Fall is a great time to work in your yard and get it ready for winter. And the cooler weather makes it less of a chore.

Let's start with weeds.

Pull or kill weeds in your flower beds and vegetable gardens. Then apply a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch, such as pine straw, leaves, straw or bark to help protect the roots of citrus trees and shallow-rooted trees and shrubs such as camellias from cold snaps in the coming months leading up to winter.

Weeds may also be attacking your lawn. Virginia buttonweed and common lespedeza are major problems this time of year. Control them with herbicides that contain the active ingredient metsulfuron, such as MSM Turf or Celsius if the temperatures are above 85. As the weather cools you can begin using herbicides with the active ingredient atrazine in combination with 2, 4-D + mecoprop + dicamba + carfentrazone for the best results. Follow the product label for rates, and use a spreader sticker to improve coverage.

Once weeds have flowered, they are more difficult to control. You may need to apply herbicides more than once to control them. 

Stop applying nitrogen-containing fertilizers to your lawn as it could promote fungal diseases, such as large patch and grey leaf spot. Fungal diseases appear as large circles in the grass that begin to yellow and then turn brown as the grass dies.

Control these fungal diseases with a granular fungicide containing one or more of the following ingredients: maneb, myclobutanil, PCNB, propiconazole, thiophanate-methyl and triadimefon. Be sure to follow label instructions.

Be careful not to confuse fungal disease with damage from insects such as sod webworms, armyworms or chinch bugs, which also can be a major problem this time of year. Sod webworms, detected by moths in the grass and chewed blades of grass, have been a big problem this year. Use an insecticide with the active ingredient bifenthrin for control. Treat again in seven days to take care of newly hatched eggs.

This is also a good time to address other insect problems such as scales. Use a horticultural oil spray to help control scale on camellias, magnolias, gardenias and citrus. This will also help control whiteflies.

If you want to add plants to your landscape, now is a great time to do so as the weather cools and water demands decrease. 

However, because October is traditionally the driest month of the year here, make sure plants, trees and shrubs are getting enough water so that they don't become stressed and more susceptible to disease and insects.

The most common flowers of fall are chrysanthemums, which come in lots of gorgeous fall colors.

Now is also a good time to put strawberry plants in the ground. Some recommended varieties are Sea Scape, Camarosa, Eversweet and Chandler. Fertilize them with one-third pound of 10-10-10 per 100 feet of row.

In the vegetable garden, plant cool-season vegetables such as leafy greens in addition to broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. Control caterpillars on your cool-season vegetables with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) insecticide, which is organic safe for use in vegetable gardens.

Select trees with foliage that changes color in the fall for added beauty. Consider bald cypress, black gum, Chinese pistache, dogwood, hickory, Japanese maple, oaks of many kinds, red swamp maple, southern sugar maple, sweet gum and sycamores.

Of course, fall is also a great time to decorate with pumpkins. There are many varieties in many colors these days. Make your pumpkins last longer by wiping them down with a 10% bleach solution to kill any fungus or bacteria.

Once carved, you can dip your jack-o'-lantern into a bucket of 10% bleach solution again. After cleaning, apply Vaseline, vegetable oil or WD-40 for moisture retention, which will help them last longer. For safety, use battery-operated candles in your jack-o'-lantern.


Email questions to gardennews@agcenter.lsu.edu.