Fall gardening often gets neglected. But doing these simple gardening tasks in the fall can have a great impact on your landscape for next spring.
As summer blooms fade, and foliage start to turn, people tend to shift their minds away from their landscape.
The truth is, there are plenty of things that can be done to plants and garden beds that will be beneficial to them come spring.
Here are some fall tips that will extend your gardening season, add color, and ensure a healthy landscape for next year.
If you are looking for bargain prices then fall is the best time to take a trip to your local garden center. Pretty much all plants are marked down as businesses start to sell off their inventory.
Most plants start to look a little tired on the outside at this point but the truth is they are perfectly healthy.
After the surge of growth plants put on during the spring and summer, they start to store energy in preparation for their dormancy period.
In doing so plants stop producing flower blooms and also foliage begins to fade. This is a perfectly normal response to the changing of the season.
Since garden centers can’t charge top dollar for these plants that look sub par it creates a great opportunity for you the educated consumer.
Take advantage and buy plants at a discount. These plants might not look great now but by next spring you will see them flourish in your landscape.
Get Plants In Ground Early
With cool nights and warm days, fall is the perfect time for root development in plants. This is the time of year where plants focus less on foliage and flower production and more on root growth.
It is best to plant in early fall to give plenty of time for plants to get established before the winter weather.
This is especially true for perennials. Many tender perennials will likely die if they are exposed to sub freezing temps before their roots have time to grow into the soil of your garden bed.
Trees also benefit from getting plenty of time to get established. This allows them to get small anchor roots that will keep them upright when they are being challenged by gusty winds and snow loads.
Another benefit of fall planting is the ground retains moisture better so watering is less of a challenge.
Add Compost to Plants
Fall is a great time to add a layer of compost along the base of plants. This will help insulate roots and give them additional protection from cold temperatures.
It’s also a good way to organically give them a boost of nutrients for when the snow melts in early spring.
When applying compost just make sure you first pull back mulch and clean up spent leaves and debris around the base of plants.
If you want colorful bulbs to pop up in early spring then you need to plant them in fall! Bulbs are cheap, easy to plant, and come in tons of varieties and colors so feel free to experiment.
Some of the most popular spring bulbs are Daffodils, Tulips, Iris, Lily, Crocus and Hyacinth.
Also, because of their light weight it makes it easy to purchase bulbs online where your options are endless.
Cut Back Spent Perennials
Once perennials fade to the point where they become unsightly, it is a good time to cut them back.
This is not a must do in the fall however. Early spring is a perfectly fine time to cut back perennials, but if you’re trying to enjoy garden beds in the fall and add some fall plantings, cutting back spent perennials will create a neater appearance.
Keep in mind there are plenty of fall perennials such as Sedums, and Rudbeckia that should be left untouched when preparing your fall garden beds. These perennials will give you late season color.
Rake Garden Beds
Focus on cleaning up dead leaves and debris, especially around the base of plants.
If you think you had any fungal problems during the past season then definitely give the area around your plants a good cleanup. This can help prevent the same fungal problems next season.
It is important to prune shrubs at the correct time. Check out this pruning guide for an easy explanation on when you should prune shrubs.
Fall pruning should be avoided for 3 main reasons:
1.) Pruning encourages growth. Fall is when plants get ready for a period of dormancy. This is not when you want to encourage new growth.
2.) Increased risk of frost damage. When you prune, an open wound is created on the ends of the pruned branches. These are vulnerable places that can easily be damaged by frost. This will leave you with long sections of dead branches in spring.
3.) Chance of cutting off next years flower buds. Any shrubs that flower on old wood already have next seasons flower buds on them in the fall. If you prune heavily into the shrub at this time you won’t have as many blooms next season.
Add Fall Plants
Don’t forget to add colorful fall plants!
Too many people settle for a 2 season landscape. They get excited in spring and summer and once fall comes they focus on cleaning and cutting back but don’t give much thought to fall color.
Try planting some of the following for instant color.
- Mums (usually treated as annual)
- Purple Fountain Grass
- Flowering Cabbage
- Ornamental Pepper
- Rudbeckia (perennial)
- Sedum (perennial)
If you’re on a budget you can usually purchase smaller sizes at local garden centers and big box stores. Plant them early to get them established and enjoy a long fall season with colorful garden beds.
In late fall and through the winter, deer have different dietary needs.
Since deciduous shrubs lose their leaves it is no longer an option for deer to eat. This means a huge food source for them in now gone.
As a result their diet shifts primarily to evergreen trees and shrubs. If you have evergreen trees or shrubs in your landscape now is the time where they are at risk of being eaten.
There are tons of information and products out there relating to deer proofing trees and shrubs.
But to be blunt, aside from a fence, the only real thing that works is creating a barrier around the plant. This barrier is one of the best investments you can make to protect evergreens.
The best part is it is barely visible so you can enjoy the beauty of your evergreens during the winter instead of having to look at burlap or plywood or other unsightly barriers people use to protect shrubs.
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