This week we experienced the opening salvo of fall in the form of a cold front dipping down from Canada. In the space of about 12 hours, the temperatures at my Fort Worth home went from near 100 degrees to 56 degrees after sundown. That, my friends, is a radical change.
And speaking of change, now is the time for you and I to begin planning what changes to make in our garden this fall. The cooler weather makes this the best time for many garden tasks. You can:
• Plant or transplant perennial shrubs and trees
• Add in some cool weather annuals
• Take cuttings from favorite perennials to start plants for indoors
• Sow wildflower seeds that need the winter’s cold for germination
• Mulch and fertilize everything to encourage winter root growth
In the cool of the day, go outside and survey the situation, taking a pad and pen. Make note of any major problems you want to correct. Perhaps you have a section that gets flooded out whenever you get heavy rains. The material used for your garden edging may need replacement or repair. You probably also have a plant that has grown WAY too big for its spot and needs to be moved. Whatever the problem, make a note of it. You can now go back inside and formulate your fall garden tidy up.
To begin your fall work, you should first subtract out your problems. Eliminate anything you don’t want in your garden. Remove debris and dead or dying plants. Dig out any ground cover that has strayed from its appointed territory. Cut back plants that have become excessively overgrown – there’s always at least one. Remove any storm-damaged or diseased tree limbs.
Once that’s done, it’s time to add in the fall plants. Almost any perennial that is winter-hardy in your area is best planted in the fall. Check you local nursery for end-of-year stock sales.This is also Your golden opportunity to plant spring flowering bulbs, such as tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths. Gardeners in warm southern states can also plant garlic during this season.
Perennials that propagate by division can also be transplanted during this fall garden makeover. I have plans for my lemon thyme and winter savory to be divided and spread out to fill some garden gaps. Transplanting now permits the roots to be well-established when spring comes next year.
Once you’ve dug out the bad and planted the good it’s time to do the last minute fall mulching and fertilizing. The mulch will protect tender roots and help them survive any unexpected prolonged freezes. The fertilizer will encourage the roots to spread out and be ready when spring pop up next year.