Ah, fall, what is not to love about this season? The cooler nights and the crisp mornings are enjoyable for most of us. It is the favorite time of year for many people, not only because school starts and we are pushed back into regular routines, but because the air is cooler, the thoughts are turned to spending more time indoors. Although the summer's last gasp is still in the air and the day still gets warm and even now as the day gets shorter, it is time to consider what needs to be done for your garden for the fall and the upcoming winter season.
Now is a good time to plant bulbs that will bloom next spring. Bulbs such as tulips and crocuses are the ones that are hardy and will last over the cold winter and bloom into beautiful flowers in the spring. The best thing to remember is when planting your bulbs is to think of where your spring and summer sun falls and where the sun will not be obscured by the leaves of trees, so these blooms will get the most of the sun. You will want to also consider the proximity of the planting to the house. You should plant the bulbs at least five feet away from the foundation of your house because the heat of the house can cause damage to your bulbs. Make sure the soil has good drainage and has a ph level of at least 6.0 and no higher than 7.0.
When you are choosing your blooms, you will want to consider the size of the bulbs. There should be a picture of the blooms beside the bucket of bulbs at the store to give you an idea of the size and color of the flower. Usually, smaller bulbs will produce flowers that bloom earlier in the spring such as crocuses. Larger bulbs, such as tulips bloom later into the spring. Before planting, make sure the bulbs are firm and mold free. These bulbs are best planted after the first frost, so the bulbs will continue to be cool from the beginning but of course, this depends on where you live and what your weather is like. It is best to check with your local nursery and see what they suggest. You will want to keep in mind that when planting fall bulbs and seeds you should add some nutrients to your soil to ensure proper growth of your plants.
The fall is a good time to begin your winter clean up of both your garden and your yard. Also a nice thing about the cooler weather is that it slows the growth of weeds as well. You can start cutting back flowers and plants that have already bloomed. Remove all the dead growth, clean up the dead plant debris (you can take this opportunity to add these to your composter!) But the key is not to be too clean. Prepare your beds by leaving some debris to shelter your gardens from the winter. But keep watering your garden until the snow flies, because when the ground freezes, the water can not permeate the through.
The flowers and plants that you want to save can be covered up at night when frost is expected. You will want to harvest the remaining vegetables and clean up any fruit trees that you have. Take this chance to mow your grass one last time to get the lawn ready for winter as well. Do not forget to pack up your hose. Take some time to drain it, roll it up and put it into your garage for storage. You will want to make sure you turn off your outside taps and bring in any metal hose holders that can rust in the wet and cold winter weather.
Trees and shrubs should be cared for and protected during the autumn clean up season since smaller shrubs can be damaged by heavy ices and snows. You can protect the smaller shrubs by building a lean to out of wood or cover them with thick canvas.
This is also the time to bring your house plants that have spent the summer outside indoors, but make sure you do not bring in any unwanted guests with them. Give your plants a good rinse with the hose or by using some insecticide soap for cleaning the plant. You can take this opportunity to aerate the ground by using a garden fork and if you are planning to use compost as ground cover, now is the time to do this.
Gardening is for some a year round and enjoyable activity for some, but for the rest of us, hopefully these few pointers will help us and our gardens ready for the fall and the winter to come.