Heading into fall, there are times when we might be feeling overworked, too frazzled, or simply not feeling like doing everything we normally do. Everyone needs to find their own balance in the garden, but you may want to take the time to avoid these common mistakes which can wind up costing you in the long run.
# 1 – Allowing wet leaves to pile up all over your garden with the hopes that that this will count for compost or winter protection – I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I’ve done this. My garden is near two large Norway Maples, pretty enough trees, but so messy when they drop seeds everywhere early summer, and then finally drop their leaves long after fall leaf pickup is finished. One year I decided to stay warm and ignore the piling up mess until spring. Huge mistake, cleanup was so much worse the next spring as I mucked thru garden beds, needlessly compressing the soil on my quest to rake up leaves. To top it off, voles had run rampant, safely protected by the snow and leaf cover, digging up and eating an entire bed of my favorite hostas. Now, the majority of leaves get saved for my compost bin, and none of them are left to litter the ground like they did that fall.
# 3 – Neglecting to divide perennials – No one likes the look of a gaping dead patch in the middle of their favorite perennials; many need to be revived every few years. My favorite perennial dianthus ‘Star’, the ones loved by my daughter because she imagined people being cheered by their bright colors, wound up dying out after several years of brilliance. I was lucky enough to dig up and root some still green shoots off of one, but I’m convinced that I would have been able to save the rest if I had taken the time to dig and discard the dead centers. This was when I was still fairly new to gardening and thought that perennials keep going and going, before I learned that they do better with a little more attention than what I was giving them. My yellow flowering sedum is at the point where I will need to dig and divide; it’s getting too large and developing a yucky dead center. It’s now or never, digging and replanting will allow the roots to develop before a hard freeze.
# 4 – Ignoring diseased foliage – For plants hit with diseases like powdery mildew, it’s important to get rid of any fallen foliage immediately, leaving nothing behind for the winter. Leaf litter is likely to contain the powdery mildew spores, allowing them to lay dormant until spring when it can again ravage your favorite plants. General garden cleanup is a lot of work but will make next year’s garden that much healthier and easier to enjoy. Just a little bit longer and my garden will be sleeping, buried under a nice layer of snow. Then I’ll take the break I’ve been working so hard for, looking back on what’s worked, what didn’t perform as expected, and browsing thru photos of my garden this past season.
# 5 – Forgetting to shop end of the season at your favorite local nursery – Fall’s a great time for planting, and nurseries offer deep discounts to get rid of excess stock. I’m usually happy saying no to an impulse buy, but if I see something I’ve been wanting for a while, I’ll snatch it up for the right price. I was thrilled to find two toad lillies recently, a plant I’d never grown but always admired for only $3 each. Yeah me!
# 6 – Procrastinating on planting out home grown plants – Even now I’m eyeing up the last pot of heuchera seedlings I have going. The leaf form looks great, and I’m please with how well they did, but if I don’t plant them out before it gets too cold, there’s a good chance that they won’t make it through the winter. I love these little babies, and I’m not willing to take that risk.
# 7 – Not prepping your clay pots for winter – This is one of my last chores, but with sub-zero winter temperatures, it’s essential. Cleaning, drying and properly storing pots can help to eliminate any lingering disease, as well as ensure they remain intact until spring. I like brushing out as much soil as possible, and then cleansing them with hydrogen peroxide before allowing them to dry thoroughly and storing them in my unheated garage. Storing wet pots can result in hairline (or bigger) fractures as the moisture within the pot goes thru freeze and thaw cycles.
About the author: Lisa Ueda offers home gardening tips at The Frugal Garden. Her aim is to inspire, awaken and motivate new gardeners into discovering their inner green thumbs.