This is the time of year when our garden beds, once bursting with beautiful blooms and well-behaved foliage, are beginning to look tired and unruly. Some look downright dreadful. You may feel like turning your back, on a mess like this. Don’t despair! The most untidy garden bed can be reclaimed within hours. Following just a few simple steps will help to restore order and set the stage for an even more splendid display next year!
Perennial grasses, along with many other perennial plants, (such as sedum or coneflower), have seed heads that can be left to add winter interest to the landscape. They also provide a seed source for wild winter birds. Most other perennial plants are best pruned back to about 2-3” (5-8 cm) from the base of the plant. This helps insulate plant crowns through the winter months.
Remove any annuals that are finished for the season. Compost the healthy ones and toss any diseased plants with your trash.
Wipe Out Weeds
Even if you were diligent about pulling weeds through the summer, once you’ve tidied up you’ll notice some that got past you. Removing perennial weeds with strong root systems can be difficult. Loosen the soil around them with a garden fork, lifting them carefully. Take special effort to remove as much of the root as possible, as this will ensure fewer weeds the following season.
Weeds with roots close to the surface can be eliminated by lightly scraping a hoe across the soil to first loosen them, then you can easily pull them out by hand.
Pause and Plant
Now that you have restored order to your garden, take a moment to reflect on what excited you about your garden this year. Which plants were successful? Are there some gaps you could fill in?
Autumn is the perfect time to plant trees, shrubs, perennials and grasses, not to mention that garden centers offer discounts on them this time of the year. There’s plenty of time for them to get established and form a strong root system.
Tucking spring flowering bulbs in between your established perennials will fill in some of those gaps and provide loads of color early in the season.
Adding mulch and compost is the secret to a spectacular garden no matter where or what you are growing. Finish off by adding a couple of inches of mulch on top of the soil. Use special care to leave a gap around the plants. Piling mulch on top of your plants can promote disease. Mulching dresses up the garden bed, but it also helps to hold in moisture, stop weeds from germinating and improves the soil as it breaks down.
Once you have completed these simple tasks, relax, enjoy winter and think spring! Next year your garden is sure to reflect the extra effort you’ve invested.