Fall Garden Chores

Town & Country Garden outdoors in fall with grasses and plantings and a building

With the autumn air turning crisp, many gardeners are putting their garden to bed for the winter. Below are some to make the process easier and more effective.

• You may not have to rake those leaves off your lawn. Recent research has found that using a mulching mower to grind them in place actually benefits the lawn. The research found that a layer of leaves as deep as 18 inches can be mulched and left on the lawn, but only if mulched. Whole leaves tend to matt and suffocate turf.

• Thinking about cutting back your perennials in the fall, rather than the spring? In most cases, resist the urge! Many perennials benefit from the dead foliage. Plus you get an added benefit of leaving leaves, spent flowers, and seed pods standing to provide food for wildlife and visual interest during the winter months. Occasionally, it is indeed beneficial to cut back perennials. For some plants, removing the foliage in the fall removes material that disease or insects can used to overwinter. This is especially important in the vegetable garden and for certain plants such as bearded iris and peonies.

• Continue to plant spring-blooming bulbs and woody trees and shrubs from now until the ground freezes. Do not plant herbaceous perennials, which won’t fare well if planted this late.

• Consider protecting plants over the winter from rodents and deer. Use tree wrap on young trees to keep rodents from peeling and eating the bark and remove that wrap in the early spring. Fence or cage shrubs with hardware cloth or chicken-wire to keep rabbits and deer away. Consider surrounding the sides and the top and remember that fencing 12 inches tall may not be adequate if there is 8 inches of snow on the ground!

• Protect small trees from deer antler rubbing with a tall stiff wire fence, like a hog panel, or three well-placed stakes to prevent antlers from reaching the tree.

Prepared by Aaron Steil, Manager of Public Programs