Garden chores tend to lose their allure when summer ebbs and you’d rather be inside with a cup of hot cocoa, but a little time spent in the garden now prevents a lot of gardening headaches later. Do yourself (and your garden) a favor: grab some gloves and head out to the garden for some fall TLC before winter sets in.
Take care of clean-up chores before winter: Raking leaves and removing various plant debris isn’t much fun when summer is winding down, but getting all that wilted and dead plant matter out of the way eliminates a hiding place for pests and diseases that may lie in wait until spring.
Cut the grass one last time; otherwise, it will be messy and unhealthy all winter long. Although turfgrass is resilient, long grass is difficult to cut in spring and is more likely to be damaged by snow and freezing temperatures. Fertilize about three weeks before the first expected frost. Aerate your lawn in fall every couple of years to improve air circulation to the roots.
You’re sick and tired of pulling and hoeing weeds when fall approaches, but weeds usually set seeds in fall, which means a healthy new crop in spring. Pull entire weeds by hand when the soil is moist, or dig them out with a trowel or shovel. Don’t leave any stragglers.
Fall is the time for shrubs and trees to gather energy for the coming dormant season, but pruning too late in the season stimulates vulnerable new growth and ultimately weakens the entire plant. Most experts recommend absolutely no pruning in fall. Pruning by mid- to late summer allows time for plants to harden up properly.
Most perennials should be divided every three to five years, and fall is time to take care of those that bloom in spring and early summer. Otherwise, perennials can overgrow their boundaries. Blooms may be smaller than usual, or the plant may become dead and ugly in the center. Pick a day at least four to six weeks before the ground freezes, which allows sufficient time for the roots to settle in.
Clean, sharpen and oil garden tools. Deadhead self-sowing plants if you want to avoid rampant growth in spring. Tet those spring-blooming bulbs in the ground before the first hard frost, and remember to mulch after a couple of light freezes.
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