Autumn is upon us and the evenings are gradually drawing in and becoming colder. Winter is fast approaching. So what can garden owners look forward to in the autumn? Preparing for winter of course!
Planting and transplanting work
Autumn is a really good time for transplanting work because the soil has sufficient moisture thanks to regular rain showers. The ground is still warm from the summer and autumn therefore the plants still have enough time to get used to their new position and form new roots.
New plants can also be planted in the autumn with a clear conscience. This is the last chance before the winter to bring a bit of colour into the garden. Roses, should be planted ideally in Autumn, before the first ground frost.
Bulbs can also be planted in autumn so that their flowers germinate from the soil at the right time in spring to delight you with their blaze of colour. The right position is crucial for the heralders of spring to thrive and flower. Most like fresh, moist soil in spring, but in summer, during their dormant period, the soil can be dry and porous. Bulbs should be planted in the ground at a depth of two to three times their height. The bulb planter provides an easy way of making a sufficiently large and deep hole. You then place the bulbs in the ground with their tip facing upwards, cover them with the soil from the planter, and press down.
Cutting herbaceous perennials, bushes and shrubs
When shrubs go yellow, their stems bend towards the ground or they start to go to seed, it is time to cut them down. This is because the plants are now drawing their sap back to their roots. If they are not cut down, they may decay.
Bushes and shrubs can be cut to approximately a quarter of their size. This can, however, vary according to the type of bush or shrub. You can usually find more information on plant labels or from your local garden centre.
Hedges should be pruned for the last time in autumn to prevent decaying if damp accumulates. Only cut deciduous hedges back as far as you can without creating any holes as these will not grow back over the winter and the hedge could look bare. Any tree leaves lying on the hedge should also be removed otherwise the hedge will not get enough fresh air and sun and could rot.
In winter, the wet, low temperatures and weak sunshine effect the lawn. That’s why lawns need some TLC and ‘pampering’ again before the cold spell begins. When the leaves fall in autumn, they should be cleared from the lawn on a regular basis. Leaves left lying on the lawn will deprive it of light and encourage the formation of dry, brown patches and the growth of moss. Mow your lawn for the last time around the beginning of November. Make sure that the grass is not cut shorter than 5 cm as longer grass can make better use of less sunlight. This will ensure better resistance against weeds and moss.
Using an autumn fertiliser is also recommended. Autumn fertilisers usually have a low nitrogen content and a high level of potassium. The increased amount of potassium strengthens the grass and increases its resistance to frost. Traditional lawn fertilisers should not be used in autumn since they contain a high amount of nitrogen and make the lawn grow faster, which in turn makes it more susceptible to frost.
Naturally, there are other small jobs which also need to be done before the first frost:
• Beds, roses and other plants which are sensitive to frost should be covered with brushwood or leaves or wrapped in bubble wrap or similar.
• Dig out summer bulbs such as dahlias and store them in an airy box in the cellar.
• Bring pot plants indoors or place them in a sheltered position.
• Switch off water connections and empty taps and watering devices so that frozen water cannot cause any damage.
• Dismantle pond pumps and, if necessary, install an anti-ice pump.
When winter comes, gardeners can enjoy a relaxing break from gardening. But watch out: It won’t be long before it’s time to get started again!
FALL GARDENING TIPS AND CHORES
Replace tired-looking summer annuals with mums, ornamental kale and grasses. Arrange pumpkins and gourds around the yard and home, and decorate lamp posts and arbors with dried cornstalks. Cut branches of cotoneaster and beautyberry to adorn your dining room table for festive harvest dinners, or stick the branches into year-round outdoor containers for extra seasonal color.
Extend the season
If your yard doesn’t already have one, install a fire pit or small portable fire bowl to take the chill off cool fall evenings. Place the fire pit on a patio or in a backyard area where there’s already seating. Take time to gather around with family and friends to toast marshmallows and reminisce about summer.
Check out your local nursery for end-of-the-season bargains. More expensive trees and shrubs are often discounted so that nurseries don’t have to carry extra inventory through the winter. Plant new specimens as soon as possible and keep them well-watered until they go into dormancy.
Now that the weather is cooler, it’s a good time to divide and move perennials. Do this at least several weeks prior to your average first hard frost in order to give plants time to recover from transplant shock and establish new roots. Cover garden beds with several inches of mulch for extra winter protection.
Rather than cutting back all of your perennials now, leave plants with seed heads, such as coneflowers, asters and ornamental grasses to provide food for your feathered friends through the harshest months. Make sure your garden includes native trees and shrubs with late-season berries, such as hawthorn, viburnum and beautyberry for seasonal color as well as additional food for wildlife.
Incorporate eco-friendly practices into your fall cleanup routine. Instead of bagging fallen leaves to be hauled away, finely shred leaves with a mower and layer or work them into beds to enrich the soil. Add leftovers to the compost pile. Winterize compost by insulating with a thick layer of leaves or straw to trap the heat that is generated as organic matter breaks down. Cover with a permeable cloth to allow moisture in and to keep material from blowing away.
By late winter, gardeners are eager for any sign of spring. Fall is the time to plant spring-blooming bulbs to fill bare spots in the perennial border, or along pathways where they can be seen up close. Plant scented flowers such as daffodils or hyacinth near your home’s front entrance where the fragrance will be most enjoyed.
Protect your pots
In colder climates, wash and store ceramic and terra cotta pots in a cool, dry place where they won’t freeze and crack. Sturdy metal, stone, fiberglass or plastic pots can be left out and used for fall and winter arrangements.
Make a list of what worked well in the garden, and what could use fine tuning. Is a key tree getting too big? Did design elements such as hardscaping and plant combinations work together effectively? Think ahead to next year’s projects, such as building a new path, patio or water feature.
Put the patio and tools to bed
Wipe down patio furniture with mild soap and water, and store in the garage or garden shed. Scrub excess dirt from garden tools and oil the metal parts to prevent rust. Store tools in a cool, dry place. Disconnect hoses and drain for storage, and cover faucets and hose bibs with insulating material to keep them from freezing.