Clean up debris from annuals. After you remove your annuals, install some cold hardy pansies for great fall color and early spring blooms. Winter pansies provide a bright splash of color in winter landscapes. Although nearly any pansy survives cold winters and blooms periodically during warm spells, winter pansies are specifically bred for winter blooming.
Perennial garden cleanup: Remove only those leaves and stalks that frost turns to mush, and any diseased plant tissue, but keep ornamental grasses, dried perennial foliage and seed heads (Coneflowers, Gaillardia, Coreopsis, etc.) that provide winter food to birds. The foliage you leave will also help to insulate the crowns of the plants through the winter, and act as a natural “snow fence”, capturing snow at the base of the plants that will help insulate and hydrate plant roots.
Don't cut roses back now – do it early spring. Mound up hybrid tea roses with soil for winter protection if necessary.
Don't forget to aerate your lawn - this is essential to do in fall and spring.
Raking leaves as they fall will clear up areas were insects can thrive. Recycle your leaf debris – add to a compost pile or dig them into your garden, or shred with a mulching mower. There are many online resources that can tell you how to start a compost pile, or check with your municipality to see if they offer leaf recycle/drop off sites.
Freshen up mulch to a depth of 2 to 4” – This is going to help moderate winter soil temperatures, insulate the soil, and add organics as the mulch breaks down.
Protect young trees and shrubs from animals that may feed on them. Use open wire enclosures (chicken wire) or tree guards that are perforated to allow air and light in.
Fertilize your lawn in October with 1 lb. N per 1000 sq. ft. Apply correctly, as fertilizer spilled on sidewalks, driveways and streets can pollute groundwater, lakes and streams.
Don’t forget to winter water trees and shrubs, once or twice per month, if we are dry. If there is adequate snow fall, this may not be necessary, but be aware that plants need moisture throughout the winter. Even though they are dormant, they are still alive and metabolizing.
Fall is a good time to plant bulbs for spring color. Not only can you plant them in beds areas, but you can naturalize them throughout your lawn areas to provide a springtime wash of color in your turf – this will help break up the monotony of the vast expanses of lawn everyone seems committed to. Start by filling those bare areas in your lawn with bulbs.
Fall is also a great time to get started on removing your lawn to make room for water efficient plantings. The use of a non-selective herbicide, such as Roundup, will make your job easier. Treat your turf now, edge to edge, let the lawn die off this fall, then next April, after the grass has decomposed, rototill the dead turf into your soil (great organic matter), then reseed with Blue Grama, Buffalo grass or plant with any number of xeric perennials and groundcovers that are available.
Take time to clean, sharpen and oil your garden tools. You will not only extend their useful life, but also enjoy finding your tools ready for action in the spring. Drain and store water hoses but keep one handy for winter watering.
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