Flowers may have ceased blooming and your harvest may be thinning out, but check out these Fall maintenance tips for your lawns and gardens before it gets too cold and snowy!
- If you didn’t know, Fall is actually the best time of year to test and improve your soil. New England soil tends to be acidic, but most plants thrive with an even higher pH level (the way soil acidity is measured). It’s important to know and adjust your soil’s pH level because it impacts how much nutrients are available for plants, as well as the level of activity by microorganisms. This is a great time to add any soil amendments like limestone (for increasing pH) and sulfur (for decreasing pH) since it takes time for the chemical reactions in the soil to impact the pH level. By spring time, you’ll be ready for more planting! Click here for instructions on ordering a soil test.
- While you’re at it, another great way to increase soil nutrients for plants and improve the soil drainage is by adding compost or other organic matter. Be sure to incorporate any organic matter thoroughly into the soil so that it spreads to every layer. Rake up your leaves and add them to your compost pile or start one for next year if you haven’t yet. (Click here for a video demo of how to start a compost pile.) If your beds need covering you can also top them with the raked leaves followed by light, loose mulch. Raking your leaves as they fall also ensures that your lawn gets enough sunlight to keep growing before the frost.
- To prune or not to prune? Got broken, dead, or diseased branches? Prune those now, but leave the healthy trees and shrubs alone so they harden off before the frost. Many of our trees have been stressed due to the drought even though they won’t show signs of it yet. Leave these alone to improve recovery time and stave off disease and insect invasion.
- We recommend digging up and storing most of your summer bulbs (caldiums, cannas, gladiolus, and tuberous beonias) at this time. Make sure to do this when the soil and air conditions are dry. Dahlia bulbs can wait until after the first frost, but not much longer after that. Before storing the bulbs, brush off any excess soil with a rag and let them dry by leaving them on a newspaper for a few days. Bulbs that have not been damaged should be stored in layers of peat moss or wood shavings in crates or baskets in your basement.
- Planting! It’s unlikely to be a good time to spot seed (to seed or not to seed?), but it would be better than leaving bare soil. If you like color in the spring though make sure to finish planting any spring flowering bulbs like tulips, daffodils,and hyacinth. This is also the time to plant and divide perennials like hosta (click here to see how!) Although the air is cool, the soil is still warm enough for roots to develop, so go ahead and plant your trees and shrubs. Last but not least, plant some garlic! It’s easy to grow: keep cloves about 6 inches apart within rows and leave a foot between rows. Plant individual cloves about as deep as your knuckle with the pointed end up and cover with some hay to protect from the frost. You’ll want to make sure to keep watering anything you plant until the frost comes, especially considering the drought we’ve faced.
Happy Fall gardening!