Horticulture News: Keeping your landscapes healthy for coming spring

By Kim Cowherd Published:

Daylight hours are diminishing and there is a nip in the air. Unprotected gardens are finished for the year and our landscape plantings are winding down for their winter’s nap. Here are some things you can do to get your gardens and landscapes healthy and begin getting ready for next spring season.

Fall is a great time to plant trees, shrubs, bulbs, and perennial plants and do lawn reseeding.

Fall and spring are the times for dividing most perennials. As a general rule, perennials that bloom in the spring, such as daylilies, peonies, and bearded iris, should be divided in the fall. It may be getting just a little too late in the year for this, however, since divided perennials need to have time to establish good root growth before cold weather sets in and the ground freezes.

Fall is the best time to transplant trees and shrubs in Kentucky. Broad-leafed evergreens and conifers do best when planted in early fall while deciduous trees will do well if transplanted a little later in mid autumn.

As crops finish in the vegetable garden, remember to remove spent plants and plant residue to the compost pile. Getting rid of those dead tomato vines, bean bushes, and squash vines and fruit will lessen the chance that insect and disease pests will be able to overwinter in the garden and so will lessen the incidence of pest problems next spring.

If you plan to incorporate organic material such as compost or manure in your garden site, late fall is a great time to do so. Spread the material over the surface of the garden before plowing so that the organic matter can be incorporated as plowing proceeds.


Take a soil test in your garden, lawn, and planting beds, so any necessary additives can be done now. The Franklin County Extension Office offers free soil testing to homeowners in the month of October.

After the first hard freeze, remove non-hardy annuals and cut back perennials to near ground level. The removed plant material can be placed in the compost bin.

To save not-quite-ripe tomatoes before frost, pick mature-sized green fruit, wrap them in newspaper, and store them in a cool dark place for a few weeks. After two to three weeks, unwrap a few of the fruit to see if any are ripening. Also check to make sure none are rotting.

Clean up around fruit trees by raking leaves and removing dried fruit. This will help control several diseases and insects.

Remove and burn bagworm cases from evergreens. The cases contain eggs, which will hatch in spring to produce next year’s population.

Check tree twigs for egg cases of eastern tent caterpillar. The egg cases are dark and shiny, they look like someone has dabbed lacquer around the stem. They usually occur on branches that are about pencil size in diameter. They will break off the branch easily if rubbed with the hand or fingers.

Don’t forget to water new trees and shrubs during the fall and winter months. Continue watering (in the absence of adequate rainfall - about 1” per week) until the soil freezes. This is particularly true for evergreens since they continue to lose water through their leaves in winter. Keep the soil under your woody plants moist, not wet.

A layer of mulch applied at this time of year can have many beneficial effects in the home landscape. Mulch moderates the normal freeze/thaw cycle than can force many herbaceous perennial plants out of the ground. Mulch will also help conserve soil moisture and will serve as an insulating agent during severely cold temperatures.

Get prepared: winter will be here before we know it!

Contact the Franklin County Extension Office for more information or to register for this series. Phone 502-695-9035 or email Kim.Cowherd@uky.edu.

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