Fall is for Planting

Early fall, from early September through late October, is a great time to put plants in the garden. The shorter days and cooler air temperatures reduce the demand for water and keep plants from producing an abundance of new leaves, while the still-warm soil promotes root growth. Thus plants have plenty of time to build a healthy root system and get established before the onset of winter.

Late August through mid-September is also an ideal time to divide and replant those perennials that have become overgrown. Irises, Hostas, Daylilies, Coreopsis, Black-eyed Susan, summer Phlox, and Astilbe are just some of the perennials that can be divided at this time.

Crape Myrtles on Long Island — not just for the South

Crape Myrtles are not just for the South

Crape MyrtleLooking for a small tree or shrub that blooms for over two months in late summer, has leaves which turn a beautiful fall color, and in winter displays a most handsome, peeling bark?  Then perhaps Crape Myrtle, long a mainstay of Southern gardens, is the answer.  In the last 15 years many new varieties have been bred to withstand our Long Island winters.

Tree-form varieties will mature to a height of 15 to 20 feet, while shrub-form varieties can be as small as 1 to 2 feet tall.  Flower colors range from white to lavender, soft pink to a vibrant hot pink and red.Crape Myrtle bark

The winter appeal of Crape Myrtle with its rich cinnamon-colored  peeling bark and graceful branch architecture

Reinvigorating Your Summer Flowers

Now that it’s August, your summer flowers may require a little additional care to keep them attractive and blooming all summer long. Following the guidelines below will ensure a continuous flower display.


Some annuals require a little grooming now and then in order to look and perform their best. Grooming includes removing spent flowers before they begin to form seeds, called ‘Dead-heading’.

Annuals that benefit most from deadheading — which promotes continuous flower production— are Dahlias, Zinnias, Snapdragons, Salvias, Geraniums, and larger-flowering Marigolds.

Pruning off leggy and overly-long branches of many plants promotes renewed flowering and plant compactness. Don’t worry about removing too much; even a severe haircut will become unnoticeable after a week or so.

Petunias, Verbenas, Scaevola, Calibrachoa, Bidens and Ivy Geraniums benefit from this, as do trailing foliage plants.


Watering during hot, dry months is critical, especially for plants in containers. Do not let your plants dry out! Excessive dryness causes leaves to become stunted and yellow, and reduces flower production. When you water your pots, wet the soil thoroughly until water runs out the drainage holes at the bottom. Repeat until thoroughly soaked. Check pots daily, as high summer temperatures and windy days will dry out your containers more quickly.

Summer and Fall Gardening Tips

August 1st: Last day for heavy summer pruning of rhododendrons, azaleas, forsythia and other spring-flowering shrubs. Also time to reapply slow-release dry fertilizer to your pots of annuals.

August 15th through September 15th: Time to divide and replant overgrown clumps of perennials.

August 15th through October 1st: Ideal time for re-seeding an old lawn or seeding a new lawn.

September 1st: Last day for trimming of hedges

October 1st through Thanksgiving: Time to plant spring bulbs.

November 15th through December 1st: Time to apply your last lawn fertilization.

November 15th through December 1st: Time to remulch perennial beds.

Spring Gardening Tips

March: Best time to do heavy pruning of trees and shrubs.

Late March: Time to plant pansies. Also good time for first lawn fertilization of the season.

Early April: Time to prune roses.

April: Ideal time to divide and move perennials, and to remulch beds.

Mother’s Day: Generally, last date for killing frost. Time to begin planting summer flowers and to turn on irrigation system.

June 1st: Safe to put cold-sensitive tropical plants outside. Introduce them only gradually to full sun.

Late June: Time to remove pansies and other cool-weather annuals and replace with summer flowers.

Spring Bulbs: Save or Remove?

Spring-flowering bulbs are loosely categorized into two groups in our climate: those that come back reliably every year, and those that don’t.

Daffodils, Narcissus, and most hardy woodland bulbs usually return year after year, as long as their leaves are allowed to turn brown after flowering before being cleaned up.

Tulips and Hyacinths, however, don’t stay green long enough to consistently produce flowers for the following season. Two or three seasons of brilliance is all you can expect, so it’s a good idea to remove them, bulb and all, right after the second year of flowering, while you can still find them. You can then plant new ones in the fall.

Spring and Summer Gardening Tips


March: Time to prune roses and deciduous shrubs before they fully leaf out. Mulch beds if not already done in fall. Cut some dormant Forsythia branches and bring them inside for some early color.

April: Ideal time to divide and move perennials and to plant pansies and Osteospermum

Mid-April through May: Time to re-seed a thin lawn.

Mother’s Day: Generally, last date for killing frost. Time to begin planting summer flowers. Turn irrigation system on for regular watering.

June 1st: Safe to put cold-sensitive tropical plants and Caladiums outside. Introduce those that have been in your house gradually to full sun so the leaves don’t sunburn.

Late June: Time to remove pansies and other cool-weather annuals and replace with summer flowers.

Early to mid July: Give your flower pots their first tune-up — trim back long, trailing foliage, dead-head Geraniums. Add more slow-release fertilizer and then give everything a good, thorough drenching with liquid fertilizer. Repeat one month later. Time to give shrubs and trees their first summer pruning.

Mulching – Be Careful What You Cover

Mulching—Be Careful What You Cover

Annuals can be severely injured when fresh mulch is applied too soon

The benefits of mulching are well-known. Applying mulch in late fall (mid November through December) or early spring (March) will help your plant beds immensely. However, mulching newly-planted annuals can prove fatal.

In a nutshell, please don’t mulch your annuals. Extreme injury can occur when annuals have been mulched soon after planting. Fresh mulch can be extremely toxic to young plants. It can build up toxic gases (the sour smell you might notice) and trap moisture against the stems, leading to stem rot; steal fertilizer from the soil, and even burn the plants (fresh mulch can be hot to the touch when first used).

Your best defense against weeds is to keep your flowers growing rapidly when they are young.

Do a little additional hand watering daily in the driest spots so their tiny roots don’t dry out. Remember, annuals are basically tropical weeds, and they already have a head start on other weeds in the bed. Maintain that head start by keeping them growing!