Fall is my favourite time to garden! It is cooler and I love how Mother Nature shifts her palette from the pinks and blues of high summer to the rich, hot, autumnal colours. I also love the whole build up from back to school to Thanksgiving, my daughter Silken’s favourite holiday. September to early October is a season of renewal that brings out the “house proud” in me. Ensuring that our home and garden is “hygge”; cosy and inviting, for our Thanksgiving guests gives me such pleasure. I enjoy putzing around the house and garden making all the lovely seasonal changes to celebrate this season of grace.
With these helpful tips, enjoy gardening right through until Final Frost. Winter is coming but not just yet…so enjoy!
Fall is for Planting Perennials, Bulbs, Shrubs and Trees
Plant perennials until the middle of October. The fall is the ideal time to see the gaps or holes in your garden, especially in your Fall succession of bloom. With the late bloomers, you can have spectacular colour in your garden right until November. Jim and I purchased one of those neat outdoor heaters from Home Hardware and a beautiful fire table from General Products to help extend the pleasure of our outdoor rooms into the evening. We can watch the hummingbirds right until they leave in October.
Fill in the holes with some of my favourites for improving Fall Succession of Bloom: Plumbago, Sedum, Mums, Asters, Ornamental Grasses, Coneflowers, Anemone, Rozanne Cranesbills, etc. Planting Brunnera and Bergenia and lots of squirrel defying bulbs like daffodils and hyacinth will also improve your early Spring succession of bloom. Pop by our Kate’s Garden Plant Corrals as we have a great selection of Fall Perennials and Harvest Annuals for Container Gardening.
Plant flowering and evergreen shrubs usually right up until the end of October. Trees too! Shrubs and trees love a cool foot and most nurseries have them on sale!
Keep weeding until ground is frost-covered. The growth of weeds slows in September and October but especially with late season heat, they can overtake the garden in the fall.
Stop Deadheading & Fertilizing
Unless your plants are really unsightly, stop deadheading. Think about leaving seed heads for birds.
Stop fertilizing by the first week of September so that your plants and shrubs can begin their lovely slow progression into winter dormancy.
Fall is Perfect Time to Divide Perennials
Divide perennials usually sometime between year 3 and 5. Divide plants only after they have finished flowering. September and October are ideal months for division. There is still enough time for the plants to develop new feeder roots before the onset of hard frost.
How to Divide Perennials
Divide perennials by digging the new hole first. Choose a cool, cloudy day to work if possible. Fill the bottom of the new hole with water. Watering first ensures that less moisture is lost in the process. Cut the plant to be divided down to about six to eight inches. After ensuring that it has been thoroughly watered, dig the plant to be divided to beneath the root ball. Depending on the size of the root ball, pull apart or cut apart with a sharp knife, edger or two pitchforks.
Plant in the new location at the same level as the previous plant. Fill around the plants with good compost and soil and root booster. Water thoroughly and continue to water until the new roots take hold usually twice a week for six weeks.
Plant bulbs from late September until hard frost. Plant early, mid and late blooming bulbs. Early blooming daffodils like Tete a Tete and Jetfire are no brainers for the garden. They are so easy to plant, and they give such a cheerful show of early colour in the spring. And remember, squirrels hate daffodils, muscari, frittalaria and hyacinth bulbs. They loooove to munch tulips.
The fall is the best time to move Clematis and Honeysuckle vine to avoid transplant shock.
September is the Month to Bring Outdoor Plants Indoors
Potted tropical plants (Oleander, Bougainvillea, Fuchsia, Hibiscus, Mandevilla, Dipladania, Passion flower) must be brought indoors before any hint of frost. (And before you turn on the furnace!)
Check to see if they need to be repotted to a slightly larger pot. Check leaves for insects and be sure to give them a good spray of insecticidal soap. I like Safer’s the best, but I often make my own insecticidal soap by diluting a few drops of Sunlight Dishwashing Soap in a plant sprayer.
Bringing in plants before the furnace is turned on lessens the shock of changing from outdoors to indoors. Give the plants a thorough shower to get rid of pests. If plants are to be over wintered in the same containers, get rid of the old soil and repot.
· Experiment with alyssum, geranium, impatiens, nasturtium, pansy, portulaca and verbena. Overwinter them indoors on a sunny window. They will start to look a little ratty by February but begin to perk back up by the end of March.
· Tender bulbs such as dahlias, cannas or gloriosa lilies need to be stored indoors. Lift the plant before the first hard frost. Prune the stem to a couple of inches from the tuber or corm. Remove soil from the plant. Store upside down for two weeks to allow water to drain from the stem. Dust with sulfur to prevent fungus. Store in burlap (not plastic bags) in a cool, dry area.
· Discard old gladiola corms and keep the little corms to plant.
· Geraniums can be brought indoors and grown for years. Lift them out in early October. Prune this year’s stem to three buds from where it grew out from last year’s growth. Place them in a cool, well-lit room for the winter and water conservatively. Prune to an outward facing bud so new shoots won’t grow inward.
· Taking Slips – Use nonflowering shoots found near base of the plant. Remove lower leaves and pot cuttings in a sterile potting mix. Coleus, Fuchsia, Impatiens, Marguerites and tender vines.
Remove Summer Annuals
Remove and compost annuals. Intermix layers of plant material with 2 cm. of soil. Remove dead annuals and compost live annuals.
Late Fall is the Best Time to Mulch
Cultivated gardens need protection from the wind, frost-and-thaw cycles, heavy ice accumulations and the winter sun.
Cover cleaned beds with compost, manure or mulch after the leaves fall.
After first freeze is the best time towards the end of October or early November. Mulching before the leaves fall and the soil freezes can cause plants to heave out of the ground during mid-winter thaws. It has gotten harden to judge when last leaf fall will occur as the effects of climate change impact us. Allow plants to freeze in the soil and then mulch to keep them frozen in the winter.
· Mulched beds retain soil moisture longer through the winter, and newly planted fall perennials are less likely to heave if they have a layer of mulch.
· Rake away oak and maple leaves as they mat when they are soggy and smother everything underneath. Rake fallen leaves from beds; compost leaves or shred and use as a mulch where desired.
· Leaves or mulch? Leaves leave great nutrients for all plants, protection against freeze-thaw and break down into great organic matter: humus. Leaves are great for the earthworms which are so important to healthy soil, but wet leaves provide refuge for slugs and mice. They will munch away on your plants.
· Best bags for waste removal are available at Home Hardware. They have developed a thirty-day bag. You can leave them outside for days and days before waste removal even in the rain and they do not fall apart. Bonus!
· The Perennial Plant Association recommends routine mulching of established plantings each fall as good insurance against winter injury – evergreen boughs, pine needles, etc.
· In the spring, leave mulch and winter protection in place until three weeks after the last frost.
· At Kate’s Garden, our teams tend to do the most mulching at the end of May and early June. This allows for optimum weed suppression during the height of the growing season. We order our mulch from Farmer Jack’s as it is a great blend of three different types of bark and is a very natural colour that looks a lot like soil.
· Fall is a great time to amend the soil with compost or to apply triple mix.
· Great time to test your soil for loam quality and pH level too! If you want great triple mix, just call Farmer Jack’s.
Cut Back Perennials???? Only if you have too!
· Cutting back perennials??? Marjorie Harris, garden editor states, “Don’t over tidy the garden! Think of the forest – no one is nipping about with a broom cleaning up!”
· If you must, cut back no shorter than four inches. The short stubble helps hold insulating snow on plant crowns. It also helps mark location of plants next spring.
· Fall is the time to cut back peonies (not tree peonies) to soil level. If peonies need to be divided, do so very late summer.
· Leave as many full stalks as you can, as seed heads are great for the birds in winter. Examples: ornamental grasses, rudbeckia, purple coneflowers, sedums, clematis. They also make beautiful winter displays.
· Only cut back any mushy looking perennials…mums, hostas, etc.
Overwintering your Roses
· Stop fertilizing by the beginning of September. Let the last blooms go to rosehips, signaling the beginning of dormancy to the plants. This causes the canes to harden and develop frost resistance.
· Stop deadheading in September. Remove any leaves infected by black spot or mildew. On established roses wait until very late fall or spring before pruning.
· At Kate’s Garden, we cut back the canes in the spring.
· To protect roses from winter freeze and thaw, mound soil about the base to protect the rootstock. Hill up dirt around the bud union of roses. Prune roses to a manageable size. Secure climbing rose canes to arbours, obelisks or trellises.
· Secure canes of climbing roses to avoid cane rock.
· Hill up teas, grandifloras and floribunda roses with topsoil or compost to protect the bud union, which is only an inch or two below the soil. Use bagged topsoil or triple mix to mound over the crown of the plant in a hill about 12 inches high and as wide at the bottom. In spring, after the soil has drained, spread the soil over the bed.
Winter Protection for Plants in November
· Leave most shrubs unwrapped. Wrapping in burlap or other materials cuts off air, compresses the limb structure and traps snow and ice against the plant.
· Gently tie tall cedars and upright junipers with twine to prevent heavy snow from splaying out and breaking branches. Not tightly. Remove the twine next spring when the night temperatures are consistently above freezing.
· Burlap will reduce wind and salt burn from broadleaf evergreens like Rhododendron and Mahonia. Set up wooden stakes and staple burlap to the upright stakes.
Check out our Garden to Bed Service if you are interested in us helping you transition your garden in between seasons.
· In October, feed the lawn with an organic or commercial fertilizer low in nitrogen (first number) and low (last number) in potassium.
· Water the lawn well before it goes dormant. September is also a great time to resod your lawn. Best sod anywhere is from Fairgreen Sod!
· Before the first predicted hard frost, heavily water plants especially shrubs, deciduous trees and evergreens, rhodos, perennials and roses. Let them take up as much water as possible. This will substantially enhance the plant’s ability to stand the drying winds of winter.