DROUGHT…So glad we saw some rain at the end of September. The drought of August and September has put substantial stress on many of our plants. If you have been able to irrigate your gardens even a little, I’m sure it has helped. Try to continue through October and November, if you can.
Protecting your home is more important than protecting your plants. When it is time to close down your outdoor hose bibs for the winter, that is when you stop watering your plants. I usually close mine around Thanksgiving.
LAWN AREAS…Fall is a popular time of year to work on your lawn areas. Seed will germinate quickly for new lawns or over-seeding an existing lawn. This is perfect if you have open spaces. If your lawn is in the vicinity of deciduous trees, then seeding this time of year will be a waste of time and money. Leaves are falling daily, and they will quickly smother any new growth. Best to wait for the spring.
IDEAL CONDITIONS FOR PLANTING…I love planting this time of year. Not only do I enjoy the new layout for a few months prior to winter, the plants take off with a flourish in the spring. There is generally substantial root growth that occurs over the fall and winter months. You may see perennials and ornamental grasses doubling in size. Use caution when planting evergreens in November/December. They may need extra protection from winter winds. Sometimes wrapping the perimeter with burlap will help. The broadleaf evergreens have a high probability of suffering from winter burn their first season in the garden.
CUT BACK UNSIGHTLY PERENNIALS…Most perennials will flop just before winter. Most do not have to be cut back until March, but I like to take care of most of the cut back in the fall in order to reduce the amount of work to do in the spring. If the upper foliage is crisping up, and you see some fresh new foliage at the base, then it will be safe to cut back the plant to the basal foliage. Echinacea, Ligularia and Rudbeckia are prime examples of plants ready to be cut back to the basal foliage right now. Whenever possible, I like to wait until the foliage goes dormant, but must admit that I sometimes jump the gun when they have flopped onto the ground.
If you prefer to leave the seed heads for the birds and other animals, know that they will all appreciate that you have left them some extra food for the winter. Leave the plants standing for best results, and just cut them back in March.
SEEDS…Do you have any plants you want to propagate? If you are able to harvest some seeds, try planting them 1-2” deep. Just deep enough to prevent them washing away with the next rain, and shallow enough to still mimic Mother Nature. This method will also prevent their movement during leaf cleanup. Do mark the location so you can try to find them in the spring.
GROUND LEAVES INSTEAD OF MULCH…Last year, I had my leaf cleanup group drop off ground leaves for me to use in my garden. They had plenty at their shop, and I didn’t have to buy a leaf grinder of my own. We spread the ground leaves about 3” thick, and it worked quite well. It may not be as attractive as fresh mulch, but I was pleased with the results. I used mulch in the front gardens, and ground leaves in the back.
EVERGREENS LOSING THEIR LEAVES…No need to panic. Evergreens generally shed about 30-40% of their foliage every year. Some may be shedding a bit more than normal this year to compensate for the drought. The timing for the evergreens is not quite as predictable as the deciduous trees, so if your plant decides to shed at a different time than other species in the neighborhood, there’s no need to worry.
ENJOY…Autumn’s show of brilliant colors is on the horizon. Enjoy nature’s grand finale.