Ah…autumn! The leaves are beginning to change colors and lazily drift from their branches to form an orange, yellow and red carpet on the ground. The breeze has grown cool and crisp and the scent of pumpkin-spice has begun to fill the air. Our gardens are bursting with color from the fall-blooming perennials planted earlier in the year.
I hope you’re enjoying the changing seasons as we look forward to the holidays and then a few months later: the return of spring! Before you pack up all of your gardening tools for the year, however, you may want to do some work in your beds to prepare them for the spring season.
Remember, the more work you get done now will mean less work you’ll have to do once the warm weather returns!
Here are 5 tips to help you get your garden in shape this fall!
1. Clean Up Your Garden Space
If your garden is anything like mine, at this time of year your beds are starting to become filled with leaves, overgrown early-blooming perennials and even a few spent annuals. This is a good time to clean up that space and make room for any perennials that are still blooming and adding late-season color to your beds!
It’s also time to pull out those old annuals and rake fallen leaves out of your beds. Leaves and other organic matter make great additions to your compost pile and can be used to fertilize your beds in the spring! Clearing organic matter out of your beds also lessens the possibility of fungi or powdery mildew buildup in your beds, which can affect your plants’ health.
2. Drain Your Rain Barrel
Do you use a rain barrel or irrigation lines to keep your plants hydrated during the hottest days of summer? It’s a good idea to use up any of the water from your barrel and drain any lines before temperatures begin to dip into freezing territory, as this may cause damage to your system.
Removing this water also keeps your barrel from growing stagnant and prevents algae and fungus growth, which will need to be cleaned later. Stagnant water is also a breeding ground for everyone’s least favorite flying insects, mosquitoes!
3. Don’t Deadhead Your Perennials
Many people instinctively cut back their perennials when they go into dormant states before winter. Pruning your plants may give your beds a neat, tidy appearance, but those flowers actually serve an important purpose during the winter months!
As these flowers go to seed, they provide a great source of food and shelter for overwintering bird species during the coldest time of the year when food can be difficult to find. So put those pruners down until late winter or early spring when you can cut back your perennials in time for them to grow back hearty and healthy in the spring!
4. Clean and Organize Your Tools
You probably got quite a bit of use out of your garden tools over the spring and summer! Before you hang them up one last time at the end of the season, take some time to inspect what kind of condition they’re in.
Don’t put them away dirty! Sometimes our tools carry bugs or diseases that can have a bad effect on our garden beds. Try deep-cleaning your tools with a diluted solution (8:1) of water and bleach to be sure they won’t cause any contamination in your beds in the spring. Soak your tools in this solution before rinsing and thoroughly drying them.
You may also want to sharpen and oil pruners or other hinged tools that have seen some heavy use over the past season. This will be one less task to take care of when you get back to your garden duties in the spring!
5. Final Steps
Have you tested your soil quality lately? If you take the time now to check your soil pH, you can be aware of any deficiencies that may need to be amended before the spring planting season comes around.
You can also use this time to bring inside any potted perennials that aren’t winter-hardy in your growing zone or haven’t had time to establish strong root structures.
If you have any winter-hardy perennials you’d like to get into the ground before the frost sets in, now is the time to start planting! Don’t know when your projected first frost date is? Check the Farmer’s Almanac to find out!
Remember to water freshly-planted perennials well until the first frost and add 4-5 inches of mulch around their bases. If you have any leftover compost, incorporate this around the plant bases to provide nutrients and insulation for establishing root systems.
Here are some great options for late season planting:
Check out this blog post to see additional gorgeous, late-blooming perennials that can add winter interest to your garden beds!
Gardening is easy even for beginners when you join Rozanne’s Inner Circle. She helps you plant a thriving garden no matter your experience level!