Personal shoppers, personal trainers, financial advisers, garden guides - luxuries or wise investments? This time of year, a garden guide might help you safely winter over some of your new favorite perennials and at the same time do the traditional autumn garden cleanup.
Just a few years ago, the Douglas County Extension Master Gardeners created their first annual garden guide to provide gardeners in our area some sound advice and research-based information passed along from Kansas State Extension Service. Following are just some of the tips for this time of year from the Douglas County EMG Garden Guide and from Kansas State Extension.
¢ In the fruit orchard, clean and remove fallen fruit from around trees to reduce insects and disease next year. Protect trunks of fruit trees from rabbit damage with tree wraps. Apply organic matter such as manure, compost or fallen leaves to the vegetable garden, and if the soil is dry, rototill it in to improve soil structure.
¢ Clean rose beds, cut back peonies and irises, and send the leaves and other waste to the city compost. Potential plant diseases will be eradicated in the larger city compost pile that might survive in a home compost pile. Remove frost-killed annuals and till in organic matter. Cut back dead perennial stalks to 4 to 5 inches. Apply winter mulch to perennials and roses after several hard freezes. Continue planting spring flowering bulbs and keep moist. Empty out decorative pots and containers. Any containers that might break from freezing and thawing should be stored inside for the winter.
¢ Normally, the recommendation is to cut back dead stems during the fall to help control insect and disease problems. However, with herbaceous perennials that have been pest-free, you might want to consider leaving some to provide structure, form and color in the winter garden. For example, ornamental grasses can be attractive even during the winter months. However, those near structures should be cut to the ground because they can be a fire hazard.
Perennials with evergreen or semievergreen foliage can provide color. Of course, some perennials are naturally messy after dormancy and should be cut back in the fall. Foliage may be left for other reasons. For example, foliage left on marginally hardy plants such as tender ferns help ensure overwintering of plant crowns. In addition, seed heads on some perennial plants can provide seed for birds.
Now, what about next month and all the months after? How do I know what to do, step by step? The 2007 EMG Garden Guide is available for purchase at the Extension Office on the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds. This is a $5 investment some call a luxury. They make great gifts for gardening friends and unexpected visitors to your beautiful gardens.