Fall Maintenance

Now that summer is coming to an to a close and the weather is turning cooler it’s time to start putting our gardens to bed. The autumns tends to focus on 2 types of gardeners, those who garden for 2 seasons and those who garden year around. To tell the difference all you have to do is look at their gardens. The fall garden may not be as colorful or abundant as those in the spring and summer but the year round garden will still continue to flourish and impress. 

The following are some tips to get your own gardens ready for the first snowfall as well as easy ideas to help you become a year round gardener. 

Pumpkins

Pumpkins

Vegetable Gardens 

Since there are a large choice of vegetables that can still be harvested right up till the first snowfall there is very little that needs to be done to the vegetable garden. Summer plants can be removed and some bulb vegetables can be planted to be ready for the spring. 

Fall harvest Vegetables: cauliflower, squash, pumpkins, carrots, onions, garlic, parsnips, turnips, and eggplant 

Fall planted Vegetables: onions, garlic, and rhubarb 

Trees and Shrubs 

One great way to keep color continuing into the winter is to plant trees and shrubs that have bright autumn foliage, berries and branches. When most plants have died down deciduous trees such as Red Maples provide a welcome burst of color. The bright red twigs of Dogwoods will continue to impress even in the dead of winter. The fall is also a great time to prune out all the dead wood from your trees and shrubs and to tidy up their shape. Most people tend to just let them take care of themselves, which is fine when the plant is still young however over time the health and appearance of your trees will decline, as light will not be able to reach the center of the plant. 

Evergreens require little fall maintenance. To help protect the top growth from snow damage you can wrap your plant with burlap, which will also help maintain their shape. 

  

* Rule of thumb- always prune flowering plants opposite their flowering season. If it flowers in the fall prune in the spring and vice versa. Summer flowering plants should be pruned after the flowers have finished.  

Flower Beds 

At this time of the year you have two options when it comes to fall maintenance. 

Your first would be to just leave everything alone. The number one benefit to this is obviously that it requires no work. But also by leaving everything to die down it shelters and protects newer and more temperature sensitive plantings from the elements. The decaying plant material also adds a layer of compost to the soil for the next year. Just remember to prune off any seed heads or you may find yourself with new plants sprouting where you don’t want them. 

The second choice, the choice of the year round gardener, is to cut back all the perennials to about 8 inches above the ground and to remove all annuals from the beds. This frees up space to plant some fall ornamentals to add some late splashes of color and to make room for planting your spring bulbs. It also makes the general appearance of your landscape much cleaner and tidier. 

Below are a couple of common fall plants that will give your garden a lift this fall. 

Garden Mums

Requires full sun and can grow up to 3 feet tall 

-Beautiful fall colors, rust-red, copper-oranges as well as yellow, gold, lavender, pink and white. 

 

Ornamental Kale

Requires full sun and can grow up to 1 1/2 feet tall 

-Blue green outer leaves with cream, white, pink, rose-red and purple centers. 

-Light frost actual improves color 

Ornamental Kale

  

   

Bulbs 

The colder the weather the better when planting your spring bulbs. The most important thing to beware of is the chance of a late season warm spell that will wake up your dormant bulb and prompt it to start growing. If that happens the bulb will not survive till the spring. Some years I’ve actually been in the garden after the first snowfall planting my bulbs. 

You want to plant them in groups and preferably around other summer plants that will grow up around concealing the dying foliage in the spring. They should be planted with their bottoms at a depth 2 1/2 times their diameter. Since there are hundreds of colors, sizes and varieties try to experiment with layering and groupings. 

Tulips in bloom

Tulips in bloom

While the fall can seem dreary compared to the luster of the summer past these few things can help you to continue enjoying your garden late into the season whether you’re a 2 season or a year round gardener.

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