Fall Tasks For Your Spring Gardens
By Dawn Williams, Senior News Associate Publisher
Mention gardening, and the average person thinks of spring and summer labors. But the seasoned gardener knows that fall activities can prime your plots for an even better bounty next year.
In addition to winterizing, fall garden tasks include ongoing maintenance until the first frost, as well as preparing for spring. The following tasks are organized by category.
Allow plants to continue growing until temperatures drop. Perennials that reseed, including black-eyed Susan and purple coneflower, can be cut back if you don’t want them to proliferate. Continue mowing until the grass stops growing, and apply a fertilizer labeled for autumn use. Allow ornamental grasses to remain in the garden for winter interest. And don’t forget to continue deep-watering evergreens while nighttime temperatures are still above freezing.
Houseplants that enjoyed warm days on the patio need to return indoors. Check the plants and soil for insects, and clean the outside of the pots, before bringing them into the house. Remove annuals from your garden beds, and prune out any diseased perennials and plant debris. Dig up tender bulbs (think dahlias, gladiolus, cannas, and caladiums) right after the first frost. Cure them in a warm room, then store for the winter in a cooler space; the ideal temperature is around 55 degrees. When temperatures move toward freezing, drain and store your garden hoses to prevent them from rupturing. Preserve your decorative planters by cleaning and storing them for the winter.
Preparing for Spring
If you haven’t done so already, there’s still time to plant spring-blooming bulbs. You can also plant garlic in autumn. Revitalize your vegetable garden soil with compost or manure, and till it so it is ready for your spring crops. Replenish your compost pile by adding leaves, annuals removed from the garden, and non-meat kitchen scraps, so they can decompose over the winter and be ready for use in the spring. Remember to continue turning the compost material as long as weather permits.
This is also a good time to inventory your gardening supplies so you can take advantage of end-of-season sales. Clean your tools and mechanical equipment before storing them. Follow manufacturer maintenance recommendations, including draining the gas tank.
Use the lull of late fall and the winter months as a time to dream, explore, and get creative. While snow is falling, you can design next year’s garden, research new plant varieties you might want to try, and plan your seed and plant orders with your favorite nursery. Consider any lessons learned during the previous season, and determine alternate solutions you can try if the problem occurs again. Perhaps go as far as to set up a spreadsheet to record each plant you intend to grow, it’s recommended seeding date in your region, and days to harvest. Leave a blank column to record your actual planting date, and another to record your observations during the growing season.
Autumn is a bittersweet time for the dedicated grower. Even as we prepare for the end of the current season, we’re already dreaming of the glorious gardens we’ll begin creating in a few short months. While nature slumbers beneath the snow, stoke the ember of your ideas for next spring.