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Friday, 16 September 2016 23:41

Fall Equinox: What it Means for Our Gardens Featured

Fall Equinox is September 22. Autumn months better for planting than spring. Best autumn grasses.

Watters Weekly Garden Classes

Sept 17 – Western Natives & the Water-wise Landscape. Native plants are unique, hardy and some so unusual gardeners will marvel at how to use them. It all comes down to companion planting. We cover native trees, native shrubs, native flowers and native vines that all adapt so well they need no care after establishment. Students will be a native pro after this class. We stock up on extra natives before this class. Join the water-wise fun.

Sept 24 – Mountain Appealing Shrubs – Shrubs are the backbone of a good design. They provide essential structure, beauty, fragrance and color with a great variety of shapes. Rock landscapes without shrubs tend to look strange, immature and lacking. Learn how to use shrubs to create simple but effective planting combinations for a design impact that will WOW all four seasons of the year. Free to gardeners that want more from their yard.


Oct 1 – Container Designs – Easy as 1-2-3. The fall plants have arrived, and this is the month to transition from summer blooming flowers to winter hardy pansy, viola, mums, kale, dusty miller and more. Expect inspirational color from your container gardens right through the holiday season to come. Students learn the best soils, foods and flowers that keep on blooming. Bring your empty containers and experts will be on hand after the class to help personalize your style. All Free:)

Oct 8 – Trees – Choosing, Using & Planting Techniques. Privacy, shade, color, evergreen and blooms. We cover trees from every angle, especially small gardens, including trees for country gardens and trees for difficult sites. Trees for blossom, bark, fruit and colorful autumn foliage. With so many choices picking the perfect tree can be overwhelming, but not after this class. Our entire horticultural team will be on-hand after the class to help with individual tree situations. Free tree planting guide to students after this class.

Oct 15 – Keeping Critters Out. The animals can have a ferocious appetite in the landscape, but not in your landscape. These simple steps will keep critters at bay. We will take special care to show only plants the furry locals are know to dislike, some may even have a repelling presence to them.

Oct 22 – Autumn Colors Enjoyed at Home Landscapes in autumn can be stunning, but only if you plan for them. This easy care advice will bring the silver and blues out of the evergreens, brilliant bright foliage and crazy colored flowers. Make this the brightest fall of all. Plant experts will abound after the class to show off new plant introductions along with local favorites.

Oct 29 – Fall 'To-do' list for a Healthy Yard Get the most out of your landscape this fall with this easy to use checklist of fall care. Bring the color out of the fall gardens, reduce bugs next spring, or simply put you landscape to bed for fall with these easy to use ideas. You will have a better landscape next spring if you do.

Fall freshness in the air is a welcome change from the long days of summer and torrential monsoon rains. The gardener within each of us can sense there is a difference in the air, now that fall has arrived. The Fall Equinox arrives this week at 7:21a.m. on Thursday. This is the precise time when our day and night are equal in length. From this time on Thursday, our days become shorter until we reach the shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice. The exact arrival of the Fall Equinox changes by areas around the globe. To see the exact date the Equinox arrives in gardens other than the Prescott area, CLICK HERE.

I am one of those guys who embraces cooler temperatures, autumn light, dropping leaves, and the musky, earthy smells that are synonymous with fall. However, it’s interesting that folks who recently relocated to the area from the sub-tropical climates of southern California and low-lying deserts can be shocked by this seasonal transition. They truly are surprised to witness a seasonal change from the glories of summer to fall’s majesty. Once Labor Day passes, gardeners new to the area initially find the transition discouraging. As their heat-loving plants fade, novice mountain gardeners say goodbye to the flowers they have nurtured since spring, and think it’s all over until winter passes. Actually, the pre-winter weeks in the central highlands are so mild that we easily lengthen the gardening season well into fall, and mountain gardens flourish another three months before succumbing to winter’s cold.


Many mountain plants peak, and look their best once the hot weather subsides. Some of the best-looking plants that show off through the end of the year are available now at the garden center. Late-blooming perennials provide fall flowers, while the plumes of ornamental grasses sway in cooling autumn breezes. Fruits, berries, and grapes love our autumn temperatures, many attracting the wild birds that migrate through this area.

Now through Thanksgiving we local gardeners bring cold weather accents into our gardens with late-blooming Autumn Sage in pots and raised beds. This hardy plant is just now bringing on its best show. Also, keep in mind the colors of blooming asters and hardy mums. Tall perennials “doing their thing” right now are echinacea, coreopsis, foxglove, snapdragon, and the showiest of all . . . the butterfly bush.

Autumn’s pluming heads of ornamental grasses can add textural interest and an unstuffy, modern sophistication to mountain landscapes. When it comes to ornamental grasses it’s hard to overlook the dramatic beauty of a six-foot ‘Ivory Feathers’ pampas grass. I gravitate toward the plumes of the Carex varieties, little bluestems, grama, blue lymes, and the Calamagrostis grasses.

As fall is actually the better time to get perennials into the ground it also is the best time to shop for them. Increased gardening success is a bonus of autumn plantings, so garden centers offer extensive selections of perennials.

Fall feeding is the most important of the year, and always on our list of October gardening tasks. However, because this year’s heavy summer rains have flushed many of the nutrients out of local soils, an earlier fall feeding is in order. It will enhance our autumn gardens while supplementing our plants’ health? Without this early feeding, red maple leaves will turn burnt orange, yellow aspen foliage will go directly to brown, and sycamores will have no fall show at all.

The best food for local plants is my “All Purpose Plant Food” 7-4-4. Sprinkle the granules around trees and shrubs and the rains will work this food into the ground for us. This special blend goes right through rock mulches, weed fabrics, and is much safer for pets and birds than manmade synthetic foods.

Plant of the week - The Dwarf Burning Bush is a neat, well-balanced shrub prized for its autumn-long, blazing red foliage. It is just now going into its fall show across our neighborhood landscapes and here at the garden center. The brilliantly colored leaves make an impressive accent when planted among the autumn gold natives of sumac, lilac, and gold euonymus. Growing to six feet tall, this bush can be planted as a natural hedge that turns an intense, burning red every fall. It is sensational as a wild garden accent where more interest and color are needed.

Garden Alert – Weeds have taken over landscapes. Some are growing right through the landscape fabric in rock lawns! Glyphosate products, like ‘Roundup’, lose their effectiveness as the nights cool, so savvy gardeners change weed-killing tactics and use 'Weed Beater Ultra'. It is a weed killing technology that even works on dandelions and other weeds growing in mid-winter. Not only will weeds completely die, they completely die faster! A tank of Weed Beater Ultra per week, keeps autumn weeds at bay.

Free Gardening Class - The first autumn gardening class will be next Saturday, September 24th, at 9:30 a.m. in Watters’ back greenhouse. The topic is the “The Best Colored Shrubs of Fall”. The class on October 1st will be “Container Designs that Shine through the New Year”. If you can't make it to the garden center, watch classes live at 9:30 on Saturdays at Watters Facebook Page.

Until next issue, I'll see you at Watters Garden Center.

Ken & Lisa Lain (owners) can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through their website at or .
Last modified on Saturday, 17 September 2016 06:46
Ken Lain

Ken Lain the Mountain Gardener, is attracted to sunshine, beauty, happiness, success and health through gardening, and wishes to point the way to others. Throughout the week Ken can be found at Watters Garden Center located at 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd, Prescott, or contacted through his web site at
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Prescott, Arizona