When autumn comes, you have lots of fall season gardening ideas and a hundred ways to improve your garden… its looks, its health, its prospects for next spring. Cool weather makes getting things done easier, especially when you’re in less of a rush than when doing spring chores.
Below is a checklist of fall gardening ideas to make it easier to get everything done. Take out your pen or pencil and mark the ideas that fit your garden. Just as you make a list of things to order for fall planting.
Table of contents
Start taking in house plants and to dig up or pot others to store indoors. Geraniums, actively growing petunias, and dwarf salvia for example. Cut away a third of the tops before digging: pot firmly, water, and keep in a warm place.
Spring lawns begin in the Fall. Now is the time for seeding and feeding.
With less weed competition, grass grows best in most places during autumn. Cut and remove crabgrass before it sheds its seeds. Clean out other weeds too.
Loosen the soil in bare patches, work in grass fertilizer or a complete plant food, then sow with a grass mixture suited to your conditions.
Fall planted grass handles late fall raking of leaves without damage when it gets an early, strong start.
Even on a good lawn, plant food and extra seed are advisable. For such “extra” growth use 3 pounds plant food and 1/4 pound grass seed to 100 square feet.
In making a new lawn in the fall, dig the area and mix peat moss and plant food with the surface soil. If needed put at least 2 inches of extra topsoil.
Rake and roll two or three times to get an even, firm surface. Sow 1/2 pound grass seed per 100 square feet. Rake and finally roll using a 200-pound roller.
Planting Trees and Shrubs
Transplant evergreens any time in September or early October.
This applies to conifers, pine, spruce, hemlock and the like and the broadleaved kinds: rhododendrons, mountain laurel, azaleas and similar plants. All growth has matured.
The plants come with a ball of soil. Set the plants at the same depth they were in the nursery. Roots near the surface can become injured if planting too deeply. Pack soil against the root ball and water thoroughly. Mix good soil with peat moss or humus plus a handful of 5-10-5 fertilizer per plant.
Late September and October is also time for ordering and transplanting the deciduous (leaf dropping) trees and shrubs.
The few possible exceptions: magnolia, birch, cherry and dogwood, although dogwood is safe when dug from the nursery.
Unless the trees or shrubs are large, a ball of soil is not necessary. Transplant most bareroot shade and flowering trees up to 10 feet high.
However, keep the roots moistened until planted. Pack screened soil between the roots and flood with water.
Secure single stemmed trees planted this way with two stakes.
The Late Fall Flowers
Dahlias, chrysanthemums, and roses need water now, but no fertilizer. Overfeeding may result in soft plants become injured by winter freezing.
Dahlia roots may become too soft for storage. Dust them or spray with sulphur or an all-purpose chemical to prevent mildew. Stake and tie tall plants against September winds.
Plant the “base rooting” types which start growing immediately. Madonna, canadense, martagon, superbum and the Washington lily in early autumn.
Plant the stem-rooting kinds, either in late autumn or early Spring. Cover the bulb top with no more than 3 inches of well-draining soil.
Peonies, Iris and Other Perennials
Lift, divide and replant peonies in autumn. Raise the whole plant carefully, wash the soil from the roots and separate the plant into sections – each section or piece with no less than three eyes (buds); five to seven give a better chance of flowering the next year. Peonies planted in fall get a good spring start.
Peonies should last for 25 years and need a rich deep soil. Mix 4 parts dried cattle manure with 1 part bone meal and work this mix in before planting if regular rotted manure is not available.
When planting bury the buds no more than 1 inch deep. Peonies must have full sunshine for best results.
Handle the exceptionally brittle roots of bleeding heart similarly. Allowed them to dry somewhat in the sun for easier separation.
Also, separate Iris clumps at this time. If the sections are not too small, three to four roots (rhizomes), they will flower next year.
Perennials of all kinds can be lifted, divided and replanted October to early November. Prepare the soil and incorporate manure or compost with bone meal and superphosphate before replanting.
The Fall Harvest: Bulbs and Roots
Cut the tops of dahlias, cannas, and tuberous begonias soon after the first frost. Leave 6 inches of a stub for handling dahlias.
To keep begonias and cannas from drying out, store them with all possible soil on the roots. Ordinary cellar conditions are suitable.
Dahlia roots must dry slowly. Leave in a place out of the sun.
When the soil dries on the roots, clean them off, reduce the old stem stub still more and store in peat moss, ashes, or sawdust in a cool cellar or garage where they will not freeze.
Dig gladiolus before frost, or as soon as the leaves turn brown. Dig with the leaves attached.
Dry as soon as possible, then cut off the leaves, remove the paper-like covering from around the bulbs (corms) and, before storing. Dust with a fungicide such as dusting sulfur.
Discard spotted and diseased corms and old shriveled corms. Store in shallow boxes or mesh onion bags. Old nylon stockings do well too.
After harvesting Beets, carrots, parsnips, potatoes (late) from the vegetable garden, they must be stored in a cool place. All vegetables except the potatoes could stay outdoors for a longer time by ridging soil over the rows in the garden. For small lots bushel baskets, or boxes submerged in the ground will do.
Celery can be kept by covering with soil in the row. Cabbage is best dug and put in a cold cellar. Store eggplant, peppers, and pumpkins where the temperature is mild.
Tomatoes picked before frost and individually wrapped in newspaper will ripen in 2 weeks. Keep radishes, lettuce, endive and other greens in the garden longer by covering each evening with cardboard, burlap, or plastic sheeting.
Compost and Humus
Compost all but diseased, and insect-infested material. Burn all questionable material.
Put leaves in a separate heap if possible or all materials mixed in one pile.
Begin with a bottom layer of coarse leaves, corn stalks, or dried stems.
Next spread layer of the mixed materials 6 inches deep. Sprinkle a pound or more of any fertilizer, compost activator, or dried cow or chicken manure over 4 x 5-foot surface, then a thin layer of soil. Wet thoroughly.
Repeat layer by layer to build the pile. A 5-foot height is enough.
The pile can be as long as desired. Keep the width to 6 feet. Mulching attachments for power tools are handy for fall work.
To increase the humus supply in the soil, sow rye, or rye grass seed on areas left vacant by the removal of fall crops in the garden.
Three pounds per 1,000 square feet is ample. Rake the seed in, as in lawn making. Rolling is not necessary.
Before hard frost threatens, remove all crop residue and weeds. Once the soil surface is clear, layer on the organic matter to restore the nutrients that this summer’s crops have absorbed – chopped leaves, compost, manure – to a depth of 4-6 cm. Dig the soil and leave rough over winter.
Allow the network of creatures living in the soil do their job of turning that organic matter into food for next year’s crops.
Cover soil on sloping ground to prevent erosion. A cover crop of rye, a layer of compost, leaves, hay or the like will prevent erosion.
In winter protection of outdoor hardy and semi-hardy plants, do not apply covering until all growth has ceased. Growth ends by frost which opens tissue and prepares the plants for winter.
After several touches of frost cover roses by mounding up soil around the base of the stems.
Not all northern rose growers agree on covering, but many prefer it. Also cover the pink spires (caryopteris), shrubs like the crapemyrtle of the South, and those of similar tenderness.
An inverted bushel basket stuffed with leaves is the best for low plants.
Protect climbing roses winter temperatures go below zero. Take stems down from their supports, tie together, laid on the ground and covered with 3 inches of soil.
It’s a practice in extremely cold sections to loosen the roots on one side and tip the whole plant over into a trench.
No bending can be done when the stems are frozen. They will snap off. So do it early. Pansies and English daisies are covered with marsh (salt) hay.
Protect evergreens in a different way and for a different reason. Exposed to winds, the leaves dry out, especially if the roots are in frozen soil.
Protection consists of covering the root area with a mulch of leaves, and using a wind barrier of some sort.
Burlap attached to stakes, branches of pines pushed into the ground, or smaller ones tied to several stems of the plants serve to break the wind.
Last to cover: strawberries, hardy perennials, and rock garden plants. Best done when the ground is frozen. Covered while still soft, the plants will rot.
Cover soft crowned plants: delphinium, columbine, Liatris, anchusa, with a cone of coal ashes, or 3 parts of soil mixed with one part of sand.
Others are covered with a light layer of marsh hay held in place with light twiggy branches. Provision must be made for water to drain off and not collect around the plants in prolonged. wet weather.
Cover garden beds of spring flowering bulbs after the ground freezes thoroughly, as mice may live there for the winter.
Bushy evergreens are, in regions of heavy snows, prone to injury when deep snow collects in the interior splitting them apart.
Strips of burlap wound spirally around will give some protection. Tying the stems to each other in the interior is still better.
The stems of fruit trees, especially newly planted ones, can experience bark peeling by rabbits and mice during winter. Surround these with a band of close meshed chicken wire 2 feet high.
Wrap newly planted shade and flowering tree stems with burlap strips, or the special tree paper. This protects against frost injury and the action of freezing winds.
If you thought your gardening work is over now that spring and late summer have come and gone, think again! Want more Living The Country Life also shares 11 Fall Garden Chores!
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