Fall in the Garden

Fall in the Garden
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Fall Chores in the GardenThe days are becoming cooler and the sun is setting earlier. Fall is almost here, which means the end of the garden season for most of us. There are things we can do now to make next year even better in our garden and landscape.

Even in the Northern climates there are quite a few frost free nights left in the garden season, and some light frosts before the really low temperatures arrive, so you should still be harvesting vegetables, herbs and watching your flowers bloom. To extend the garden season, use row covers or garden fabric over plants when a frost is expected. This really helps during the nights we receive a light frost.

Rather than having to do a massive garden and landscape clean up later in the fall consider gradually cleaning up from now until the winter temperatures arrive.

The cleaner you leave the vegetable, herb and flowerbeds now, the healthier garden you will have next season. Disease, insect eggs, larvae, pupae and even adults insects will over winter under plant debris.  This includes weeds, leaves, leftover vegetables, plant foliage, and even mulch.

Start by cleaning out the finished annuals or cutting back the perennials that are finished blooming. Rake up leaves as they start to fall, either chopping them and adding to your compost pile, or discarding. It's also a great time to pick out any broken stakes, garden art, bricks, cracked pots, nursery tags etc. If it doesn't belong, get rid of it. You will appreciate this in the spring when you don't have to wade through soggy plant stems and muddy flowerbeds.

Don't get too carried away with the chopping though because some plants can be left intact with their seeds, such as sunflowers, black-eyed Susans, and ornamental grasses. The birds will snack on the seeds as they dry during fall and winter. Some other plants, such as calendula, snapdragons, cosmos, gem marigolds and others can be allowed to reseed themselves if you leave the seed heads on the plants. Remove the plants after the seeds have spread or have been collected. While it's okay to leave the seed heads on plants, it's important to clean up at the soil level.

Look over the trees and shrubs carefully and prune out the dead or diseased branches. These are easier to see while the healthy ones are green and flourishing. Be sure to give all of your trees and shrubs a good, deep watering before the first heavy frost.

Did you grow dahlias this year? They have "tubers" that are similar to day lily roots, but they won't survive heavy frost. When the frost damages and browns the dahlia leaves, cut the stems 5-6 inches above the tubers/roots. Dig up the clumps, very gently remove from the dirt and rinse them off with water. Allow the tubers to dry outside in a sheltered place (no sun or harsh wind) just until they are dried. Store the clumps whole in a basement or attached garage where it doesn't fall below freezing (35 degrees F. or so). You can place them in paper bags, boxes or tubs filled with peat moss or sawdust. If you are using a plastic tub, make sure it's not so tight that air can't get in because this will cause mold.

Fall Chores in the Garden

If you have ponds or water features with water plants now is a good time to thin them out if they have become crowded. Also, clean out any leaves or other debris and cover the pond with a net or mesh outdoor fabric to keep it clean until spring.

You can plant rhubarb in October and clean up any existing patches that you have already. As with other perennials, you want to clean up dead foliage, leaves and other debris around the plants to avoid anything damp or wet from lying against the crowns/centers of the rhubarb plants. If your plants have become large, you can also divide them. Mulch the rhubarb with compost to give it a boost.

Many readers have concerns about tent worms this time of year. Every year we snip off the branches that have tent worms and throw them in a fire. They are harmless to us, but can cause damage to trees or shrubs. You can also use gloves and pull the "tents" off the trees or shrubs then dumb them in a bucket filled with water that you've added a little bleach and dish soap.  However you dispose of the tents, it’s important to remove them from the trees.

As vegetable plants finish producing, and the landscape plants stop blooming, continue cleaning up gradually. Tackling part of it at a time will allow you to enjoy the cool, fresh days of autumn as you weed and clean, plus you will be getting ahead of the spring chores. A clean garden and landscape goes a long ways towards keeping plants healthy and pest free.


About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at Harvestmoongazette.blogspot.com.


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