Monday, October 26, 2009

Beyond The Usual Fall Gardening Chores by Donna Duffy

When the days become shorter and the leaves start to fall, most gardeners go about the business of doing the routine fall tasks – pruning, mulching, garden clean-up, planting bulbs. Here are four additional fall chores that you might not think about.

1. Get a garden journal. Use it to record what worked this summer, what you want to change, new plants you’d like to try…anything that is fresh on your mind at the end of the gardening season.  Be specific rather than general: for example, “eliminate Primrose and Valerian in front garden” will be more helpful than “get rid of invasive plants.”  If you are like many of us, those details get lost in the hustle-bustle of the holidays and the long, cold days of winter. In the springtime, your journal will be a bridge between fall and spring, and will help you jump start the new gardening season.

2. Do some container maintenance. Protection for containers containing woody or herbaceous perennial species may include heavy mulching or burying the container in the ground. Many containers, especially porous ones, will crack if the moist media is allowed to freeze and thaw throughout the winter. Often perennials, ornamental grasses, and woody plants are treated as annuals in containers and not overwintered. However, these plants could be transplanted into gardens and landscapes before the ground freezes. All media and plants should be discarded into the compost pile at the end of the growing season. Disinfect containers by scrubbing with a 10 percent solution of chlorine bleach to kill any organisms that remain on the container. (Reference: CSU Extension Fact Sheet # 7.238)

3. Make structural changes in your landscape. Fall is the perfect time to develop the structure or foundation for a new garden. Determine the size and placement of the new garden, put in the border, improve the soil, eliminate the grass if necessary, then relax and use your winter hours to ponder the new garden. Because you won’t be able to run out to a garden store and grab the first pretty plant you see, your new garden can be planned more intentionally. Browse the catalogues, look over your gardening books and magazines, sketch the new garden on paper and try out a variety of designs. By the time springtime rolls around, you’ll be well prepared to finish your garden masterpiece!

4. Create a study list. Think back about the challenges you had this year. Maybe you were pestered by garden pests. Perhaps your aspen trees died. Or maybe your lawn just wasn’t up to snuff. Whatever the problem, there are a wealth of resources available to help you avoid or manage the problem next year. Start with the CMG website at: From the home page, you can find CSU Extension Fact Sheets, on-line yard and garden publications, and get your questions answered on Plant Talk. Selectively choose resources related to the problems you experienced and create a study list. Record your learnings and next steps in your garden journal. In April, you’ll thank yourself.