Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fall Garden Tips

Any night now frost may blacken the last crotalarias,
zinnias, marigolds, and chrysanthemums. But, when
the dead branches have been cleared away, there will
still be the green of the ivy, the grey of santolina, and
the scarlet fruit of the firethorn. ~Elizabeth Lawrence

Fall is one of the best times to plant spring and summer blooming perennials, trees and shrubs. Choices are abundant, including astilbe, coral bells, daylilies, bee balm, coneflowers, sedum, black-eyed Susans, hostas, veronicas, peonies, astilbe, bleeding hearts, Joe-Pye weed, euphorbia and phlox, plus deciduous trees and shrubs that drop their leaves in the fall.

The weather is getting cooler, but there is still plenty of time for the roots to settle in before the hard freezes. Plant at the same level your perennials were at in the pot, and keep them watered on a regular basis until the ground is frozen. Mulch 2-4 inches deep for extra protection and prepare your soil before planting as you would a new garden bed. Dig it well and add some compost or organic fertilizer. The mulching will help keep the soil from repeated freezing and thawing. Finish up your fall planting 5-6 weeks before hard freezes. If you're worried about the plants, cover with newspaper, plastic or cloth overnight when it's especially cold. During the winter, check the soil for "heaving" which means the plant could raise up out of the soil. Gently push it back into place.

If you have perennials in pots you want to do a little preparation before the hard freezes. Plastic pots seem to work better than clay or ceramic because they tend to dry out slower and usually won't crack as easily. During the cold season, gather all the pots together in a protected area, but still in an outside location. Cover each potted plant with mulch. If you have a space up near the house or another building, that would work well. Continue to water as mentioned for other perennials.

Be cautious not to cut back your perennials too close in the fall, or you may damage next year's buds--never trim down to the surface. Also, fall is not a good time for pruning trees and shrubs. Leave as much growth as possible, and prune in the spring. When looking at your garden this fall, consider what new perennials you may want to add, and think about the winter garden as well. Leave dry, sturdy stalks and grasses alone and they will add a lovely touch when the snow covers them. Leave plants that you want to reseed, and also those the birds might enjoy during the cold weather.

Those of you in warm climates like Florida can plant a new garden when it cools down-consider pansies and cool weather vegetables. Southern Florida residents can plant annuals in December! Cold hardy vegetables for those in Zones 9, 10 and 11 include collars, kale, leeks, lettuce, mustard, onions, peas, potatoes, radishes, spinach and turnips. Flowers that are cold hardy include cornflowers, ornamental cabbage, pansies, primroses, violets, bells of Ireland, calendula, coreopsis, rudbeckia, snapdragon, stock, and sweet peas.

~Enjoy the day. ~Brenda

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