Friday, 27 September 2013 12:00

Autumn Doesn’t Mean the End of Gardening

By Kristi Jones, The Backyard Diva | News

It is that time of the year again, the flip-flops return to the closet and the annual appearance of the gumboots at the back door as the cool rainy weather begins to set in.  The leaves begin to fall, the garden stops producing and the arduous clean up begins. But wait, you can still have fun in the garden and play with fall colors in your yard and I am going to let you in on a few of my favorites.

Decorate planters and the front entrance to your home using pumpkins, gourds, hay, corn stalks, ornamental kales, garden mums, pansies, grasses and more. You can even grow a large variety of vegetables in the fall and in the winter. The winter birds feeding on suet can always keep you busy bird watching during the cooler fall and winter days. Fall is also a great time to determine what worked and what didn’t work in your garden this season, so let’s start making a plan for next season. If you are like me, maybe you have been doing a little seed saving all summer–fall is a great time to get those seeds cleaned up, organized and labeled for next season. Have you been busy harvesting and processing all the fruits of your labor?
Wandering around the yard in fall feels almost overwhelming this time of year – fallen plants, brown leaves and dead blooms – maybe you think about just leaving it all till spring? I like to prepare my gardens or clean up, whichever you prefer to call it. Once spring rolls around the last thing I want to be spending time doing is clean up. I want to be able to get right into that soil and start forming new creations for the upcoming season.
Put those fallen leaves you have just raked up from fruit trees, maple trees and more to good use. Add these leaves as mulch on your flower or garden beds; or add to the compost pile for some great future organic fertilizer. Mulching your gardens can most certainly save you time weeding in the spring, mulch helps to keep weeds out all the while feeding and protecting your plants “mulch I say more.”
Dig out tubers and bulbs for winter storage; depending on your location, dahlias, gladiolus, calla lilies are among a few other precious beauties you wouldn’t want to disappear over the winter. Some of these plants can be picky and time consuming but they are certainly worth it once in bloom. I like to store my tender bulbs and tubers in boxes of saw dust or peat moss, or even a mixture of both will do. Store these boxes in a cool dark room such as a garage, basement even a greenhouse as long as they are kept dry and safe from frost.
Seed heads can make a dramatic change in your garden as summer turns to fall. Seed heads can provide a late season garden with dramatic visual interest and textures while attracting birds and other wildlife.Some popular and easy-to-grow flowers with beautiful seeds heads that I enjoy are: Allium, Poppies, Clematis, Love in a Mist, Agapanthus and Clematis—just to name a few!
Dependent on your zone broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, turnip, arugula, collards, kale and a few other leafy greens are well on their way into the fall/winter growing season. These cool weather crops are generally planted in mid-July to August. In the midst of all that grows in the summer be sure to give yourself a calendar reminder to start those winter vegetables. Start seeds for cool weather crops in June, and you can also purchase seedlings from most garden centers and nurseries. Be sure to leave space for planting garlic, shallots and multiplying onions which are planted later on when the scent of winter is in the air and the soil has cooled, generally mid-October for a bountiful spring harvest.
Planning for Next Season
Here is a sneaky little secret of mine; fall is a great time to buy all of the clearance plants at your local garden center or nursery. Purchasing perennials, even shrubs and trees that will thrive in your area can be found for a fraction of the springtime price. These plants may not look like much right now, but plant them straight away in the their new forever home and they will pop up bright, beautiful and well established in the spring, all the while saving you money. This is the best time to plant spring flowering bulbs such as; tulips, daffodils, crocuses, allium and more. Many perennial plants and perennial vegetables can be divided in the fall. Dividing mature perennials will make them healthier and create multiples of the plants, all for the cost of nothing more than a little light labor. With so many great informative books available, pick up a book that might inspire some new ideas to try for next season–I always say “you can’t grow wrong.” Maybe you found some plants that just didn’t grow nicely or don’t look quite right where they were planted this season. Why not dig them up and try a new spot. I am forever re-arranging my perennials till I find they fit just right. 
Lastly, don’t forget about winterizing important garden tools, solar lights and garden décor. Dry them off and tuck away in a dry place—keep them looking as good as new for spring.

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