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Don't neglect fall landscaping needs
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippians put tremendous effort into their landscapes during the spring and summer, but fall is also a good time to give yards special attention.
Typical summer chores most gardeners think about are pruning, planting, fertilizing and watering. These activities should continue into late August and September.
Norman Winter, horticulture specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said shaping plants with trimmers or shears one last time before winter is a good idea, but avoid major pruning.
"Extensive pruning could generate too much succulent growth and an early freeze could then damage the plant," he said. "It is better to do major pruning just before spring while the plants are still dormant. On the other hand, pruning roses by 25 to 30 percent now will give an October bloom your neighbors will envy."
Summer blooming trees like crape myrtles and vitex respond well to a deadhead-type pruning. Removing spent flowers and seed heads often generates new growth and another round of blossoms.
"Many of our copper plants and coleuses have become leggy," Winter said. "Pinching or pruning will encourage them to send out new growth. That will give them a bushier, more attractive appearance in the landscape."
The specialist encouraged gardeners to cut back lantanas, salvias and verbenas to encourage growth and blossoms until frost.
Despite the warm temperatures, now is an ideal time to plant many flowers. It is not too late to enjoy one more round of summer annuals, such as marigolds and zinnias, before planting cool season plants like pansies, violas, kale, cabbage and snapdragons for winter.
Winter recommended sowing wildflower seeds, such as larkspur, purple coneflower, black-eyed Susan and liatris, now for next year's bloom. They will germinate this fall and bloom next spring. For colors later this fall, he suggested purchasing in mid- to late-September chrysanthemums that are in tight bud.
"Watch garden centers for good buys in August and September on trees and shrubs. They can be planted now with a high degree of success," Winter said. "By planting now, the plants will have time to establish their root systems before next summer's intense heat."
The fall is when perennials such as irises, daylilies, amaryllises, shasta daisies and purple coneflowers should be dug and divided. Winter said the general rule of thumb is to divide plants in the season opposite their bloom.
"Dividing serves at least two purposes: it will provide you with more plants to enjoy and it will increase the plants' blooming ability," Winter said.
"Fertilizing is one of those practices that gardeners and horticulturists like to debate, but if you haven't fed your lawn in several months, an application of winterizer fertilizer will get your lawn healthy for the coming months," he said. "These fertilizers are usually higher in potassium and will increase winter hardiness."