Now that the shorter, cooler days of fall have arrived, the garden will begin to shut down and many plants will go into hibernation for the winter months.
Gardeners should be in the yard doing a few chores before winter arrives. The garden will look clean and tidy throughout the cold snap, and there will be less to do when the brisk days of spring begin. A garden should be put to rest when frost enters the forecast and temperatures consistently drop into the low 40s.
Adding to the Earth
This is the ideal time to look around the garden and decide which plants were not thriving in a particular spot and move them. If a plant did not mature well this year, chances are it won't grow next season either. Experiment with the placement of struggling plants and eventually it will land in a spot where the conditions best suit the plant. It also is wise to divide and replant overcrowded clumps of tough-rooted species such as hostas and hardy geraniums.
Gardeners should be planting flowering summer bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, hyacinth and crocus. The bulbs will add some of the first splashes of color in the spring. If the yard appears barren and lacks autumn colors, don't forget to place some mums, asters, sedums and hydrandeas into the landscape. These perennials will be showstoppers again next fall when the yard is craving some flowering colors.
Bare spots should be addressed in the lawn by walking around the yard (possibly in spiked shoes to help aerate) and sprinkling grass seed on brown patches. A home owner should be watering liberally before the ground freezes because the extreme winter conditions can leave plants dried out, especially evergreens and rhododendrons.
Cleaning up and throwing out
Start cleaning the garden by removing all weeds and spent annuals. It is important to weed in the fall so seeds do not have a chance to germinate and spread in the winter. By doing a thorough job in the autumn, the task of weeding will not be as daunting in the spring. Diseased leaves should be snipped off trees and shrubs this time of year. Do not prune because that may stimulate new growth just as the harsh winter is about to set in.
A way to enjoy the fruits of the garden all year is to cut back planted herbs, such as chives, sage, oregano and tarragon, then tie the stems together and hang upside down to dry. This winter when a stew is brewing in the crockpot there will be plenty of herbs to season it with. Now is the time to take down spent vines. Make sure many of the seeds fall to the ground. This will increase the chances that a plethora of volunteer plants will germinate and grow in the same area in the spring.
Autumn is the time to cut back perennials such as peonies, lilies and phlox. Be selective about which perennials to cut because some of them look nice and add a lovely texture to the winter landscape, such as sedums and ornamental grasses.
This is the time to start a compost bin with all of the leaves falling onto the lawn. Be diligent about not allowing any diseased leaves or plants into the bin as well as debris infested with pests. If a gardener starts a compost bin now, they should have fertile, nutrient rich compost to throw onto budding plants.
Storing and preservation
Tender bulbs such as cannas, elephant ear, caladiums, dahlias and gladiolas need to be removed from pots or the ground, dried in the sun and then stored in a cool dry place such as the basement or garage. Place them in a paper bag to help aid in absorbing moisture. These bulbs should overwinter and be ready to be replanted in the spring.
Garden hoses should be disconnected, drained and stored away for the winter in a dry place. Lawn furniture, umbrellas, hammocks, grills and cushions should all be stowed away for the season. Terra cotta, ceramic and clay pots, which do not hold up well in the harsh winter, should be stored where they can be protected.
|¢ Replace spent annuals¢ Prepare soil for autumn planting¢ Plant spring bulbs¢ Dig and store tender bulbs¢ Rake and remove fallen leaves¢ Cut back spent perennials/biennials¢ Remove annuals damaged by frost¢ Harvest herb stems and roots¢ Cease cutting roses and flowers¢ Fertilize plants as needed¢ Sow seeds for succession planting¢ Plant peonies, poppies and irises¢ Add winter mulch, if needed¢ Prepare bulbs for forcing and chill¢ Repair garden accessories¢ Clean, sharpen and oil lawn and garden tools¢ Divide and transplants perennials and ground covers¢ Apply dormant fertilizer to trees, shrubs, ground covers and vines¢ Transplant roses¢ Plant bare-root rosesSource: Fernlea.com|
Cleaning, sharpening and oiling gardening tools is necessary in the fall. It is wise to remove gasoline that remains in the lawn mower, weed eater and chain saw.
If gardening tasks are completed in the fall, there will be fewer chores to take on in the spring and more time to enjoy the new flowers and budding resurgence of life.