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Don’t hang up your hoe yet! September might be here, but there’s still plenty of time to get out there and dig in the good earth.
Autumn is a perfect time to garden. You can do so much more than rake in your harvest. It’s the season for preparing your beds for the coming winter and the following spring.
With that in mind, here are 10 tips to help you create a fruitful fall garden.
1. Give Them Shelter
For those who live in zones 2b through 6b, you still have a while to enjoy the great outdoors, although you might need to dress for the weather in cooler climates. However, temperatures can vary widely over a few days — even hours — when night falls. Some of your blooms might do fine at high noon but need protection at midnight.
Putting a cover over your plants offers 2 to 5 degrees of extra protection from temperature extremes. You can use a tarp or plastic sheeting. Use stakes to keep them from touching foliage and potentially freezing to it, causing damage.
2. Perform Necessary Pruning
Many gardeners tend to prune in the fall, but you should do so correctly for the best results. For example, you should leave the tops on plants like mums to prevent the cold from damaging delicate roots.
Read the instructions for the type of plants in your garden to determine where and whether to trim. Ornamental grasses often look their best during these months. After a few hard freezes, get out the shears to make them go dormant.
3. Adjust Your Watering Needs
Once summer’s heat dissipates, you might not need to water as much. Pay attention to signs of overwatering, such as brown and yellow spots on leaves and soft, squishy stems. If the soil always feels moist to the touch, your plants could develop mold growth and die.
Inspect the earth around your plants during midday when the drip system isn’t running. If it still feels wet on a sunny day, you probably need to reduce your use. You can also use a plant sensor to keep track of watering needs.
4. Collect Seeds and Cuttings
You can create an heirloom collection of plants if you save the seeds from varieties like tomatoes from year to year. Annuals such as beans and cucumbers make it easy for novice gardeners to master seed storage and start seedlings in mid-winter from what they preserved.
It’s also the time to take herb cuttings. You may have luck starting new roots on soft herbs by placing the stems in water. You can also buy a commercial rooting mix.
5. Plant New Trees and Shrubs Early
Please don’t wait until forecasters predict the first frost to plant that oak you want to adorn your front lawn. Even larger species need time to establish themselves before the worst winter weather hits. Plant any trees or shrubs you hope to develop early in the season and generously mulch them with undyed wood chips to protect the roots from the chill.
6. Ready Your Spring Bulbs
If you want tulips in the spring, now is the time to plant your bulbs. Pro-tip: After you place them in the ground, cover them with chicken wire as a physical deterrent to critters who might otherwise dig up what you plant to munch on it. It also helps to bury your plantings three times as deep as the bulb is wide to discourage squirrels from dining on your crocus bulbs.
7. Pull Weeds
Fall is the best time to pull weeds. Doing so now ensures they won’t have a chance to proliferate when April showers bring May dandelions. Remove them by hand, ensuring you get all of the roots.
8. Mulch and Prepare Your Soil
A thick layer of mulch protects delicate plant roots and any bulbs you planted for the spring. Doing so helps enrich your soil for the next growing season. Laying down a sheet of plastic on top and securing it with rocks results in warmer, more nutrient-dense soil when the weather warms again.
9. Clean Your Equipment
If you have a tractor or other heavy-duty equipment, now is the time to schedule a tune-up at the shop. If you prefer to DIY, get in the garage and manage oil changes and other necessary maintenance.
Remove dirt from your smaller gardening tools like hoes and shovels. Scrub away any dust with a steel wool pad. Dry your equipment before stowing it away.
10. Decorate For The Season
Finally, remember to add a few festive fall touches to your outdoor landscape when you spruce it up for the season. You can create picturesque wreaths and garlands from the falling leaves and pinecones surrounding you. If you have window boxes, why not add a few artificial blooms in seasonal colors for a bright splash of curb appeal?
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