8 Tips for Putting the Garden to Bed
Shorter days, cooler temps, falling leaves —it’s autumn, and whether you call it a fall cleanup or putting the garden to bed, it’s time to do some pre-winter prepping for your landscape. Why now? Because come spring, you’ll have less cleanup to do and you’ll be able to spend more time planting (the fun part!)
- First, get your soil tested to determine if the pH balance is correct for your plants. Now’s a great time to add amendments to get your soil balanced, if needed. It’s also a great time to add compost and manure for planting beds. The soil, which is still warm underground, will have time to absorb nutrients. Adding amendments also makes you till the soil, exposing insects that would otherwise hibernate in your garden for the winter.
- Trim dead, broken, or diseased, branches now, to help prevent further damage. Raking up dead leaves is a landscape must – matted, wet leaves left on your lawn can smother your grass if left over winter, but shredded or mulched leaves make a great start to a compost pile.
- Pull up all dead annuals, and pick any unharvested fruit or veggies. (if disease-free, these are great to add to your compost pile!). Leaving produce to rot will attract animals and insects, and cause plants to seed where you may not want them to. If you have an area that is overgrown or weedy, now’s the perfect time to clean it up before pests and/or animals decide to make the overgrowth their winter home.
- Mulch! Mulching now will result in fewer weeds in the spring, and less frost-heaving for susceptible plants, by keeping the ground beneath the mulch, warmer. Mulch also helps your plantings retain moisture, an important factor when harsh, drying winter winds blow.
- Most perennials can be cut back in the fall, but some provide seed heads that not only look beautiful dusted with snow, but also provide food for birds and animals through the food-scarce winter months. Be sure to hold off on cutting back perennials until the first significant frost hits, otherwise a trim will encourage new growth that will be extremely susceptible to cold weather, jeopardizing the overall health of the plant.
- Speaking of frost, plant flowering bulbs like tulips and daffodils, alliums, and garlic before the ground freezes. For tender bulbs (summer bloomers like dahlias, gladioli, etc.), let them weather a frost, then dig them up, dry them, and store them in a cool, dark place until spring when you can replant them.
- Don’t confuse dormancy with death! Make sure your spent perennials are kept watered during fall dry spells. Did you know your evergreens are susceptible to damage from dehydration, too? Spraying a protective anti-desiccants (typically, a thin layer of wax) on your evergreens will help them preserve much needed moisture over the coming dry, cold months. Young trees, and newer plantings may need or benefit from being wrapped (with burlap or landscape wrap) to protect them from winter’s harsh environmental factors. Protect plants that animals may make a meal of during the cold months. Put fencing around shrubs and use tree guards for trees that appeal to deer, rabbits, and other critters.
- Keep your inner horticulturalist happy by bringing Begonias, Fuchsia, Geraniums, and Coleus indoors to enjoy, and keep your kitchen stocked with herbs such as Basil, Lemon Grass, Parsley, Rosemary Chives, Thyme, Tarragon, Marjoram and Sage. And don’t forget to give your garden tools some TLC before retiring them for the winter. Clean, disinfect, sharpen and oil tools before storing them away.
- Of course, you can also always just call us here at Farmside Landscape & Design to help you winterize your landscape, then you can decide if you want to enjoy your free time outside in the crisp fall air or snuggled up inside with a delicious hot beverage of your choice.