The onset of autumn is bittersweet for many gardeners, as we say goodbye to our tender annuals and vegetables but welcome the respite from intense gardening chores. Note your successes and failures in your garden journal, and make plans for next year’s growing season.
Fall Gardening Chores
Clean Up Autumn Leaves
Organic gardeners with deciduous trees face a mixed blessing in the fall. Dead leaves are an unparalleled source of carbon in the compost pile, and gardeners should keep a ratio of four parts carbon to one part nitrogen in the compost bin. However, gathering all this free fertilizer is laborious, and it’s tempting to neglect raking chores.
Fallen leaves quickly mat together and form a suffocating blanket on the lawn. If you can’t see any green under the leaf mat, it’s time to rake. For gardeners with many trees, this may mean raking two or three times a week. If your compost bin is overflowing with leaves, run over the leaf pile with your lawnmower and use the shredded leaves as garden mulch.
Don’t give up on your vegetables and herbs: Check out these Fall Gardening Tips
Plant Spring-Flowering Bulbs
Although garden centers may begin offering spring flowering bulbs in early September, you can continue planting them until the ground is frozen. This allows gardeners the opportunity to cash in on end-of-the-season bulb clearance sales. Plant your bulbs three times the depth of the bulb’s size, and amend the soil with bone meal to enhance root development. Dispose of any stray papery bulb coverings carefully to avoid attracting the attention of bulb-loving squirrels.
Fall Lawn Care
Cooler temperatures and fall rains turn heat-stressed lawns green again. Assess your lawn for bare spots, as fall is the best time to reseed. The warm soil temperatures combined with cool air temperatures allow grass to establish a healthy root system before winter. You may also notice a resurgence of weeds in these growing conditions, so treat your lawn with a corn meal gluten product that prevents weed seeds from germinating and gives the lawn a nitrogen boost. Wait at least six weeks after planting new grass seed before applying corn meal gluten.
Protect Garden Containers
Some gardeners wish to reuse potting soil for economical reasons, but this leads to stunted plants grown in soil depleted of nutrients, or plants that succumb to diseases or pests that over wintered in the soil. Remove all spent potting soil and dead plants from their containers, and add them to the compost bin. Don’t add diseased plants to the compost bin.
Store all ceramic and terra cotta pots in a sheltered environment, preferably one that remains above freezing. When gardeners expose these pots to freezing temperatures, the moisture in the pores of the pots can expand, which causes the pots to crack. If a freeze claims one of your favorites, add a new garden container to your holiday wish list.