Ten Things to Do in the Fall Garden  

By Barbara Gyarmathy, Master Gardener 
Garden Club of Morgan Park/Beverly Hills 
  1. Sit back and be proud ofthis year’s garden, then get back to work!  Whether this was your first attempt, or one of many, gardening is a learning experience that requires lots of patience. Do an honest evaluation of your garden. What worked? What didn’t?  Which plants should be divided or moved to another spot? As your garden is fading through the fall, think about what you can plant that will provide longer color, interest and pollinating benefits at this time next year. 
  2. 2.Remove annuals from containers and landscapes. This can be hard to do when they still look good. Supertunia Vistas and SalviaRockin’s look like they could bloom forever, but they won’t. As soon as the first frost hits you will wish you had cleaned them up earlie  
  3. 3.Now is a good time for additional planting and some redesigning. Still warm soil and relatively cool air temps can continue to promote healthy root growth in plants forhopefully another six weeks. Take advantage of endofseason sales on trees and shrubs, and divide and move perennials around in the garden.   
  4. 4.Plant springblooming bulbs. Fall is the only time to plant bulbs like tulips, daffodils and crocus.These plants need to experience cold winter temperatures in order to bloom in spring. Milkweed seeds also need the extreme winter cold to germinate. Plant bulbs among specimens like hostas and catmint so once the bulbs have bloomed, the fading foliage will be hidden by the leaves of the later-emerging  If squirrels are a problem, try spraying bulbs with animal repellant or cover them with chicken wire. 
  5. 5.Tend theperennialsIt is not necessary or recommended to cut back your entire garden. Once certain perennials go dormant, it’s a good idea to clean some of their foliage out of the garden bedsCut down hostas that have been damaged by slugs (slugs lay eggs in the dormant foliage so removing it will reduce slug issues next year)Many types of bees and small beneficial insects happily overwinter in garden debris and their welfare is very important. Some perennials should not be cut back, such as evergreen or semi-evergreen perennials like pinks, coral bells, foamy bells, foamflower, creeping phlox and red hot poker, and perennials with woody stems like hibiscus, Russian sage, lavender and butterfly bush. Perennials with winter interest like False Indigo, coneflowers, ornamental grasses, autumn sedum, alliums or lenten roses will add a fourth season to your garden because their shades of brown and gray and textures will stand up to the snow. 
  6. 6.Continue to water. Evergreen perennials, shrubs and trees, as well as anything you’ve recently planted, will need to be watered until the ground starts to freeze.  
  7. 7.Rake, shred and mulch with leaves. Nature delivers natural mulch at our feet every fall when deciduoustrees drop their leavesToo often these humble leaves are raked, bagged and dumped into the alley for the trashman. Finely textured leaves from willow or honey locusts will easily degrade on their own and don’t need to be raked, but broad leaves from maples, sycamores, oaks and the like need to be raked to prevent them from matting down which delays decomposition and could smother grass and perennials. Take time to shred these leaves and rake them back into garden beds in late fall as the ground begins to freeze. Leaf mulch will keep weeds at bay, insulate plants over the winter months andmost importantly, enrich the soil as the leaves break down. It’s all about the soil in a healthy garden and leaf mulch is nature’s great gift to us! 
  8. 8.Protect sensitive and newly planted perennials and shrubs.If you are pushing the hardiness zone on a few of your plants, heaping a pile of shredded leaves or evergreen boughs on top of them once they are dormant may help them make it through the winterMulching newly planted perennials and shrubs can prevent the root ball from heaving out of the ground during the freeze/thaw cycles of winter by keeping the temperature more consistent 
  9. Bring the outdoors in! Gather cut branches and dried flowers from the garden to use in your indoor decorating.Hydrangea, berried branches, ornamental grass plumes and plants with seed pods can all make the beauty if this season last.   
  10. Start dreaming about next year’s garden! The catalogues start comingin winter and gardeningrelated events and expos begin as early as January. Well worth the trips are the Porter County Master Gardener’s Association Gardening Show in Valpo at the end of January and the Wisconsin Public Television Garden and Landscape Expo in Madison in February. There will be more information on these two informative and inspiring shows in our next article.   

(The Garden Club of Morgan Park/Beverly Hills was established in 1926, and members are dedicated to beautifying the neighborhood and educating themselves and others about garden caretaking.    

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