Homegrown: Late-fall fertilizing

You suggested that we fertilize in the late fall with a double batch of your fertilizer. I did that and my lawn has never looked better. I get tired of mowing it. Do you still suggest that I double the fertilizer before the ditch water goes off?

— Dennis

Absolutely. This is something I do every fall in my yard and I really like how the lawn looks.

I’ve never been one of those people who really pride themselves on a perfect lawn. Heck, if the thing is green (mostly) and the dandelions aren’t that numerous then it’s OK!

But I’ve gotten compliments from the neighbors on how good the lawn looks. I never did before.

Wait as late in the season as you can before fertilizing then give it a good deep soaking in before you lose the irrigation water. Then, wait for spring.

We have a seating area that is only about 12-feet wide by 24-feet long. We also have a Koi pond next to the wide area.

I am looking for a small tree, small enough that the roots will not grow into the pond, but big enough to shade some of the area.

I cover the pond with netting as soon as the trees start to drop their leaves, so I am not too worried about that.

Can you give me any ideas that may be good for that spot, something that is about 10–12 wide and not over 15–20 feet tall?

I have been looking all over.

— Jean

If the tree really, really, really can’t get wider than 12 feet at maturity, your choices are limited. There aren’t a lot of plants that are treelike and fit that size range.

Snow Fountains Cherry is a very nice tree that would fit into that area, but it’s really an ornamental specimen, not something we look to get any shade from.

You might consider a variety of Saucer Magnolia such as Galaxy, Leonard Messel, Randy or Merrill. They will probably get a bit bigger than what you’re looking for, but they grow awfully slowly so it would be decades before that would become an issue.

I also think Magnolia are happiest with some shade in the afternoon around here.

Another good choice is a tree form Rose of Sharon. Not too sure it would reach 12 feet (probably 8–10 feet) but it makes a lovely little specimen and has gorgeous flowers from mid-summer into fall.

Another possibility is a tree form Hydrangea. Again, it would be smaller like the Rose of Sharon, but is beautiful in bloom through the summer.

Now, if we can get a bit bigger than 12 feet then our choices start to increase. The thing to remember about the size of plants is that they’re not like us. They will grow some every year until they die.

They don’t grow up to one size, then stop. So, when we talk about the size of a tree, we also have to consider the time frame. There are a lovely group of smaller ornamental trees that would get wider than what you want (say 18–22 feet). Just keep in mind that it will take 15 or 20 years for them to get to that size.

If this works for you then you could consider trees such as Flowering Crabapple (don’t dismiss them—we have newer varieties that are much cleaner than the old ones), Hawthorn, Flowering Pear, Purple Leaf Plum, European Bird Cherry, Horsechestnut, Tatarian Maple, Dwarf Umbrella Catalpa, Mountain Ash and Redbud.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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