Put down that newspaper and get busy repairing your gardens for next season.
Just when you think you can sit back and relax, our gardens beckon us once again. In spring, it’s “plant me.” In summer, it’s “pick me.” In fall, it’s “fix me.”
Fall is the perfect time to fix garden problems. Put down that newspaper and get busy already.
Bad soil? Improve its fertility by digging in chipped leaves. You can chip leaves with your lawnmower. About 4 inches will restore your beds and add welcome humus by spring.
Crowded plants? You can move perennials, including small trees and bushes, without fear of summer’s killer heat. Insects and weeds are on the wane, and it’s nice to work out there without sweating.
Each season, we get a lot of e-mails on when to divide and move perennials. Hey, for most, it’s time.
Dividing these guys is as easy as cutting them in half with a shovel. If you have perennials crowding, they need division. If you simply want to rearrange your perennial landscape, go for it.
Peonies are an incredible perennial value. Buy four, get eight in two years. They divide easily, and the next season rewards us with vigorous growth and nice blooms and leaves. The trick is to make sure you have three to five “eyes” per division. Eyes are stem buds. Plant the eyes no more than 2 inches deep. Mulch with chipped leaves.
I hate naked flower boxes, so now what? Mums are the perfect answer. I get miniature ones that like close planting. They’re covered with flowers and buds, a nice splash of color.
The trick with mums is drainage. Plant them in mounds in the garden to provide this. Mums go well in containers, but be sure the drainage holes are working. The plants will suffocate in a few hours if the soil is saturated, blocking oxygen to the roots.
Is there hope for empty flower gardens? Indeed. Pansies have been hybridized to survive early frost and snow. It’s amazing to see a bed of them peeping out of the first snowfall, and they last until the sub-freezing weather hits. They solve the problem of bare garden areas and are best planted in mass.
Look for “snow,” “ice” or “winter” pansies at your garden center. They are available in blues, yellows and whites. Note that the flowers are about half the size of summer pansies, so buy a lot. Keep the soil damp and mulch.
Do you have amaryllis bulbs? When the leaves yellow in fall, it’s time for their dormancy period. Trim them off. Replant the bulbs in potting soil and lightly water. Place in cool, dry, dark area, and do not water for two months. Then bring them out, water thoroughly, give a boost of liquid fertilizer and watch the magic. Doing this now may give you flowers by the holidays.
Hint: Put the pots to bed in your garage in a light-sealed cardboard box.
If you’re growing roses, they’re not looking that great right now. Resist the urge to prune and fertilize them. Roses, too, need a dormancy period. Experts tell us they are best pruned in spring. Remove any remaining foliage once the plant is spent.
Roses do not die in the cold. Dehydration kills them. Winter can be a very dry period, with the frozen soil blocking water. Experienced rose growers will mulch their plants and cover them with burlap sacks to maintain moisture.
If you have the new, repeat-blooming shrub roses, remember they bloom on mature stems but not the old and woody ones. Do not prune for their first two years, then remove one-third of the oldest canes each season.
Contact Jim Hillibish at email@example.com.