Preparing for a Fall Garden

Erin Conant

Perhaps you found this years’ growing season to be a struggle. The days were long and hot as usual and watering just to keep your garden alive became a part-time career. Breathe a deep sigh of relief as the fall season is upon us. This mild time of year brings an added dimension of delight to a fall gardener.

Begin the transition by tidying up your summer beds. Prune back your flowering perennials, especially roses and salvias, by 1/4 to 1/3 to encourage a fresh, new flush of growth and flowers. Be cautious, however, not to trim fall-blooming perennials such as the Mexican Mint Marigold or the vibrant Fall Aster. These plants work hard all year to put on one beautiful show. It’s also time for a hearty helping of nutrition. Adding compost to your lawn and garden will replace nutrients that were used up during the summer or washed away by frequent watering. Next, consider adding a generous blanket of moisture-conserving, temperature-stabilizing mulch to all plantings.

Revamp that vegetable garden by replacing overgrown or pest-infested summer crops with cold-hardy transplants such as broccoli, spinach, and sugar snap peas.  Continue the satisfaction of utilizing your own garden to create flavorful meals by planting autumn-savvy herbs such as cilantro, dill, parsley, and chives.

Make no mistake; this is by far the best time of year to plant perennials. The gentle weather gives new roots a healthy start with less of a struggle. Trees and shrubs planted during the autumn season will continue to grow below the soil and establish their root systems, making them less vulnerable to that first blast of summer heat.  So sharpen your shears, bring out the shovels and make the most of this charming season we know as fall.

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