October 15 is the average date of the first frost of the season in the Chicago area. This year we have been enjoying beautifully warm conditions with only a few warnings of night temperatures into the low 40's. That will change. Until then, we have wonderful conditions to do the Fall chores in our gardens. Here are the 3 things that you should do:
1. Most importantly, WATER, WATER, WATER. There has not been enough rain in the past 3 months. The best thing that you can do for your landscape plants is to hydrate them before winter. That means watering once per week with the equivalent of 1 inch of rain. Do that until the ground freezes solidly, usually the first week of December!
2. Plant bulbs now. To get the most out of your effort, plant bulb bouquets in holes that are 8" deep and 8-10" wide. Do not plant bulbs in a row along a sidewalk or driveway, they will look like soldiers standing guard.
- The bottom of the bulb should be 3 times the diameter of the of the bulb; so tulips, daffodils and hyacinths go 8" deep; and crocus, grape hyacinth and Siberian squill go 4" deep.
- Spray the bulbs with a repellent like Bonide Repels All, Plantskydd or Natura.
- Cover the bulbs with soil and then sprinkle the fertilizer over the top of the planting hole. Fertilizer under the bulb can cause them to rot.
- WATER weekly until the ground freezes solidly.
3. Rejunvenate the lawn. Fertilize, core aerate and water. The lawn uses fertilizer more completely at this time of year than any other time of year.
- If you did not fertilize on Labor Day, do it now. If you made the Labor Day application then make another one Halloween weekend for the winter.
- (Any seed applied this late will act as a dormant seeding and will start growing when conditions warm in early Spring.)
- Rake fallen leaves until all are gone for the season. Do not allow them to remain on the surface of the lawn or it will die.
- Water until the ground freezes solidly.