University City

Cooler season signals the time for planting

Although gardening is in the lull between summer and fall, experts say it's not too early to prepare now for the busy season ahead.

"We're in a transition now," said Kirk Davis, owner of Patterson's Nursery off Rocky River Road. "We have good moisture, and I think we're going to have a good fall."

Local nurseries soon will fill with large trees and shrubs and cool weather flowers such as pansies. Planting in the fall gives roots plenty of time to get established, which means they'll fare better in next year's summer weather.

Watch for cooler weather and rain; that will signal a good time to seed and plant.

Many long-time gardeners say that fall is the ideal time to aerate and reseed lawns.

Some fescue lawns may have developed brown patches from this summer's relentless heat, but reseeding and fertilizing can restore a green lawn.

"If you're going to redo your fescue lawn, this is the time to do it," said Steve Christy, owner of Christy's Nursery in Concord.

Some landscapers recommend aerating and then seeding; Christy said he has seen good results spreading topsoil and then seed on a lawn.

Davis said lawn work should be done between mid-September and mid-October.

"You've got a small window on your grass, and you need to get that done," he said. "Once you start having frost, it's going to slow the seed (growth) down."

Many nurseries and landscapers sell grass seed and fertilizer and can offer advice on reseeding.

The last days of summer mean the end of summer vegetable gardens and time to prepare gardens for fall planting.

Gardeners can turn dead plants deep into the soil and enrich the soil with lime and organic matter.

Christy recommends getting a soil test, which can be done through a cooperative extension service. It helps determine the soil's acidity and nutrients.

Cool-weather crops, such as turnips, collards, broccoli and carrots, can be planted soon, as well as fruit and nut trees, blueberry bushes and grape vines.

"Within the next week or two, plow the garden up, work in lime and fertilizer and as soon as it comes a rain, start planting," said Marty Brafford, owner of Brafford's Greenhouses in Concord.

A benefit of fall gardens is that lower temperatures lead to less garden maintenance, Davis said.

"In the fall, you're not going to fight the weeds because they are dying out now," Davis said. Cool weather also means less watering.

Even though it's too early to plant trees and shrubs, landscapers recommend formulating a plan now.

Most plant nurseries sell everything from trees to fertilizer to perennials, and most will be fully stocked in October. Staff at plant nurseries often have years of experience and can help homeowners design a landscape plan and choose and install plants.

Landscapers can work from a color picture of a house and yard, or they will visit the property.

"If you're going to formulate a landscape plan, it takes time," Davis said. "It's always best to get with us early." He said knowing measurements and sun exposure are important to a good plan.

"A lot of little things like that play into good landscaping," he said.