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Fall: Time to tidy up, tuck plants in for winter and plan for next year

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Finally! Fall is here. I don't think I can recall a year that I have been more ready for fall to come than this year. More than anything, I think I'm optimistic that with the fall season, rain will come too.

With the change of season, now is the time to do some tidying up around the home, tuck things in for winter, and yes, start making plans for the next growing season.

This fall, don't forget to dig your summer flowering bulbs and store those that will not survive Kansas winters. Bulbs such as gladiolus, caladium, dahlia, tuberous begonia, calla lily and canna lily need to be dug and stored so they can be planted next year.

All of these plants should be dug after frost has browned the foliage. Then they should be allowed to dry for about a week in a shady, well-ventilated site such as a garage or tool shed. Any excess soil should be removed. The bulbs should be packed away in peat moss or perlite. When packing, make sure the bulbs don't touch each other. That way if one decays, the rot won't spread onto neighboring bulbs. Dusting the bulbs with fungicide before storing will help prevent them from rotting.

Caladium should be stored between 50 and 60 degrees F. The rest of the bulbs mentioned should be stored near 40 degrees. Finding a good storage spot may be tricky. A basement wall away from a furnace is often a good location.

As for the other type of bulbs (spring flowering), now is the time to establish them into the landscape. It is also time to fertilize spring-flowering bulbs.

If you have an established bulb bed and it has been fertilized in the past, there is probably plenty of phosphorus and potassium present in the soil to grow the plants next spring. If you're not sure, take a soil test. A complete fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or 9-9-6 at the rate of 2.5 pounds per 100 square feet should be used if the soil needs phosphorus and potassium. This would also equal 1 rounded teaspoon per square foot.

Blood meal makes an excellent fertilizer if phosphorus and potassium are not needed. It should be applied at the rate of 2 pounds per 100 square feet or 1 teaspoon per square foot.

While you're out and about in your yard this fall fertilizing bulbs, you may want to take the time to clean up the iris beds as well. Iris are known for a couple of very common problems: a fungus known as iris leaf spot and an insect named iris borer.

Though both cause problems in the spring, now is the time to start control measures. Both the fungus and eggs of the borer overwinter on old, dead leaves. Removing iris leaves and other landscape debris from the iris bed this fall will significantly reduce problems next spring.

On a side not away from flowers, October is a good time to plant garlic if you want large cloves next summer. The soil should be fertilized before planting with three pounds of a 10-10-10 fertilizer, per 100 square feet, and mixed into the soil. Cloves should be planted point up and spaced three inches apart and one to two inches deep. The larger the clove planted, the larger the bulb for harvesting next summer. Once planted, water in well and mulch with straw to conserve soil warmth and encourage good establishment. The garlic will be ready for harvest next summer when most of the foliage has browned.

Editor's Note: Krista Harding is a K-State Research and Extension agriculture agent assigned to the Southwind District. She may be reached at 620-244-3826 or kharding@ksu.edu.

Krista Harding
Agriculture Agent, Southwind Extension District
Editor's Note: Krista Harding is a K-State Research and Extension agriculture and 4-H extension agent assigned to Southwind Extension District -- Erie Office, Neosho County. She may be reached at the Fort Scott office by calling (620) 223-3720 or at the Erie office by calling (620) 244-3826.