Friday, November 11, 2022

Six Must-Do Fall Tasks in the Garden

Smokebush (Cotinus coggygria)


This fall was the most beautiful in many years. The colors were amazing. Then we had several early frosts that ended the glory, followed by Indian Summer in November. I took the photos in this posting during the warm weather. Somehow, I'm late completing my fall tasks. I need to make a list. It's been a while since I reminded myself and you of the jobs necessary before winter. As the garden and I mature, there are a few changes:

1. Pull Out Annuals and Diseased Plants

After the first killing frost, pull out annuals and plant debris from the kitchen garden. Compost them, unless diseased, such as those with powdery mildew, which should be bagged and placed in the trash. I don't cut down perennials that add interest to the winter landscape and some plants provide seeds for birds, so I leave them standing. For example, goldfinches love the seed heads of purple cone flowers. Many perennials help beneficial insects in winter by providing shelter from their predators. Don't cut back marginally hardy plants like garden mums (Chrysanthemum spp.), as their tops help them survive the cold of winter. There is no need to cut back low-growing evergreen or semi-evergreen perennials such as hardy geraniums, heucheras, hellebores, and moss phlox.

The Kitchen Garden: I've pulled out the zinnias, marigolds, and other annuals and plant debris. Swiss chard is bursting out of the coldframe and parsnips (bottom right) are thriving.


One change this year is the meadow garden. The annual and perennial flowers have gone to seed. After some research, I decided to leave them standing until spring. I plan on cutting them down in March.

Many birds are enjoying seeds in the Meadow Garden,

2. Dig Up Tender Bulbs

Dig up tender bulbs such as cannas, caladiums, dahlias, elephant's ears, gladiolus, calla lily, and tuberous begonias and store them where they will not freeze. I placed mine in individual paper bags, wrote their name on the outside, and put them in a box in the basement. I grow my calla lilies and banana plant in pots. I cut the plants down, and Duane carried them in their containers into the basement.


3. Protect Newly-Planted Shrubs and Trees

Find a place in the garage or basement for shrubs or trees that you are growing in pots, especially Japanese maples (Acer spp.) Sometimes I have plants in their nursery pots, still unplanted, in the fall. For these, I dig holes in the empty vegetable garden beds and heel them in. I protect roses and newly planted shrubs with burlap windbreaks. You can spray the leaves of broadleaf evergreen shrubs with an anti-desiccant to prevent moisture-loss caused by cold weather conditions because when the ground is frozen, evergreens can't replace moisture loss through their leaves. Use mulch, like three to five inches of straw or leaves, to insulate plant roots from severe winter temperatures.


The redtwig dogwood (Cornus stolonifera 'Farrow') doesn't need protection now it is well established. It will need pruning, however.


4. Shred Leaves

 Ecologically speaking, you do not need to rake leaves. Compacted leaves can promote snow mold diseases that damage turf grass. The easiest way to treat leaves on your lawn is to pass over them with a mower a few times to shred them into small pieces. This method will return nitrogen to the soil as the clipped leaves decompose. You can leave them where they fall in the garden so they help insulate plant roots. If you want to remove leaves from your garden, add them to your compost pile rather than bagging them and hauling them away. Or create a separate pile to make leafmould. I contain the leaves in a circle of chicken wire. In the spring, I use them as mulch around my plants. Nowadays, I use less and less wood mulch. Not only to save money but also to prevent the spread of the dreaded jumping worms and their eggs that may be transported in purchased horticultural products.

The maple at the edge of the lower field is always the last to lose its leaves.

The Serenity Garden has the most fallen leaves. Duane will run the mower over them a few times.



5. Plant Bulbs


Bulbs need an extended cold period to grow foliage and bloom. I am planting tulips, new varieties of daffodils, and fritillaria this year. It's now too late to plant container-grown plants as they need time to establish a root system before the ground freezes; in my area, that will probably occur about the middle of December. October is said to be the best time to plant garlic, but with climate change, it may be ok to plant in early November. Garlic needs a cold treatment for two months to induce bulbing. Grow garlic in soil with a pH of 6.2 to 7.0. Space the cloves four to six inches apart and three to four inches deep, with the root side down. Mulch heavily with straw. 


6. Put Away Pots and Garden Ornaments


I like storing planters and garden ornaments where frost and snow won't damage them. I don't always clean the pots until spring, but when I tend them now, I feel an outstanding achievement.

 A few pictures I took during Indian Summer:

Pineapple mint in the herb trug is green and spreading. I will need to control it.
The Woodland Walk. A white birch tree stump always gets an interesting-looking fungus -- on top you can see a squirrel was using the stump to crack wallnuts.
Ferns are still green. The border of lavender smells divine! I hope it survives another winter.
No colorful leaves remain on the trees around the top field, but beautiful still.

I should add a seventh must-do: Make notes about what I need to do differently in spring. I've already begun planning my 2023 garden in my head, but if I write down my ideas, I will likely remember them. 

Enjoy the changing seasons,


Pamela x

Doodles enjoying the fall sunshine

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  1. Good advice, and thanks for the reminder about the ornaments. We're just now having our first killing freezes, so I need to get back out there and put away the ornaments. My Dahlias are just now dying, so I'll have to dig them up, dry them, and store them in the next few days.

  2. Thanks for the tour and helpful reminders.

  3. Excellent advice and beautiful pictures to illustrate it. Autumn, as usual, is dragging its feet on arriving here, but we are finally expecting some quite cool temperatures in the next few days. Bring it on, I say!

  4. Some timely reminders. We haven't had a frost here yet, our weather has been very mild, but I do need to make sure I put some ornaments away before it does turn much cooler.