Get ready for garden rehab

While the extreme summer heat has left some young plants and trees stressed or dying, the coming cool weather will be ideal for rehabbing and refreshing yards and gardens.

"People are uneasy about their plants going into the fall," said Clint Erwin, nursery manager at Garden Grove in Huntersville.

Plant experts say consecutive days of 100-plus degree temperatures have left behind leaves burned to a crisp, fungus and brown patches in grass.

But none of those problems are unfixable, gardeners say. Cool air, pruning, replanting and reseeding this fall will help yards and gardens recuperate.

Lower temperatures also will usher in planting season for everything from brussel sprouts to oak trees.

Gardening is in a lull between summer and fall, and landscapers recommend using this time for light pruning, planning and preparing soil for fall gardens.

Morrie Brawley, sales manager for Dearness Gardens Center & Landscaping Services in Huntersville, said gardeners can give struggling plants a "haircut" now by trimming off burnt leaves and branches "that are looking a little wayward."

Be sure to avoid any major pruning, however.

All-natural fertilizer, Erwin said, will strengthen plants by stimulate roots in the fall without stimulating new growth.

The short window between mid-September and mid-October is ideal for aerating and reseeding lawns, which will give grass seed time to establish strong root systems before enduring any potential draught or heat next year.

Erwin recommends either getting on an aerating company's schedule now or look into pre-renting an aerator. Many nurseries sell grass seed, lime and fertilizer.

Homeowners who plan to create landscape or garden areas should kill off unwanted weeds and grass now with herbicide or by covering the area with newspaper and mulch, said Brian Nelson, co-owner of Nelson Nursery in Mooresville.

Nelson said gardeners also can build up soil by mixing in organic matter, which will improve drainage and soil quality.

Nurseries should be stocked with trees, shrubs and plants in October and November, months with good conditions for planting because temperatures are cooler and plants require less watering.

"I think fall is a wonderful time for planting because there's less stress on the plants and less stress on the people," Nelson said.

As summer vegetables die off, gardeners recommend clearing them out or tilling them deep into the soil - with lime and organic material - to prepare for fall crops.

Cool season crops include lettuces, collards, carrots, turnips and broccoli, many which can be planted now.

Brawley said he's seen a growing interest in raised beds, which can work for vegetable gardening or landscaping by giving plants an extra boost of good soil.

Whether homeowners are preparing for crops or landscaping, nursery owners recommend drawing up a plan first. Nurseries can use pictures, measurements and sun exposure information to create landscaping designs.

Many nurseries grow their own plants and will deliver and install plants.

Right now, nurseries are not as busy and have time to work with customers on plans. Many area garden center employees have years of experience with plants and can advise customers on everything from landscape design to plant selection.

"The best thing a person can spend money on would be to get professional, sound advice from an experienced, qualified landscaper," said Nelson, whose family opened Nelson's Nursery in 1958.