Autumn is one of my favorite seasons. The weather is cooler, the corn is fresh, and apple pie and Thanksgiving are just around the corner. But with the kids back at school and after-school activities in full swing, many of us forget about the garden.
Several factors actually make fall a season of opportunity. It’s not only a great time to prepare your yard and garden for winter, but it’s also the perfect time to get a head start on next spring’s chores.
Autumn is a fantastic time to plant trees, shrubs, perennials and bulbs. Although the air temperature is cooler, the soil is still quite warm, which allows plant roots to grow well until the ground freezes.
Tulips, daffodils, crocus and other spring-blooming bulbs should also be planted now. They need the cold temperatures of winter in order to produce blooms in the spring.
Don’t Forget to Water
Although the hot, humid weather of summer is over, plants still require regular watering. For the first six weeks after placing them in the ground, new plantings should be checked for water daily. Established plants require about 1 to 1½ inches of water per week.
If you have trouble with weeds, apply one last shot of weed killer when the temperature is higher than 65 degrees and it should remain warm for a few days. An application of Ironite to your trees, shrubs and lawn will help plants develop a stronger root system. But, don’t fertilize after Oct. 31.
We often think of mulch as the final item we add to garden beds in the springtime to give them a finished look. But in the autumn, mulch leaves with your lawn mower and place them in your compost pile or around your roses for winter protection.
Before the leaves fall, place a net over your pond to keep leaves and critters out. Now is also the perfect time to make sure your pond heater is working, so you are prepared when you need to use it.
Whether you need to fill in some bare spots or reseed the entire lawn, now is the time to get started. Plentiful rainfall, cooler temperatures and little competition from weeds make this the best time for seeding. Seed mixtures are available for every condition, from full sun to deep shade, so use the combination that best fits your specific circumstances.
A good fall clean-up will ensure an easier start in spring. Take advantage of the cool temperatures by raking leaves and removing spent summer annuals, vegetable plants and other debris. Don’t overlook your garden tools: Clean your rakes, shovels and other garden equipment before you close the shed for the winter.
Be sure to move that snow shovel to the front of the garage, so it’s within easy reach once winter comes.
Keep a Record
Take pictures, make a garden map and label your plants, so next spring you’ll remember what you planted where. Make a special note of what worked well, what didn’t and what areas of the yard need more water. Keep those little plastic tabs that come with new plants—the ones that show a picture of the plant with its name and requirements. They will be a huge help next year when you’re trying to purchase the exact same plant.
Just because summer’s over doesn’t mean you have to stop enjoying the outdoors. Fall is a magical time of year. Plant mums, pansies, cabbage, kale and grasses to make your patio, walkways and garden feel inviting. Read a book on the patio during sunny fall afternoons or add a fire pit to extend the season for s’mores. The possibilities are endless.
Remember Your Feathered Friends
Clean and fill your bird feeders with suet and black oil sunflower seeds. The fats and oils will help birds survive through the winter. Leave the dead stalks of purple coneflowers, black-eyed Susans and other plants unpruned—the seeds and berries feed birds naturally throughout the winter.
Take advantage of fall’s bounty. The crisp cool air is a perfect time to get out in the garden and enjoy all it has to offer—and the cleanup and prep work you do now will be a big help come spring.
Karen Musgrave is a Certified Nursery Landscape Professional (CNLP) and a marketing and education specialist at Hicks Nurseries, Inc., 100 Jericho Tpke. in Westbury. For more information, visit www.hicksnurseries.com or call 516-334-0066.