bricks, and is not a good environment for plant roots. Schuler points out that wood chips are provided by the city at no charge or from tree trimming businesses at a minimal charge, and it is large size wood chips that will not blow away in the Kansas wind and serves as a good mulch material.

Schuler designs comprehensive, low-maintenance landscape designs, including information on care of each of the plants she uses, to insure your landscape is a success.

Scott Proffitt, Proffitt’s Tree Service, Hillsboro, reminds home owners, the fall is the best time for pruning trees.

“Pruning now is better for the all round health of the tree,” said Proffitt, “but first, it is good to stop fertilizing your trees now. A tree will become ‘winter-hearty’. You want it to stop growing and to shutdown to protect itself from the cold winter months.”

Pruning done in the fall is best because you reduce the the possibilities of transmitting tree diseases, and the bugs are gone.

“Beetles will take advantage of tree wounds,” explained Proffitt, “when you prune a tree, you naturally leave a wound, bugs take advantage of that and move in.”

Proffitt pointed out Bark Beetles will take advantage of not only wounds in the American Elm, but also will move in on dead wood.

He says it is important to get rid of dead woods and move it out of the area or burn it to remove whatever may be living inside of it.

Trees do not heal, says Proffitt, but they have a process called ‘wound closure.’ Proffitt says the fall is typically a dormant season for trees, and to prune in the fall will encourage maximum wound closure.

Proffitt goes on to say the ornamental trees which flower in the spring such as the Red Bud or Dogwood, should not be pruned in the fall.

“These trees will blossom and flower in the spring, and their best time for pruning is immediately after they flower in the summer.”

“Evergreens need to be watered all year long. It is good to use the slow trickle, just like in the summer. The water will go down and deep.”

Evergreens also need special care during the few bad snow storms that Kansas has.

“We have enough warning that people know when those eight-10 inch snow storms are coming,” warns Proffitt, “get up through the night, take a broom and go out and hit the snow and ice off your evergreens. Their limbs act like nets, and catch the snow which can break them off. Get up and gently hit the tree to get the snow off so the branches don’t become weighted down.”

“I think wood chips make the best mulch, and then maybe river rock,” he said. “River rock may not be as beautiful, but white rock will reflect the sun and can burn up your plants and bushes.”

He recommends 3-4 inches of mulch to not only discourage the moisture competition from weeds and grass, but for protection as an insulation barrier.

Proffitt also pointed out the importance of wrapping the trees with thin bark-such as birches, to avoid having them become “sunburned.”

“When the leaves are gone,” he explains, “these thin barked trees can suffer from sun scald. I have seen people take plywood and paint it white to reflect the sun’s rays away from the trees to protect them.”

It is sort of like with people. The sun damages the bark and can cause it to crack and weaken. This, in turn, will open the tree up for diseases and problems.”

Proffitt also said it was good to bag up and get rid of the fall leaves when you are finished with your fall fun.

“Those little ugly bumps you see on them have little tiny insects call psyllids in them. Those bumps open up and those tiny bugs are small enough to get into your house and be a nuisance. They are a serious problem, just annoying.”

Proffitt reminds homeowners to remember how valuable trees can be.

“It is important to take good care of your trees. They not only provide us with shade, but add beauty to our homes. Sometimes even the value of a home is based on the locations of the trees.”

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