Essential Fall Garden Tasks
To help your garden get a jump-start on spring, you need to know several essential fall garden tasks. Even when essential fall garden tasks have to be done, fall is an exciting time. These are pleasurable tasks with fruit trees to be picked, crops to be harvested providing lots of lovely fresh vegetables to be cooked, plants to be divided, leaf mould for compost and weather that permits you to give the garden a good clean without you becoming too hot or too cold.
There are not any hard and fast rules as to where to begin, go at your own pace and enjoy what you are doing. Breathe in the autumn air, inhale the sweet scent of the earth – gone are the dusty days of summer and take pleasure doing the task or tasks of the day.
Dos, Don’ts and Tips
It is already fall time. It is just unbelievable how fast the time flies and there is not much time to do things, but as fall leaves drift by your window, it may be tempting to look outside and think idle thoughts about nature taking care of itself. But like the rest of us, Mother Nature needs a good help.
Here are some fall dos and don’ts, plus tips to help your garden get a nice strat in spring.
- Leaves are garden gold. Spread small leaves of trees, such as honeylocust, birch, beech, ginkgo and silver maple under shrubs and over all exposed soil. They will break into mineral nutrients; worms will turn them into fertilizer.
- Take an adventure and throw seeds of hardy annuals where you want them to bloom next year. Larkspur, poppies, cleome and cosmos will frequently take root from seeds sown in autumn and conditioned under winter snow.
- When available, pop ‘Icicle’ pansies into spots where summer annuals have been cleared out. They will bloom until December, then lie down for the winter. Cover them with evergreen cuttings until earliest spring, when they’ll be ready to sprout new flower buds.
- Wait until the soil has frozen before mulching fall-installed plants. After freeze-up, a thick mulch of leaves and evergreen cuttings will keep their root balls safe from the heaving action of frost.
- Plant bulbous Asiatic and Oriental lilies in late fall to ensure flower bud set. When planting is delayed until spring they may not get enough chilling and come up blind, with no flowers.
- Plant garlic in October, in a sunny spot with lots of fertilizere dug in. Set individual cloves eight centimetres deep and 15 centimetres apart, and mulch with five to eight centimetres of leaves. Hard-neck Rocambole garlics such as ‘Music’ are the hardiest strains, and, when planted in October, can be harvested in July, just as the first cherry tomatoes turn red.
- Fall is a good time for planting evergreen trees and shrubs. The evergreens’ root systems pump water all winter, so be sure to water them well before the ground freezes. And don’t hesitate to purchase deciduous flowering shrubs at discounted prices. Even after a summer in containers, they’ll adapt and make strong root growth in cool autumn soil.
Mulch improves the health of the soil and lightens your gardening chores, too. Here are some of the benefits and a guide to creating your own fabulous mulch.
Make Soil Better
Organic mulches gradually break down and become part of the soil structure, improving its tillage, so that roots are better able to absorb nutrients and moisture from the ground. And, depending on the type of mulch you use, it also enriches the soil with minerals and other essential plant food elements.
During the summer, mulch acts as a barrier against the drying effects of the sun and wind, preventing evaporation and keeping moisture in the soil. This cuts down on the need for additional irrigation, which helps to conserve precious water resources.
Keep it Cool
On hot days, soil temperatures can raise high enough to cause many garden plants to wizen. Although most recover during the cool of the evening, these widely changeable temperatures can adversely affect plant health. Mulch acts as an insulator, moderating soil temperatures and reducing plant stress.
Both organic and inorganic mulches help restrain weeds. Blocked from the sun under a layer of newspapers, shredded leaves or plastic, most weed seeds are unable to sprout and mulch prevents weed seeds blown in from the neighbouring area from reaching the soil below, so they fail to take hold.