Too Late to Landscape

News from Economic Development, Planning and Tourism, Posted on Thu, 09/17/2009 - 4:36pm

Is Fall too late in the year to complete landscaping work around your home? No, as a matter of fact landscaping late in the year can prove to be the most beneficial time to get you outdoor projects done.

Plant selection is a major concern of the homeowners this time of year, due to the sparse looking selection of plants at the local nurseries, but this may be the best time to visit these nurseries. A lot of the plant material still available at local stores may be left over from the season due to mature plant material prices or small defects within the plants; this allows the consumer to negotiate with the grower for a reduced price or additional plant material. This not only helps keep the homeowner within a budget but also helps out the local nursery owners unload plant material that otherwise would have been stored and maintained throughout the winter.

Some tips for purchasing plants this late in the season are to watch out for poor branch structure, circling root systems, and paying full price. Poor branch structure refers to crossing branches, narrow or weak unions, and other defects that will take away from the stability and aesthetics of the overall plant. Some of these plants may be able to be pruned to promote healthy development, so do not be afraid to negotiate for these plants because you may walk away with a great deal. Circling roots are roots that have out grown their existing pot and have begun to grown in a circular patter around the pot, leaving the potential for the plant to continue this pattern after planting. To stop the roots from continuing to grow in a circular pattern the roots must be severed to promote outward root development. Use these small reversible defects to get the most plant for your money possible.

Diagram of Tree roots in a circling root ball

To ensure that your newly acquired plants flourish in your landscape be sure to follow these tips for supportive growth. The first tip is to make sure that the hole you excavate for your plant is of sufficient size. It is common practice to make the planting holes for larger plants 2 ½ times the diameter of the root ball to provide loose soil for the plant to grow in. Smaller perennials may not need as large of a hole as long as the ground they are planted in is not hard and compacted. Second, allow yourself to use your vision not your sight when determining where to place your new plants. Give adequate space between plants and existing structures to allow the plant to grow within its own area. For example try not to plant two Maple trees 5 feet apart or 5 feet from your house, because in just a couple years these two trees will look like one oddly shape tree. Allow yourself to see the bigger picture that will become your landscape. Third, make sure to water your plants while planting and after planting to ensure they can establish root systems before winter. Fourth, try not to stake any tree unless it is located in a windy area and appears to not be able to support itself. Using tree stakes is not always necessary, and if left on for too long the stake can do more harm than good. Finally make sure to provide an adequate mulch ring around any plant not located in a planting bed. This mulch ring will keep moisture in the soil, regulate temperature and compaction, keep grass from encroaching, and prevent damage to the tree from mowers and weed eaters.

Normally, now is a great time for renovating your lawn with limited damage because of drier more compact soils from the summer months, allowing people and vehicles to frequent the lawn with limited disruption. Of course when summer has seemed a lot more like spring, like this year, you may still have some yard damage. If your lawn is damaged or you are expanding your open lawn area now will be a great time to spread new grass seed. Fall happens to be the best time for cool season grasses, because the ground stays cooler and can retain levels of moisture that support growth. Now would be a great time to not only spread seed but to aerate and fertilize the lawn as well, this will support healthy growth in the upcoming spring season. If you are curious if your lawn needs fertilized you can visit your local cooperative extension office and have a Ph test completed on your soil.

So should you landscape this late in the season? Yes, not only can you negotiate prices on landscape materials but landscape services as well. Fall should be looking better and better for completing your landscaping projects and hopefully you will get outside, create something wonderful, help the local economy, and save some money while doing it.

For more information on your home landscape or general horticulture, contact your local Cornell University Cooperative Extension office. In Cattaraugus County, contact Kabel Kellogg in the Ellicottville office at 716-699-2377, ext. 125 or e-mail kck57 [at] cornell [dot] edu