If you count the hours spent readying your garden in spring, picking, eating and weeding in summer and now find yourself on to fall, you may wonder how it could get any better?
It always seems that in spring I’m filled with an unshakeable need to make my world green, prepping soil and planting as fast as I can. Winter crops are replaced with spring and then summer veggies, the compost I made in late fall — which I almost always leave to cold compost once it’s been turned a few times — is hand-trucked around to replenish beds and containers. Then there’s a bit of a summer lull, where I feel like it’s okay to soak up every bit of the garden in it’s prime. But now that it’s nearly October I’ve decided this is when it really shines.
I love everything about it, from low-angled sunlight to changing colors — life cycles shifting. And funny enough, I love the chores.
Here are my top 10 to-do’s on my fall garden checklist:
- Harvest and store seeds. Beans, sunflowers (if the birds and squirrels decide to share), tomatoes, squash and flowers (nasturtium, cosmos, calendula, etc.) are generally where I start.
- Prune and tidy spent flowers and shrubs. Annuals get cleaned up and plants like catmint, lavender and black-eyed Susan’s are cut back. Some plants, like roses, grapes, kiwi and butterfly bush are pruned in winter or spring.
- Compost what’s left of summer crops after final harvests. I’m careful with plants like tomatoes, because they can spread disease from one season to the next I clean up all the dead leaves and debris along with the vines. You can compost tomato plants if your pile gets hot enough but if you’re unsure you may want to keep them separate from compost you plan to put back into your garden next season.
- Send the kids out on snail patrol. 1., it’s fun and, 2., it’s nice to feel like you’re making a dent on their growing populations. Plus, if you have chickens, they’ll love you for it.
- Divide perennials. If you notice your perennials developing “holes” near their centers, leaves and branches are leaning out from the center or the center is empty, you know it’s time to divide. Your plants are telling you they need space. Divide spring and summer flowering perennials in fall and fall blooming perennials in spring.
- Plant bulbs. I can’t help it, every year I’m compelled to throw a few more bulbs into the mix. Why not? Plant in containers, prep boxes or put them out in the garden. Group them together for a larger splash of color.
- Mulch. I typically apply an organic time-release fertilizer to my most productive flower/perennial beds then tuck them in with a fresh layer of mulch. Wood chips or other, locally sources materials will do.
- Plant perennials, shrubs and trees. Now’s the time to get them in the ground. Add fertilizer to the planting area, give them a deep watering and they’ll have winter to develop a healthy root system before putting energy into spring growth.
- Grow cover crops and plant winter veggies. Or try growing sugar snap peas for a little of both.
- Eat and play outside. It’s the perfect time of year to enjoy what’s left of your summer harvest and soak up every bit of fall.