As the leaves change into their brilliant fall colors, and you awaken to a distinct chill in the air, you realize that winter is just around the corner. It’s only natural to think it’s time to put the garden tools away for the year, settle back, relax, and wait for spring to arrive……
NOT SO FAST, MATE! In most areas of the United States and in much of Europe, you will still have many tasks to accomplish… even after the first frosts. I still have to collect the frame and cover of the greenhouse I never had time to put up. Hopefully your summer has not been so crazy But whether it’s flowers, shrubs , a couple of tomoto plants in a pot or an enormous vegetable garden winding down the garden is as much work as starting up in spring.
Right now spring may seem a long way off, and its not really on your mind. Still, in fall, after soil temperature drops below 60°F., you can plant the bulbs of spring flowering Tulips, Daffodils, Hyacinths, Siberian Squill, Dwarf Irises, Anemone, and Crocus .Add Bone meal or bulb fertilizer into the planting hole, as you prepare the soil. Since every area is different and the weather has been getting more erratic just make sure they are in soon enough to get settled in before hard frost. The effort now means that your garden when get an earlier start, just when you are most sick of winter and really looking for some cheering signs of spring.
While you are digging in, there are also bulbs to dig up. Gladiolas, Dahlias and other tender bulbs should be dug before the ground freezes, and stored in a cool, dark area. Dahlia and Begonia tubers should be stored in a box of slightly moist peat moss. Gladiola corms can be stored in a paper bag without additional packing.
It’s also the right time to remove spent summer annuals, and if you want, prepare the soil, and plant cool-weather annuals. Add a balanced slow-release fertilizer, organic matter and till the bed before planting. I am not big on annuals this years because I am always so time pressed and those ornamental cabbage are OK but I’d rather just have some indoor plants at this point.
Check over perennials for broken stems or other damage. If it stays warm later than usual as it has in many places, don’t forget to keep watering when there is no rain. This is the time fall mums show up in stores and when so much else is gone it’s the perfect time to add a few and keep the color going. Mulching fall planted perennials will keep the soil warmer longer, allowing root growth to continue, however, the plants do need time to harden off for winter. Spread a thin layer of mulch after fall planting, and then add a thicker layer once the ground has frozen. Since I have had and will have workem trudging in and out and deliveries dropped in the front yard I didn’t do much with gardening this year. Mulching is about all that’s left in most places. Luckily, even after having some dodgy branches cut back by Tony the yard man, I’ll still have tomes of leaves to use. Why should I spend a fortune on bagged mulch when Mother Nature is giving it to me free?
As the month nears it’s end, watch your thermometer on colder nights. A windless, cold, clear night usually means a killing frost…. You can keep your Chrysanthemums and Aster plants blooming for quite a while longer if you take the time to provide a little frost protection for them. A small, simple frame covered with cheesecloth or an old bed sheet placed over your plants on frosty nights, can add a month or more of garden blooms, just don’t forget to remove the cover as soon as the danger has passed. Geraniums, Begonias, Fuchsias, and other tender plants should be brought indoors or moved to a coldframe before the first frost.
If you want nicely blooming Christmas Cactus and Poinsettias , they need to be kept indoors in a spot where they get ten hours of bright light and fourteen hours of total darkness, each day. Room temperatures should be around 65F to 70F ( 18C to 21C) for the Poinsettias, but 55 to 60 f(13C to 16C) for the Christmas cactus. Be aware that the longer your house plants were allowed to remain outside in the fall, the more shock they will go through when they are finally moved indoors, unless you are like me and keep the house the temperature of a Scottish castle.
Dig and divide congested clumps of rhubarb. Cut back raspberry cand blackberry canes that have grown too long, to prevent damage caused by winter windsor heavy snow. I will have to do this with my blackberries, both for the reason mentioned but also because I have several reaching into the yard of my neighbor Merv. I also plan to mulch under the patch because it is really hard to weed under those thorny branches.
If you hdid have a vegetable garden, some root crops, such as carrots, onions, and parsnips can be left in the ground in cold climates and dug up as needed. Apply enough mulch to keep the ground from freezing, and the crop will be kept fresh until it is needed.