When I think of fall, I think of frosty mornings, bonfires, pumpkin pie, raking leaves, overseeding my lawn, planting mums and pansies, picking apples and preparing the landscape for the cooler days ahead.
Perhaps my list is longer than other peoples’, but I cherish the opportunity for preparation and renewal of my garden after the long, hot days of summer have taken their toll.
To get started on your own gardening chores, here’s a list of things that will brighten your garden and get it ready for another year of abundance.
What to plant
• Grass — plant and overseed cool-season lawns through the middle of October
• Mums for fall color (mulch heavily after blooms fade and water over the winter to help them survive)
• Pansies for fall, winter and early spring color
• Spring-flowering bulbs including tulips, daffodils, crocus, etc.
• Trees and shrubs (except for oaks and fruit trees, which transplant better in spring)
What to clean up
• Weeds, especially before they go to seed. Dandelions and other cool-season weeds can overwinter and be harder to kill in the spring.
• Peonies and irises, to reduce the likelihood of disease-causing fungi from overwintering on the foliage
• Tomato plants, to reduce the likelihood of insects and disease-causing organisms from overwintering on the foliage
• Squash vines, to reduce the number of squash bugs overwintering on the foliage
• Fallen leaves. Mow over them in the lawn or rake and compost. In the landscape, they can provide insulation but can also form a barrier for air and water movement if the layer is too thick. Remove excess leaves and compost them, or use a shredder to chop the leaves and apply as mulch.
• Cannas, elephant ears, gladioli and other tender summer bulbs
What to leave
• Seed heads and stems of coneflower and other perennials to provide food for birds. Leave them standing in the garden as the birds avoid seed heads that have been cut to the ground.
• Foliage of tender perennials and shrubs
What to fertilize
• Lawns (fescue and bluegrass) in September and November
What to harvest
• Apples and pears
• Sweet potatoes
• Spinach, lettuce, radishes and other later summer planted cool-season veggies
• Green tomatoes before the first frost
• Dried flowers, seedheads and ornamental grasses for decoration
• Add compost and/or organic matter to improve poorly drained soils.
• Water trees and shrubs over extended dry periods throughout fall and winter.