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Five ways to save work, time in your fall garden

Let nature give you a hand; recycle fallen leaves -- and dig bigger holes

This lemon balm plant is happy and healthy even in hot weather with bark mulch to help preserve soil moisture and keep weeds under control.

This lemon balm plant is happy and healthy even in hot weather with bark mulch to help preserve soil moisture and keep weeds under control.

Kathy Morrison

“There’s got to be an easier way.” How many times have you had that thought while pulling weeds, mowing grass or digging holes?

On this Labor Day, consider how you spend your time in your garden. If it’s all work, there’s no “down time” to relax and really enjoy the results of your efforts. You’re too tired to smell the roses.

With that in mind on this holiday, here are five ways to save labor (and time) in the landscape this fall:

1. Mulch, mulch, mulch!

This simple step saves moisture, cuts down on weeds and helps plants cope with fluctuating weather. Use organic material (straw, leaves, bark, etc.) and that mulch adds nutrients to the soil, too. Avoid rocks or gravel as mulch; they retain too much heat in Sacramento and can “cook” plant roots.

2. Make use of fallen leaves.

This is Mother Nature’s idea of recycling. All those dry leaves that will soon be coming down make excellent mulch and will improve the soil. Mulch also helps suppress weeds, so you’ll spend less time weeding.

Instead of raking up the avalanche of fallen leaves, use the lawn mower to chop them instead. Then, spread this mulch around trees and shrubs. Leave a few inches of space around trunks to avoid crown rot.

Avoid any leaves that show the effects of disease such as peach leaf curl; put those leaves in the trash. If you dispose of that infected foliage, you’ll save time fighting those fungal diseases next year.

3. Use bigger pots.

The larger the container, the less frequently it needs watering. It also makes a greater visual impact and allows plants more room to grow.

4. Choose lower-maintenance, slow-growing plants.

Tired of pruning hedges? Constantly edging borders? Mowing the lawn? Transition your landscape to plants that need less fuss and snipping. It’s a matter of putting the right plant in the right place; it will grow healthier and need less care, too.

5. Dig once, plant a lot.

Fall is planting season for daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and other spring-blooming bulbs. Instead of planting each bulb separately, dig a wide hole to the depth needed and plant several bulbs together. This same idea works for annuals and such cool-season vegetables as lettuce, chard and kale. Dig a single trench, then plant a whole row.

This method also allows for working compost, bone meal or other amendments into the soil all at once instead of little hole by hole.


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For week of Sept. 24:

This week our weather will be just right for fall gardening. What are you waiting for?

* Now is the time to plant for fall. The warm soil will get these veggies off to a fast start.

* Keep harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons and eggplant. Tomatoes may ripen faster off the vine and sitting on the kitchen counter.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Fertilize deciduous fruit trees.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as well as lettuce seedlings.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials. That includes bearded iris; if they haven’t bloomed in three years, it’s time to dig them up and divide their rhizomes.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with “eyes” about an inch below the soil surface.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

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