Fall is my favorite time of the year—cooler temperatures, changing leaves, college football and the holidays ahead! Even if the lingering pandemic cramps your style, you can still get outside in the garden and get it ready for spring. What you do now will ensure less work and more time to enjoy your outside space in 2021. Here are some tips to get started…
See the Big Picture
Walk around your garden and assess its strengths and weaknesses. Since you are spending more time at home, take the opportunity to update your outside space to make it more inviting and family-friendly. Do you need more shade trees, more seasonal blooms or a better space for entertaining? How about adding a fire pit or children’s play area or deciding to start a vegetable garden? Pick one project you can accomplish over the fall and winter months.
Get organized during the fall. Declutter your garden shed and clean and sharpen your tools and mower blades in preparation for the coming spring. Take a sample of your soil from various areas in your yard to the local extension office to determine what nutrients need to be added to your lawn and garden beds.
Experienced gardeners understand the value of keeping good records on what is happening in the garden each season. Start a garden journal and make notes of what tasks need to be done monthly. Do a plant inventory of what is in your garden and where it is located. Add design ideas for future projects and keep photos of your improvements.
Divide and Conquer
Perennials are plants that grow back each year, and after a few seasons, some perennials stop blooming
as profusely as before or become too crowded in their beds. They need to be divided or split to give the roots more space to expand and take up nutrients. The bonus for your work will be more plants to add to the garden! Some plants that need to be occasionally divided are asters, cannas, creeping Jenny, day lilies, coneflowers, fountain grass, hellebores (Lenten rose), heuchera (coral bells), and bee balm.
When the weather cools, dig a trench around the root ball of the plant you want to divide and gently lift it out of the soil. Slice through the plant with a spade or shovel to divide and make it two or more plants. Place divided plants in a bucket of water until you can replant. You can research online about your specific perennials for instructions on how to divide.
Conquer the debris in your yard! Tidy up your garden beds and prune out dead branches on plants and trees. Chop up fallen leaves with a mulching mower and then add them back into the garden beds as a top dressing to provide nutrients and cover for your plants during winter. Or you can just leave chopped leaves on the lawn or add them to your compost pile. Don’t have a compost pile? Everybody needs a compost pile! Start one this autumn. Composting yard debris creates nutrient-rich, organic material your plants will love…and it’s free!
Plant for Four Seasons
A well-designed garden has something to captivate you in each of the four seasons. Fall is the optimal
time to add plants and trees to the garden, giving the roots time to develop over several months before the heat of summer. Think about adding a variety of trees, shrubs, bulbs and annuals that will keep your garden colorful throughout the entire year and also support wildlife.
Winter blooming plants include Camellia ‘Yuletide’, Daphne odora, winter jasmine, hellebores and pansies. Early spring blooms include daffodil, crocus, forsythia, azalea, magnolia, apricot tree and dogwood. Late spring and early summer brings the brilliant foliage of Japanese maples and the stunning blooms of
hydrangea and roses. Bottlebrush buckeye is a wonderful shrub native to Georgia with clusters of delicate white flowers in early summer.
Late summer is when the pollinator garden shines—think butterflies, bees and hummingbirds! Plant
coneflowers, milkweed, bee balm, sunflowers, and zinnias for an array of color, and to attract wildlife to your garden. Fall adds the spectacle of the changing leaves, so add a red maple, Japanese maple, or ginkgo tree for a kaleidoscope of color. American beautyberry is a popular native plant
with striking purple or white berries that adds another element of color to the fall garden and also provides food for several species of birds.
Color is important but don’t forget that evergreen plants give needed structure to the garden. Place evergreen hedges (boxwoods, holly, mountain laurel) around your home’s foundation to soften the look, and
define garden “rooms” with evergreens. They will be your staple during the winter months. Add a garden sculpture or two for further interest.
Select trees, plants and shrubs to give your garden interest in all four seasons.
Update with Holiday Displays
Even though most of your efforts in the fall are to prepare your garden for spring, it’s still fun to update for the holidays! A display of
pumpkins, gourds and chrysanthemums is a cheerful addition around the front door or where your family gathers on the deck. Let the kids help design a scarecrow to add to the decorations. In December, clip evergreen boughs and berries for Christmas arrangements. Plant evergreen shrubs in containers and add twinkling lights and bows. It will cheer you up during the long winter months. Let’s do it! You are ready to tackle fall garden tasks.