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Critical Seasonal Maintenance

Preparing for winter and planting for spring

The fall border featuring sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and frikartii ‘Monch’ asters.

Photographs: Gerard Pampalone

It’s late September and time to think about seasonal chores and fall planting.  Here are a few critical seasonal reminders.

To start, it’s probably best to take down the garden, that is, cut all of the herbaceous perennials before planting your bulbs in October and November.  

When cutting down stalks and stems, leave 1-2 inches showing above ground so you don’t disturb them while digging for your fall bulbs. 

Remove all dead leaves from flower beds and discard them. Only use tree leaves for mulch and compost.  

Perennials should be divided every 3-5 years. Lift them out with a garden fork, not a shovel and avoid damaging the rhizomes, tubers and roots. Place a tarp on the ground and divide your plants on the tarp.  You need 3-5 eyes per division (a division is the beige knob or stem on a tuber). If plants are yellow, you will need to add chelated iron, which looks like dry mustard. 

Use caution when watering and feeding. Underfeeding is better than overfeeding. Underwatering is better than overwatering.

Don’t forget to prune. Fall pruning means cutting down any dead branches or limbs. This applies to roses as well as trees and woody plants.

Have mulch ready but apply it only after bulbs have been planted.

Now is the time to order fall bulbs. If you haven’t yet done so, there is still time. I stand by my two year-old recommendation of an exceptional book by Kathy Brown, known for her practical advice on growing and caring for bulbs is The Complete Practical Handbook of Garden Bulbs, published by Southwater Books.

I found it to be an indispensable reference offering lavish photos and practical advice on growing and caring for bulbs, including over-wintering, propagation, deadheading, watering and feeding. What’s more, the author offers plenty of planting ideas for indoor and outdoor use so you can enjoy bulbs every day of the year. You can order it from any major bookseller including amazon.com. ISBN: 10-84476-573-3. 

More information about Kathy’s breathtaking Stevington, Bedfordshire garden can be found at kathybrownsgarden.homestead.com.

Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ and Camassia leichtlinii in the spring border

Gerard PampaloneGerard Pampalone

I am not a professional garden designer, landscape architect or horticulturalist. I am, for the most part, self-taught.

I don’t garden for a living, I live for gardening.

I came to gardening late in life, so I am making up for lost time.

I hope to share my insights, resources, and gardening experiences in the coming months.

My aim is to educate, enlighten and inspire gardeners to take chances, break new ground, dig deeper and stretch themselves.

As seen in:

Westport Magazine, July 2007
athome Magazine, March/April 2008

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