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Fall Garden Cleanup

Fall is the time to start preparing our gardens for the winter months ahead. Here are some things to do in the garden before the end of the season:

Tree

 

1) Stop fertilizing woody plants, as you want them to start hardening off and not expending energy into new fresh growth. Give your trees a good soak near the end of September with a soaker hose directly under the outermost branch tips, what we call the drip line, and leave it on for a day. They should be in a well hydrated state going into winter. Pruning is not recommended at this time of the year, except to clean up any dead or diseased wood.

 

Harvest  2) As for your edibles, now is a good time to pull out fading plants to get a head start on your clean up, such as peas and beans. Chop all the left over plants up and place them in your compost bin and turn/water your compost while you’re at it. Consider emptying out your compost and spreading it on the garden and lawn to make room for all the new material you will be putting in the bins in October after the rest of the perennials start to die back.

 

 

Frost Cloth 3) Make sure you have frost cloth ready for your tomatoes and other tender edibles, as  well. Now is also the time to selectively deadhead perennials if they do not have showy seed  heads or turn to mush in the winter but leave your roses alone to discourage fresh new growth.  It is also a good time to cut back woodland perennials such as bleeding hearts and ferns that  have gone dormant by this time of year. September is a good time for planting new perennials  or moving plants while the changes are still fresh in your mind and the sales are on in the stores.  Don’t be afraid to divide and replant older perennials now too! There is still plenty of time for  them to become established before winter. Make sure to keep on top of your weeding as it never seems to end; but seeing as the perennials are nice and big this time of year there shouldn’t be too much space for weeds to grow.

Garlic 4) Now is also the time to plant your fall bulbs and garlic. The sooner the bulbs are in the ground the sooner they will put down their roots. A few dozen grape hyacinth near your paths are a beautiful sight in spring as they poke their heads out, especially before the larger bulbs put in an appearance. Squirrels love tulip bulbs but dislike Blood Meal so if you sprinkle some on top of the ground it will prevent them from being dug up. Chicken wire works wonders as well. Be sure to dig up your summer bulbs like dahlias and gladiolas before a killing frost hits and you loss them! Plant your garlic now and sprinkle poppy seeds where you want a show next year but do not cover them with soil as they need light to germinate.

Although I do like to do a little fall clean up as previously mentioned, I am also a firm believer in leaving most things to die back naturally to provide protection for the root ball as well as for the critters, such as ladybugs, to overwinter in. We haven’t really been getting masses of snow, so the foliage will trap what we do get and provide insulation and moisture. As for your lawn an application of low nitrogen, high phosphorus/potassium fertilizer in the fall will encourage vigorous growth next spring. The last cut of the season can be shorter than during the summer and if you’re a real lawn lover you can aerate and top dress with light soil or compost now as well.The zoo runs some great gardening courses you can take to help with your landscaping endeavours. Starting in September is the Woody Plant ID course which helps you identify common plant material around Calgary and its effective use in the landscape.
Author: Colleen Tanner