October Landscape Activities
29 September 2004
Virginia Cooperative Extension, Charlottesville/Albemarle County Office
460 Stagecoach Road, Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
phone: 434.872.4580 fax: 434.872.4578
If your landscape survived the hurricane remnants of recent weeks and your lawn no longer resembles a rice patty you might be inspired to get out and do some fall cleanup, spring preparation, or maybe plant a tree. Here are some suggested activities and ideas for the next few weeks.
Old, fallen leaves contain the disease inoculum for plant infections next year. If you have disease-infected plants, prune out infected branches in the late fall and winter when the disease-causing organism is inactive. Remove any infected debris from around the plant's base and dispose of it.
Looking to put some outstanding fall color into your landscape? Check out Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica 'Henry's Garnet'). It is a medium-sized shrub that spreads by rhizomes, ultimately forming a large stand if left unchecked, loaded with 2 to 6-inch-long racemes of fragrant, white, late-spring flowers lasting two to three weeks. Virginia sweetspire prefers a moist, fertile soil, but is adaptable to full sun or part shade and has no major disease or insect problems.
Start a family tradition by planting a tree or shrub in honor of a holiday, birthday, or anniversary. While celebrating the special occasion, you can also beautify your landscape and improve the air quality around your home.
When selecting trees for fall color keep in mind that color is more strongly influenced by genes in the plant than by the environment. Trees selected in the fall when they are in full color can be expected to produce the same colors in future years. Red Maple cultivars that display outstanding colors include 'Red Sunset,' 'October Glory,' and 'Autumn Flame.'
You probably can name some annual and perennial flowers that are attractive to hummingbirds. If you want to plant some common trees visited by hummingbirds consider this list: buckeyes and horse chestnut (Aesculus species), crabapple (Malus species), hawthorn (Crataegus species), silk tree (Albizia julibrissin), Siberian pea shrub (Caragana arborescens), and tulip poplar (Lirodendron tulipifera).
The top of shrub or tree roots should be flush with the ground, so the planting hole should be no deeper than the root ball.
To minimize the look of open spaces between new shrubs, plant a low-growing ground cover, such as bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) or winter creeper (Euonymus fortunei).
Your trees and shrubs have begun to harden for the upcoming cold weather. To encourage this, remove mulch from around the stems of shrubs and trees.
October and November are generally considered the best months to plant trees and shrubs. Garden centers and nurseries usually stock a good selection of woody plants at this time of year. Select some accent plants for your landscape that will provide autumn colors. Trees that turn red include dogwood, red maple, sweet gum, and red or scarlet oak. Shrubs with red fall foliage include viburnum, winged euonymus, and barberry.
While you can still identify them easily, prune dead and diseased branches from trees and shrubs.
Light pruning of both needle and broadleaf evergreens is recommended in late fall to encourage a strong framework to help the plant overcome any snow damage. Remove any weak or crowded branches.
In deciding on new trees or shrubs to plant around your home, remember to select varieties with a mature height to fit the desired location. This will greatly reduce pruning and other maintenance in the future.
Make a note of plants displaying outstanding fall colors as you drive along city streets and the surrounding countryside. You may wish to incorporate some of them into your own landscape.
If your climbing roses are in an exposed location, tie them up firmly with broad strips of rags so the wind will not whip them against the trellis and bruise the bark.
Use cold frames to over winter cuttings of trees and shrubs and perennial seedlings started in mid- to late summer. Bulbs prepared for forcing also can be stored in cold frames until time to take them indoors.
It is too late this year to prune roses because they would become subject to winter injury. However, the rose garden should be raked and cleaned to prevent black spot and other diseases. Additional mulch should be added after the ground has frozen.
Pick bagworms from evergreen shrubs. This will eliminate the spring hatch from overwintering eggs.
Do not become alarmed if your yews, pines, arborvitae, and junipers begin to shed their interior needles. It is natural for them to do so at this time of year.
White pines are shedding their older needles now. Rake them up and use as mulch on azalea, rhododendron, andromeda, and camellia.
For more information on gardening, contact your local Virginia Cooperative Extension office. Many county Extension offices have a help desk that is staffed by Master Gardener volunteers. These volunteers are trained to answer questions about garden and landscape topics. The local Virginia Cooperative Extension office numbers are Albemarle 984-0727, Fluvanna 591-1950, Greene 985-5236, Louisa 540-967-3422, and Nelson 263-4035.