Whether you’re a newbie gardener or a seasoned green thumb, you’ve probably learned that much of gardening is all about delayed gratification. Nothing — and we mean nothing– happens overnight when it comes to growing beautiful flowers, herbs and vegetables. That’s why late summer and fall are a good time to do some basic chores to get ahead and prepare your garden for next spring.
After a long, hot summer with humidity, disease, and insects wreaking havoc on your plants, your garden is probably in need of some maintenance. Even your lawn could benefit from a little extra love right now. Cooler temperatures are another reason to get out and dig in the dirt. And some of these tasks will help new and established plants in your garden survive the stresses of winter, no matter where you live.
Whether your garden is a country lot, a small urban plot, or a balcony overflowing with containers, there are a lot of things you can do to prepare all your plants for the next season, like removing diseased materials so that they don’t. do not. hang around and infect plants again next year. Best of all, most of these chores aren’t difficult or expensive (you’ll just need to invest a little sweat!), So put on your garden gloves and do it before the winter cold arrives.
Here’s what you can do now for a happier, healthier garden and yard next spring:
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Fill in the holes in your lawn
Whether you’re laying sod (learn more about how to do it right here) or planting sod seeds, late summer and fall are usually a good times to patch up bare spots. Ideally, you should do this when your type of grass, which depends on where you live in the country, is actively growing. The cool season grasses, which are mainly found in the north and upper third of the country, grow during the cooler times of the year until the ground freezes (between December and February). The warm season grasses, which are found in the south, grow during the warm periods of the year, from May to mid-September. If you are unsure of your type, your local university cooperative extension service can help you (find yours here).
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Plant spring flowering bulbs
Nothing is more uplifting to your winter weary spirit than the first spring flowers growing through the earth. But if you want spring flowers, you need to plant bulbs now! Plant spring favorites including crocuses, daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and allium for color throughout the season. If digging rodents like chipmunks is a problem in your garden, plant bulbs they don’t prefer (daffodils, hyacinths, and allium) or protect the bulbs with a layer of wire mesh to discourage digging. As a rule of thumb, you can plant bulbs as long as the soil is “usable,” which means you can still ram a shovel into the ground.
Do a fall cleaning
Many plant diseases are soil borne and can overwinter in plant debris. For example, if you had trouble with powdery mildew on perennials this season, destroy affected stems and leaves as they will otherwise hide on these fallen material. Remove all the weeds from your garden and pull up dead vegetables and annuals. It’s fine to compost wilted plants as long as they are healthy, but throw out any diseased plant foliage.
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Divide the perennials
Perennials, such as irises, coneflowers and sedums, come back year after year. They are therefore a great investment for your garden, because you buy them once and you harvest them for years. But sometimes these plants are a little overgrown or crowded with other plantings, so they stop working well. There is no set rule, but every 2-3 years you may need to divide the perennials for better flowering.
Plants such as Echinacea, Black-eyed Susan, Sedum, Heuchera, Perennial Geraniums, and Daylilies are all excellent candidates for fall division. It’s not complicated to divide perennials; Simply cut off a piece of the edge with a shovel or hand trowel, making sure to take a few roots. Then replant elsewhere in your garden, or share with friends! Keep the plants watered and make sure you have them in the ground at least six weeks before the ground freezes so they can establish well.
Start a compost pile or bin
If you haven’t already, fall is the time to start composting! Why waste all this free good stuff when you can make compost? Just start a pile behind your shed or make a compost bin from basic materials you can get at the hardware store. There are also many commercially available compost bins that are attractive enough to be left in plain sight without disturbing neighbors.
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Plant perennials, shrubs and trees
Fall is a great time to plant new perennials, shrubs, and trees as temperatures are usually less extreme and rainfall is abundant. The soil is also still warm, which promotes healthy root growth for plants to establish. You can also take advantage of these sales at local nurseries as they try to empty their stocks before winter! Just be sure to plant at least six weeks before the ground freezes to give your young plants time to establish.
Keep watering your plants
If your area is having a particularly dry fall, you will need to water because the roots are still growing! If it hasn’t rained for 10 days or more, give your plants a drink, especially any new perennials, shrubs, or trees that you’ve added to the landscape this year. Broadleaf conifers, such as holly and rhododendrons, have leaves all year round but cannot take in water once the ground freezes. So, give them some extra water in the fall so they can get into the winter stress-free.
Remove leaves from your lawn and flower beds
It’s not just a matter of aesthetics: leaves from trees like maples and oaks can get tangled up and make a big, slimy mess on your lawn or perennial beds by next spring. . Use a mulching mower to chop the leaves and add (free!) Nitrogen to your lawn, rake them and add them to your compost pile, or shred and add to flower beds as mulch around plants. Mulch will reduce weed germination next spring, protect plants from freeze / thaw cycles, and provide nutrients to the soil as they decompose.
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Clean your garden tools
Plant diseases can be transferred from plant to plant by contaminated tools. Before putting everything away for the year, do a quick clean: Remove dirt with a wire brush, polish rust spots with sandpaper, then clean the tool in a bath of soapy water. Then soak in a diluted bleach solution and dry completely. Apply a thin coat of mineral oil to prevent rusting on metal surfaces. If your tools have wooden handles, apply a thin coat of linseed oil to them. These few housekeeping steps will not only kill pathogens so that you don’t pass them on to new plants next year, but your tools will also last longer.
Start a garden journal
It doesn’t have to be complicated, just jot down a few notes on what you planted and how it went in a simple notebook. Trust us: you are So won’t remember what worked well and what wasn’t worth your time when shopping for new plants next spring. If you’re feeling ambitious, draw where you’ve planted things as well, so you can rotate where you’re planting veg next year or remember which flower combinations you used in pots. Taking a few minutes now will save time and frustration next spring!
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