By Mary-Jane Pilgrim, Master Gardener
Fall is in the air. You can see the days getting shorter, and feel that the temperatures are cooling. The Canada Geese are grouping; ready to make their noisy trip south. The boats and camping trailers are also heading south. The monarchs will soon be leaving us for sunnier climates in Mexico. It’s that time of year where every living thing in our region starts preparing for the colder seasons to come.
In the garden, fall is a great time for planting, dividing, weeding, mulching and planning for spring renovations. The soil is warm, the days are cooler and the rain is usually frequent. These three items are a big part of what is needed to get new plantings well established before the snow flies.
Now is the time to plant buy and plant spring-flowering bulbs like tulips, daffodils, allium, snowdrops and crocus. Shop early for the best selection. If you are plagued by squirrels, know that they do not go after daffodils — so fill your basket with these instead of some of the more delicious bulbs like tulips that may just make a tasty snack.
Now is also a great time to plant late season annuals like pansies, kale and cabbage for garden bed interest or for front door planters. It’s also prime tree and shrub planting time. Water well until freeze-up.
September is a great time to divide some of those perennials that have outgrown their space, or that you’d like to share with others. Watch for obvious division points for hosta, black-eyed susans, coneflower, iris and daylilies. Plants will have enough time to establish roots in their new homes if this splitting and replanting is done now. After splitting, cut back any unnecessary leaves or flower stalks from these to make the transition a little easier for these perennials.
Many of us have lost interest in this task by now. However, if you consider that every weed that remains in your beds is likely to go to seed, and that most weeds carry hundreds of seeds, it’s totally in your best interest to keep those beds as weed-free as possible. For me, this includes deadheading any self-seeding perennials as well.
Add some compost, and a two- to three-inch layer of mulch to beds to get them ready for winter. It’s like putting the comforter on the bed. You can use garden-centre mulch for this, but I have a neighbour with mature maple trees that provide all of the leaves that I can use. Leaves are great insulator, and best of all, they’re completely free!
Spring Renovation Planning
Lastly, fall is a great time for you to assess areas of the garden which may need renovation next spring. I sometimes draw maps of the different plants in my garden beds, and it’s not uncommon to see the words “remove”, “divide” and “move” scrawled across these drawings. You may think that you’ll remember all of this next spring, but I have my bets against you on this one!
Here’s to some great fall preparation to make next spring just a little bit more organized and successful.