The cool, crisp air has caused all the leaves to fall. Your street has extremely large street trees, and the leaves are falling. You’ve been patiently waiting for the last leaf to drop before collecting all the leaves, or you’ve been raking leaves in stages, methodically filling your green waste bin every two weeks.
Yes, it’s that time again. Time to put the garden to rest for winter, and reap the rewards of your hard work come spring. Fall gardening chores are here.
I want to share with you a quick rundown of the way we do fall garden clean ups here at Higher Ground Gardens. We’ve been practicing for many years and find that this is the best order to do the fall gardening chores in. I am using the word chores because there’s always a reward when a chore is completed – be it an allowance (to buy bulbs perhaps?) or a treat (an eggnog latté after a hard day’s work?).
Fall garden clean ups begin with the rake or the leaf blower, if you own one. Rake or blow out all the leaves from beds, hedges, shrubs and off the lawn, sidewalks and pathways. We love to use the leaf blower because it’s the most delicate way to get leaves out of plants, hedges and garden beds, without being too invasive. Make nice big piles and fill up your bins or bags for the city green waste collection trucks. You’ll be able to buy your leaves back as compost next year!
Next, cut back any perennials with greenery remaining on them. Hostas are best cut when the leaves are still green, this helps to keep the rhizomes healthy. You may want to leave late flowering perennials such as asters for some fall colour.
Trim your hedges to get a nice sharp look that will last all winter. Boxwood hedges will especially benefit from a blanket of mulch to protect the roots. Trim any other shrubs you find unsightly, unless you are removing flower buds. This is true of rhododendron and azaleas, among the first evergreens to flower. They are best left to be pruned after flowering. Deadhead the blooms off the ends of hydrangea branches. The dense flowers of hydrangea tend to hold snow and can break branches under the weight of the snow.
Get out all the weeds that have been hiding under perennials and shrubs. Be sure to dig out tap roots.
Edge the lawns along garden beds and pathways for a tight look all winter. Give the lawn a final mow, but not too short, leave the blades at a length of one and a half to two inches long.
Do a final rake, getting any left over debris from your clippings or leaves that are stuck around the bases of your shrubs.
Plant spring flowering bulbs en masse or in clumps of five to seven bulbs grouped together for a powerful effect. The joy of seeing a wave of yellow daffodils after a dreary winter has an amazing lightening effect on the spirit.
Finally, put some nutrients back in the soil while protecting the garden beds with a layer of composted bark mulch. Bark mulch is the best investment you can make that will protect all your hard work. Not only does is help prevent transient weed seeds from germinating, but it also breaks down over time to enrich your soil.
With the fall gardening chores completed, it’s time for an indulgent latté, and maybe even a chocolate croissant.