It’s Time: Prepare Your Garden for Autumn

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The kids are back in school, the nights are getting darker earlier, and the cool morning air reminds you that summer is coming to an end. It’s time to plan for a day in the garden soon, so you can prepare it for the fall. Taking a little time earlier in autumn will save you precious time in the spring when you’re ready to bring your flowers and vegetables to life again. Here are a few simple tips for making the most of a weekend in the yard and garden at the end of summer.

Prepare your lawn. Your lawn may be the most resilient part of your yard, and a little fall fertilizing will help it come back even better in the spring. Fertilize your lawn while it is still green, and as long as it remains green, continue to mow it to about a 3-inch height. Never cut your lawn too short while it’s green. Continue to water your lawn while it is green and then water it once a month in the winter if there is little snow or rain.

Pull up old vines and vegetable plants. Insects often feed on these plants in the summer and then lay eggs in the fall. Raking and pulling up old vines and leaves will prevent the insects from surviving the winter and hatching in the spring. Insect pests that feed on these plants during summer and fall often lay eggs on the old plants. If the vines are left on the soil surface, insect eggs will survive the winter and hatch in the spring.

Add some organic material to the soil of your vegetables. You can add manure, compost, peat and/or leaves in the fall and then mix this into the soil really well.

Leave some vegetables alone. Your vegetables – carrots, beets, parsnips – will do well after the ground has cooled. Put a straw mulch cover over these vegetables and let them live on. Parsnips turn even sweeter in the cooler ground.

Harvest the fall vegetables with the first light frost. Bring in your winter squash and pumpkins before the first heavy frost damages them. Cut them from the vines, leaving 3 to 4 inches of stem on the vegetable.

Pull your annuals. Fall means it’s time to say goodbye to the summer annuals. Pull your annuals and compost them if you choose. If your plants are diseased in any way, discard them in the trash so they don’t ruin your soil.

Do one more round of weed pulling. Pull your weeds in the fall or spot-spray on some of the green perennial weeds. Perennial weeds, such as dandelion or thistle are easier killed by fall spraying than summer spraying.

Keep watering trees and shrubs. Water your trees and shrubs into the winter. If there is little moisture during the winter water them every few weeks. Dry soil can kill the roots and stress the trees and shrubs. Water early in the day so the water can be absorbed before it freezes at night.

Cut back your perennials to within 1 to 2 inches of the ground and dispose of the cuttings. They may carry diseases that will survive the winter. When the weather gets colder add mulch to the soil of the perennials to keep them warmer and to ensure they don’t get stressed in thawing and cooling weather.

Anticipating our summer gardens is something a lot of us do in the winter. Make sure your ready to go when the weather warms up by taking a few steps as the weather cools down.

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