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Mon, Sept. 23

Column: Fall feeding is the most important of the year

As I mentioned in last week's column, we should feed our yards with Fertilome's Winterizer sometime before Thanksgiving. This is the most important feeding of the year and it couldn't be simpler because this one granular food is all that's needed between now and next spring. Except for the lawn, I feed everything in my yard at this time. Trees, perennial flowerbeds, annual beds, raised beds, and all shrubs, including roses, all get fed. Each fall this one food will feed it all.

Plants are like bears getting ready for their winter hibernation. They store up food in their root structures like bears store up fat for sustenance. Plants use this food to create next spring's flower and leaf buds. In addition, this feeding is especially important for conifers to fend off piñon pine scale and bark beetle damage.

I highly encourage feeding those native trees that accent our yards. Of course, we can't afford to feed the entire forest, but we should provide that little something extra to those natives that add dramatic highlights to our landscapes. Keep these trees healthy and they can fend off insects and disease much better than if we did nothing for them. Also, this feeding will enhance their colors, causing alligator junipers and spruce to look bluer and to bring pines to their glossiest green. Even native wildflowers that grow under these majestic trees will benefit from a touch of Winterizer and bloom better next spring.

To perpetuate my philosophy that gardening should be easy as possible, I do not work Winterizer into the soil. Unlike some of my customers, I simply take my handheld spreader and walk around the yard spreading this food as evenly as possible. If some of the granules fall on the leaves of my pansies or evergreens, I just hose them off when I finish the application. Sometime within the next few weeks, we will have rain or the irrigation will run and those Winterizer nutrients will be released into the landscape. My plants will be very happy.

Since we mentioned irrigation, let's touch on water schedules. Don't change anything until November when we will have our first freeze. Until then, plants will continue to benefit from regular moisture. In November, we should change irrigation clocks for trees and shrubs to come on every two weeks sometime between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. For irrigation systems that are connected to the hose bib or are at risk of freezing, turn them on manually and follow the same timing pattern. For more detailed watering instructions on lawns, perennials and flowerbeds, I would encourage a visit to the garden center. We're glad to help customers get their water schedules right.

Fall can be a difficult time for my friends from Phoenix and California who are not used to a four-season climate. These folks are accustomed to neat and tidy landscapes with nothing out of place. However, fall is a time of change and things can be messy with fallen leaves. Enjoy the moment and let the leaves fall where they may. Leave them on the lawn; let them gather on the rocks. There's a sense of feng shui generated by leaving these autumnal jewels to rest where they fall. On most varieties of trees, leaves have completely dropped within just a few weeks. Pick them up after all have fallen.

There is a Yavapai classic that is a must-see in fall. I've grown this specimen for its shade in summer and for its bark that shines through winter; but I grow it primarily because it sports the best reds of the fall season. I am describing an autumn blaze maple. There are dozens of varieties of maple but this one is my favorite.

Autumn blaze is the fastest growing variety of red maple. Its ultimate height makes it a perfect shade tree to sit under during hot summer days, but not so large that it towers over the entire yard. Only give this maple a modest water schedule; in fact, if you kill this variety of maple

it probably will be from over-watering in our clay soils. With its attractive seasonal changes and leaves that don't tear in our mountain winds, the autumn blaze maple should be a staple in our landscapes. It's easy to nurture, a fast grower, and has beautiful fall colors. It just seems to call out: "Plant me!"

October is a busy month in the high mountain garden. Contrary to other parts of the country, here we can plant year round. This is the time to plant evergreen and deciduous trees, shrubs, bulbs, and winter-blooming flowers like pansies, violas and mums.

If you want to hear more about local gardening, tune in to my weekly radio show, "Gardening in Granite," every Saturday from 7 to 8 a.m. at KYCA 1490AM. It's an hour of entertaining and enlightening on-air gardening.

Until next week, I'll see you at the garden center.

***

This is a gardening column, but occasionally I like to mention other good things in my life besides gardening. So in this week's article I want to tell you that I am privileged to serve as a member of the Prevent Child Abuse organization and of Frontier Rotary in Prescott. I was a dedicated supporter of last weekend's corporate challenge golf tournament, which thanks to these two organizations raised over $15,000 for our community. I am proud to work with organizations that care so much for our children. Congratulations to the team from Compass Bank for taking this year's traveling trophy and to the Arizona Cardinals, who came in second. Thanks to everyone who supported this event and contributed to a fun time on the course. Guess we could call this activity a type of "gardening" ... sowing seeds for the good of our fellow man.

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