You can tell it's autumn when David Ruf wears long pants to deliver his "guide to garden success" Saturdays at the Garden Greenhouse on Curry Street. He also skips his cowboy hat and the usual wake-up soda pop.
Recently he took time from his chores running the Greenhouse to wise up Carson gardeners and pool owners on getting ready for fall and tending to ponds in winter. He made his points in typical bullet-like fashion, with appropriate asides:
• At least six times a year in Northern Nevada. Now is the best time to fertilize, the winds have died down and the stuff stays where you put it.
• Best is a 9-10-11 like Turf Service. Sulfur is important.
• Humic acid is good for the lawn. As weather cools down, artificial fertilizer works better but organic slows down.
• Regular lawn fertilizer is OK for now. With our low humidity fertilizer can be applied on dry grass without burning.
Then there's that automatic watering system. It has done its job all summer; now is the time to close it down before it freezes and ruptures.
• First you'll need a key. It's a long metal bar with a slot on the bottom and handles on top. Longer is better, no fun stooping down to see if the slot has hit the hole. Find the sprinkler system water valve (not the house water inlet) and fit the key to the valve. Turn it 90 degrees and you hear a sort of "hiss."
• Leave the automatic watering clock on all winter.
• Open the inlet valve with a screwdriver. Water will escape and the system will drain.
• It's time to make sure you did all of the above when the temperature dips to 20 degrees. That's when the ground gets cold enough and the air icy enough to burst the main inlet valve, which is above ground. Water left in this valve may freeze and rupture the valve. Replace cost: about $80.
• You can protect this above-ground valve with a hollow fake rock, which offers about 5 degrees of protection.
For plants and shrubs:
• Plants in Northern Nevada love acid. Apply the appropriate fertilizer.
• Fall is the best time to get sulfur into the soil. Plants need sulfur. And now is also the time to apply weed killer.
• If you're going to reseed the lawn, do it now.
• For a bare patch, apply something like Dog Patch. It works for bare spots no matter the cause. Rake the soil and water. Often.
• To keep things going nicely, an anticoagulant keeps lawns from clogging up, just like hearts. Anticoagulants keep the soil open so water can penetrate.
• Again, fall is the time to apply pre-emergent weed killer, not in the spring when it's too late.
• Good time to apply crab grass preventer; wait until spring and crab grass gets an early start on you.
• Trees get thirsty in winter too. If there's not been snow or rain for a month they'll need a drink. And remember their roots spread widely so don't just water at the trunk. Once a month - widely - in winter is fine.
• Then there's those other critters, voles or the meadow mouse. You'll see their signs, small tunnels in the lawn. These critters eat about an inch off tree and shrub trunks and kill them. Answer is called Maki. Apply as directed on bottle.
• Dr. Earth does a good job of keeping rabbits away. But almost all critters become comfortable with anything designed to keep them away, so change repellents now and then.
What about outdoor statues? Sealers will protect them, either glossy or matte. Bird bathes can use a cover.
For ponds, stop feeding when the temperature hits 55 degrees. Use a pH kit to keep the pond water in tune. About 1 percent salt is fine, but if the fish seem sickly gradually increase the salt level. Maximum should be about 10 percent.
• Removing fish such as koi from ponds is stressful for the fish. If you're going to do so, use a fine-mesh lifter to remove them. Fish don't get tangled up then.
• Get rid of sludge and bio-waste in the water. Suck it out or dredge it.
• If trees are nearby and within leaf-dropping range, use a net over the pond. Oak and maple leaves are particularly bad for the fish.
• Keep the water pump running all winter.
• Use a Thermopond type deicer; fish need oxygen and a layer of ice blocks oxygen.
• Never drain the pond, except for structural problems. Use a sludge remover to clean up the bottom then.
And enjoy the cooler weather while you're at it.
n Contact Sam Bauman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1236.