Home lawns have come alive again as their fall pattern of increased growth has returned. Gardeners need to mow more frequently for the next few weeks to keep up and follow the 1/3 rule of not removing more than 1/3 of the grass blade at any one mowing. A sharp mower blade will also keep the lawn looking better as well. If the lawn has been mowed while it was wet, take a few minutes and clear the underside of the mower deck so the blade and deck can me more efficient in cutting the grass blades into smaller portions before the grass blades leave the mower deck. Smaller pieces will sift into the lawn and not say on top and those smaller pieces will break down sooner, returning valuable resources to the lawn for continued growth.
Gardeners can find a wide selection of spring bulbs for planting right now. The earlier the bulb goes into the ground the longer it will have to establish before cold soil temperatures arrive. Even if you end up planting spring bulbs with your parka on, the bulbs will still show up and bloom next spring. Bulbs will be planted based on their diameter, bigger bulbs deeper, smaller bulbs much closer to the surface. A general rule of thumb gardeners follow is 2-3 times as deep as the bulbs diameter, unless there are planting instructions stating otherwise.
I have talked about care for summer bulbs earlier and now the weather is changing enough that as a reminder, summer bulbs will need to be dug, allowed to dry down and stored indoors at temperatures above freezing. Store them where you can give them a bit of water sometime after January to be sure they do not dry out before you get them back in your garden beds. Gardeners should plan on getting them dug up before the foliage freezes and collapses, not because this is harmful, but it is a lot easier to deal with the top before they are a mushy mess! Since they are a summer bulb, they will just keep growing until the freezing temperature kills the above ground portion. At that point the below ground parts are fine, leave them in the ground overwinter and they too will be mush come next spring.
Gardeners will continue to enjoy those vegetable plants that enjoy cooler temperatures over the next few weeks, well into October. Swiss chard is a good example of a vegetable that will be with us and should continue to be harvested and enjoyed at dinnertime. Root crops such as carrots and parsnips will get a bit sweeter if left in the ground to receive some cold weather. Both Irish and Sweet potatoes should be dug before the cold takes out the tops. Gardeners growing fall cabbage should continue to scout for the cabbageworms and be prepared to harvest the mature heads if head splitting to be avoided.
About the author: Richard Hentschel’s expertise extends across several subject areas with specialties in lawn care, fruit tree production, woody ornamentals, and home and community gardening. During his 45-year career in horticulture and agriculture, Hentschel became a well-known and respected expert for commercial and homeowner audiences, industry organizations, and media. He retired from University of Illinois Extension in April 2022 with nearly 30 years of service as a Horticulture Specialist and Educator in northern Illinois.