Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.
We often think of autumn as a time to put the garden to bed and ignore it until next spring. Experienced gardeners know, however, that what is accomplished in the fall reaps big rewards in the spring. Do you want a spectacular spring garden? Take advantage of the cooler weather and get your garden in shape now for the coming year. Here are ten things you can do this fall to ensure a great garden next spring.
1.Start with an annual review of your garden. Ask yourself some
questions: What is the purpose of my garden? Is my garden meeting my needs and the needs of my family? Is it interesting and colorful during all seasons? How can I improve the space? After your review, develop a plan to enhance your garden. Select one project you can complete this fall.
2.Get your warm-season turf ready for winter dormancy. Watch the weather report and put down a weed preventer (pre-emergent) on all your warm-season turf a few days before temperatures are forecast to go down to 52 degrees for three nights in a row. This prevents chickweed and annual bluegrass weeds. Make sure the weed preventer gets watered into the turf. Mow your warm-season turf grass one last time in late October then clean, sharpen blades and store your lawn mower for the winter. Fertilize cool-season grasses like Fescue this fall.
3. Start a compost pile. It’s as simple as piling materials in a secluded area of
your yard. Add the grass clippings from your last lawn mowing of the season and mix with shredded autumn leaves. Keep the pile moist and turn it occasionally. Compost is an excellent source of slow-release nutrients and improves soil structure, texture, aeration, and water retention.
4.Clean up your flower beds. Prune out and remove damaged, diseased and dead leaves and branches. Deadhead flowers on late-summer blooming perennials and annuals and continue to fertilize with a liquid mix to enjoy more blooms until the first frost. Rake up autumn leaves from turf and planting beds, shred if possible and add to your new compost pile.
5.Improve the soil in your planting beds. First get a soil test analysis to learn your soil’s pH (the level of acidity or alkalinity) and what nutrients need to be added. You can obtain a soil sample bag from the Fayette County Extension Office. If you are creating a new planting bed, till the area at least 8 inches deep to break up compacted clay. Add compost and other soil amendments and work it into the tilled native soil. If you are working on an established bed, rake back existing mulch and “top dress” the area with a layer of compost. You can work the old mulch into the compost mixture. Finish off with 3 inches of fresh mulch like pine straw or pine bark mulch.
6.Divide and transplant clumping plants like daylilies, liriope and iris. Share your extra plants with friends and neighbors.
7.Plant shrubs, trees and spring-flowering bulbs. October is the perfect time to add new plants and give roots time to get established before spring growth. Dig a planting hole at least 2-3 times as wide as the root ball but place the plant at the same level in the bed as it was in the container. Keep new plants moist and apply 3 inches of mulch to conserve moisture and protect the plants during winter. Plant spring-flowering bulbs as soon as the soil temperature drops below 60 degrees. To track soil temperatures in our area, visit the Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network.
8.Add seasonal color by planting pansies, ornamental kale and other cool-season annuals now so they are well-rooted before cold temperatures arrive. Remove spent late-summer annuals and add to the
compost pile. Fertilize your newly-planted cool-season annuals with slow-release fertilizer, mulch for protection and keep them moist for a fabulous winter and spring display.
9.Add at least one rain barrel under a downspout to catch “free water” for your plants. Many local companies sell assembled rain barrels or you can take a class to learn to assemble your own at the Fayette County Extension Office.
10.Start the design project you have been putting off! Update a perennial bed, add a garden path, build a potting bench, design a garden “room,” screen an eyesore, or create a garden in a neglected area.
While out in the garden this fall, don’t forget that the most important thing to do is to enjoy this beautiful and ever-changing season. And remember – “Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn.” – Elizabeth Lawrence