Fall For it!
Summer is coming to a close and it’s time to get outside for some seasonal tasks. Fall is a great opportunity to get back into our yards to tidy up spent blooms and prepare for freezing temperatures. It is the ideal time of year to install new trees and shrubs because it allows the maximum acclimation period for plant roots to be well-established before the hot temperatures return next summer. Fall also signals a change in nature’s color palette including inspiration for what we can plant for seasonal impact.
One of the most interesting choices for Fall cleanup is dependent on your preference for tidy versus texture. Ornamental grasses and some perennial plants are transitioning to a winter state of slumber. Above ground stems dry out and turn from vibrant greens to shades of brown. Those stems that remain upright can continue offer texture, shape and movement in our landscapes until needing to be cut back in early February in anticipation of new growth. For those who find that extended appearance messy, it is also permissible to trim back the dried stalks during Fall. Either way, you’ll have new interest in your landscape.
Your Fall garden checklist includes many tasks that will pay off next Spring. Here are some things to consider doing during the next few months:
It’s the hottest time of the year and our Northcentral Texas landscape and container plants rely on us for enough water to survive the extreme heat. In the absence of cooling shade in the afternoon and adequate amounts of rainfall, many of our plants can wilt, weaken or die. The science and art of effective watering strikes a balance between under- and over-watering. Observing plant symptoms reveals how well they are coping in conditions of low humidity, wind and extremely high temperatures. Modifying how much and how often to water in response to these cues is essential.
First, remember that the goal is to get water to the roots of the plant so aim accordingly! Watering the plant foliage may seem considerate but it’s doing little to get the water to the intake source. While some plants can absorb moisture through leaves, this is most likely to happen during periods of fog which is hard for us to recreate. In general, the best watering technique is a gentle soaking for an extended period of time.
Whether you use a watering can, garden hose, watering wand or drip irrigation, I believe that effective supplemental watering begins with the soil. The soil must be well-suited to the plant material and in good operating order. If it’s too compacted or hardened clay, the water is less able to seep in or drain off from the root system. If it’s too loose (sandy or gravel), the water will drain too rapidly without allowing the roots’ ability to catch a sip or two.
To determine how your soil is responding to water, head out early in the morning for routine checks using the following techniques. For bedding plants, use a hand trowel near the outer canopy of the plant. If it is particularly hard, soak first and then try to break it up. Take it slow and be gentle to avoid damaging the plant’s root system. Check the top 2 to 3 inches for existing moisture. Adding compost can help reduce summer heat stress. It enriches and cools the soil, comforting your plants. Topping with mulch annually helps hold moisture below the surface as it gradually breaks down to enhance soil content. Just be careful to keep the mulch away from the center base of your trees and plants. For container plants, let your finger be your guide. You should be able to poke your finger 1 to 2 inches down between plants and assess how moist the soil is. This can take a few tries to be certain. Most plants prefer to dry out slightly before taking in more water so check routinely to be sure it’s time. Also check the inner edge of your containers to see if the soil has pulled away creating a gap for water to drain off too quickly missing the roots completely.
Under your watchful eye, plants will offer indicators of water insufficiency or heat stress. Native or adaptive plants may prove to be the comparison plant having the ability to cope and thrive in the brutal heat. Browning of leaf edges is called leaf scorch and is likely due to over exposure to the sun but can also reveal over- or under-watering, root stress or over fertilizing. Yellow leaves may indicate moisture stress reflecting over-watering but can also be a sign of iron, potassium or nitrogen deficiencies in the soil. Leaf wilting can be a sign of water stress or heat stress. Excessive watering may be impairing the roots’ ability to deliver water to the plant. As conditions intensify, moisture loss from the leaves beyond what the root system can readily replace causes plant leaves to droop. Take caution Plant Parents, this is not the time to dowse your plants with additional water! Instead, continue to watch the plant and check the soil. Some plants with adequate moisture may actually wilt in the afternoon as a coping strategy rebounding as the temperatures drop in the evening. Overwatering will stress plants further restricting oxygen to the root system.
The frequency of supplemental watering will be based on your plant needs and your own lifestyle. While some suggest watering daily will discourage larger root system development, I believe that it’s important to consider all variables including actual plant observations. The more established a plant’s root system is, the less often it may require water. It also depends on the plant specimen and where it is located. Container plants will tend to dry out quicker than those in a flower bed simply based on location. Watering frequency should change as the environmental conditions change and ideally, provide water during early morning or evening hours for optimal absorption. As a standard, water deeply, widely and as often as your soil and plants indicate.
If you still feel uncertain about your approach to effective watering technique, err on the side of under-watering and modify your routine based on the results. Our environment is highly dynamic and plants strive to Drink Up and grow as part of our ecosystem. Your role as a responsible Plant Parent is to provide the necessary supplements to support healthy specimens season after season.
Greetings, Plant Parents. It’s the first day of Spring and time to move forward!
This specific day of the year is unique because the length of day and night (sunlight and darkness) are close to being equal. Spring is one of the two milder, transitional seasons between the extremes of hot and cold. A shift from something ending into something new beginning. Spring is the anticipation of change for renewal and growth. What better time to launch a new business for garden design services!
The beginning of Spring is a cue to gardeners to check your outdoor environment for signs of new growth. This includes faithful perennials re-emerging with new vigor and the brightest of greens in color. Trees budding out new foliage in preparation to filter and shade our gardens from the intense sun. You’ll also come across weeds sprouting in flower beds, sidewalks and lawn areas ready for easy removal after a gentle rain. Your containers may also be showing signs of emerging perennials from seasons past. Those root systems enjoyed a winter’s rest and are ready for new production. Any plants not returning from last year signal that they were one-season-wonders (annuals) or possibly unhappy or unsupported in that particular space.
Refresh and till compacted soil with rich compost mix available in most nurseries. Take time to trim back foliage from last year to make way for the new growth in your containers. Give ornamental grasses a “hair cut” (grab like a ponytail and cut) to allow the new growth to dominate. This makes for tidy space around your existing plant material and reveals available space for pockets of annuals. Give your emerging plants a boost with an application of fertilizer. These come in liquid root stimulators, slow release or bloom boosters. I recommend the slow release versions for extended feedings through the season. Root stimulators are great for launching newly planted trees and shrubs. Water in well after application.
Resist the urge to go to your local nurseries that are overflowing with new plant materials. It’s best to work on a plan first, know what plants will work in available spaces and estimate quantities. Make your list and check it twice! Otherwise, you’ll come home with a collection of “Ooo, I can find a place for this one”, which are less likely to end up planted or happy in the garden space available.
Lastly, spring is also a time to pause and consider the possibilities of your landscape. New ideas worth considering hold potential for implementation. This could be the year to transform the look of your exteriors and dig in to a project you’ve wanted to achieve.
Join me in embracing this new season as we spring forward together, refreshing the possibilities of what our gardens can be.
That’s why I’m here.
Hello Plant Parents! Here’s my very first blog posted to introduce you to my newest endeavor.
My new business is called containarment. It’s a mash up of who I am and what I love to do. The primary focus is on beautiful garden containers for your home or business elevating your entry ways, patios and poolsides. This is an underserved niche by traditional landscaping companies and it’s something I’m absolutely passionate about. I believe that most people love the look of plant containers but lack the time and expertise to effectively design and implement. That’s why I’m here. I’ll even update your containers each season to keep things looking fresh. I’m also offering landscape design services particularly for your existing beds that have been impacted by change (tired shrubs, new construction, tree canopy expansion, etc.). Additional maintenance services are available including “plant sitting” while you’re away from home. I’m excited to finally launch this new business sharing my expertise and love for everything garden.
Creating successful plant containers is harder than it looks. It all starts with selecting and positioning containers that are best suited to your space. Principles of design are used to perfect these choices in space, function and style. Step two involves making sure to establish a healthy environment for plants to thrive in. More than a fresh bag of potting soil, it takes true know-how for advanced soil blends supported by interior container structure designed for optimal plant growth and survival. Plant selection is fun for most, but without understanding compatibility in combination and numbers, it can hold disappointing results. Planting can also be tricky to ensure that specimens are given the best launch in adequate space for healthy growth. Lastly, caring for containers is likely the most challenging factor. Watering routines change with the seasons and too much or too little will cause stress or worse to your plants. Monitoring techniques include feeding, trimming and offering cover on cold winter nights. All of this can be managed with support from a good container coach. That’s why I’m here.
Designing and installing containers is both an art and science that I’ve mastered over years of performance trials including a few defeats that taught me well. I’m here to give your mixed or single specimen containers the best start, share my knowledge and make your experience successful for home or business. Whether you are wanting turnkey services with ongoing maintenance including seasonal updates or simply wish to restart your approach to beautiful garden containers, let my experience be to your advantage.
Again, that’s why I’m here.
Plant Parent blog
Welcome to the Plant Parent blog. This is a place where green parenting skills are sharpened for the benefit of young plants that just want to be cared for and thrive. Our posts will be relative to the season with tips for healthy growth and responsible parenthood reminders.
My name is Carol Arment. My lineage includes a long line of farmers who relied, nurtured and respected the earth for what it could produce. My father was a strategic planner, my mother a teacher, both instilling valuable skills which shaped my abilities. I am a creative thinker, crafter and love to dig in the dirt. I spent many years traveling the country as a corporate executive serving people and their communities. Now I’m returning to my roots to design and install exterior containers for suburban and urban spaces.