Fall Chores in the Garden, Yawning, Ready for Sleep

Bill Primavera
Bill Primavera

By Bill Primavera – Autumn in the garden and yard can be the most gratifying time of year as deciduous trees and perennials start to yawn, preparing for a long winter’s sleep. They can be accompanied by that sweet smell that comes from plants releasing their chemistry and the crisp, clean sound of decaying leaves falling to the ground.
It all tells homeowners that they can rest for a few short months of shorter days, much like when the children are asleep. The only outdoor chore that remains is clearing walkways of snow and ice.
While spring is probably everybody’s favorite time in the garden, helping its rebirth after being pummeled by winter, I always liked fall for the very finiteness of garden chores. When I pulled a weed, it stayed pulled and didn’t replace itself with double the aggression. When I deadheaded perennials, I knew that I could take a furlough from assuring that they were properly fed and watered, but would welcome them back in spring after we had both rested.
The very proportions of my garden would change as I whacked back the perennial and annual growth, which made the vistas more open from one bed to the other. Also, it eliminated many of my planning mistakes from one season to the next, as I abandoned errant plans and moved bulbs and perennial roots to other locations.
My more creative joy came from choosing which mums I’d feature as the color transition from fall to winter. While you will see drifts of mum plants on some properties that have every color in the fall palate, I stuck to one color, or at the most, two.
For the longest display of mum flowers, it’s best to buy those where most of the plant is still buds. When the mums fade, just leave them where they are; they maintain a nice mound throughout the winter, and you can cut them back in the early spring. If you’re lucky, they may return, but sometimes they don’t, depending on winter conditions.
My most gratifying fall job, as well as a good aerobic/resistance training exercise, was building up the mulch beds to make them look well-tended as well as to keep the perennial roots from heaving. I would always ask my tree service to send me a truckload of wood chips if they were very clean (no leaves) and processed into smaller chips. Truly, it’s as good as expensive mulch. In fact, I like it better because it offers more texture and somehow looks more natural to me.
Here are other garden tips at this time of year.
• Harvest any vegetables left on plants. It’s important to pull out all of the crops because debris left over the winter can cause diseases to enter the soil and reappear the next spring.
• This is the time when you can add horse manure or compost to the soil, because that allows plenty of time for them to break down.
• For those who like to bring houseplants inside, they should all be gathered into a shady area for a few days to get them used to low levels of light.
• Perennials that are overcrowded or growing in a large ring with the center portion missing means that it’s time to subdivide. You’ll become popular with your neighbors if you share the excess. Cut back the remaining perennials to a height of three to six inches.
• Prepare for brilliant displays of daffodils, tulips and crocuses in spring by planting bulbs now. Do not plant them in tidy rows but rather “broadcast” them in drifts on the surface, and plant them where they land for a more natural look.
• For those who have the patience to endure the rigors of rose maintenance, it is time to prune dead branches and cut off any old flowers. Rose bushes should be mounded using topsoil or mulch and the canes should be cut back to six to 12 inches. For even better protection, the bush can be covered with a bushel basket.
• Also, this is the best time to transplant shrubs or young trees to new locations.
Note that my advice from personal experience is in the past tense now that I live in a condo. Oh, how I miss my garden, but giving advice is good therapy for me.
Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). His real estate site is www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com, and his blog is www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.

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