Joy's Garden Patch

Join the fun of the season with gardening tips and advice.

I don’t mind telling you, but between you and me, the neighbors have finally gone over the edge. Oh yes, they’re quite mad. For the past two weeks, most of them have been fanatical about just one thing: their lawns! 

On the one side, you’ve got Bob, who after years of doing half-hearted lawn patching, has done a complete 360°.  He actually went and got topsoil—Oops! That’s loam. He got himself a yard of loam. Bob says it kills him that the delivery charge was more expensive than the actual soil.

Then there’s Dave. He bought the house with a lawn to die for already. Seriously. Well, it seems as if he started to have problems when he cut down a mature tree in the front yard.  Now it’s sunnier and hotter and the lawn seems thirstier. I see lots of non-grasses popping up, along with burned-out patches.  Dave is out every day: watering, raking, aerating, fertilizing and who knows what.  

As for my yard? When we first moved in, the whole yard, front and back, was a mud pit. We actually had to put down planks to walk around, especially in New England’s spring mud season.  Soon, we contracted with a lawn service. They put down tons of chemicals and we had grass, or something resembling grass.  Five years later, we stopped the lawn service and the yard immediately reverted to mud.

Fall is an excellent time to renovate and reseed your lawn. No doubt, my husband and I will probably join with the others soon enough.  I’m sure we won’t get as crazed about it—I don’t mind clover and “non-grass” grass in the lawn. But I do want to fix some patches where it’s getting to the point that if we don’t act, we’ll need those planks back again.

Tips I’ve learned from past experiences:
Do not use salt hay
to cover the seed. It tends to blow all over the neighborhood and then my husband and I look like idiots when we go to retrieve it and put it back on our yard.

I will use seed starter. It makes all the difference. We always use it and our seed always sprouts. You know who doesn’t use it? Bob. ‘Nuff said.

Chores for late September:  Gather broken hardwood twigs off the lawn. You can use in your fireplace this season. Put the mulching bag back on the mower now that the leaves are falling. Water reseeded areas of lawn. Don’t let it dry out. Bring in the last of the squash, zucchini and tomatoes if you haven’t already.

Choices for Autumn and Winter Plantings:  From this week’s Bookbag choice, “Gardening Step by Step,” there are number of fall and winter plant choices that I’ve never seen until now.

These plants have great color for the season and are not the usual offering of mums, asters, pansies, etc. One example is Stipa gigantea. It’s a grass, Giant Feather Grass. It has a wonderful golden color, and as the name implies, it is big. Then there’s Verbena bonariensis. It can be grown as an annual specimen plant for our zone 6 climate. It’s also known as purpletop or tall verbena and likes full sun.

In the book, these plants are grouped together along with a deep rose colored sedum. ‘Autumn Joy’ has been my favorite, but I may go to Sedum ‘Herbstfreude.’ It is a lovely combination.

Winter combinations from “Gardening Step by Step” feature Erica x daleyensis ‘Archie Graham’ with its lovely purple-pink and I already love Cornus sanguine ‘Winter Beauty’ with its stunning orange-red branches.  And as I learned the color of many of these shoulder-season plants tends to deepen as the weather gets colder.

September  23-24, 2011
Greenwich Dahlia Show, Free, at the Garden Education Center of Greenwich in Cos Cob

October 1-2, 2011 Bulbs for Breast Cancer at Natureworks, Northford; The 2nd annual event features free garden workshops and fun.

October 7-9, 2011 The Fall Home Show at the CT Convention Center is a wonderland for homeowners and includes all things Home, including landscaping, gardens, pavers, tree care and more.

From the Garden Bookbag:

Oma Tike’s Pick: “Foliage, Dramatic and Subtle Leaves for the Garden,” by David Joyce, Trafalgar Square Publishing

After you read this book, you’ll see your garden with fresh eyes. Joyce takes foliage from size and shape to color and texture and literally gives you a whole new way of seeing and working with plant combinations, and the photographs are absolutely wonderful.

Joy’s Pick: “Gardening, Step by Step,” by Phil Clayton, Jenny Hendy, Colin Crosbie , Jo Whittingham, DK Publishing

Big and beautiful photos reveal excellent pruning tips, instructions for plant selection, step by step planting how-to and care of low-maintenance gardens, and vegetable gardens; plus, a thorough guide to small garden plants.

Next Week’s Column:  Garden Journals; Chores; Bookbag


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