Fall is an important time in landscape maintenance. Many pest problems and diseases encountered this season may survive until next season on or in plant debris. Cultural practices completed prior to the beginning of winter will ensure a healthier landscape for next spring.
Some of the fall crops can still be left in the garden for a while, however warm season vegetables are about done for the season. Remove all annual vegetable plants from garden beds in order to prevent overwintering insect and diseases. Diseased plants should not be composted unless the compost pile reaches temperatures that kill the pathogen; bag this material and place in the trash. Compost should be added to improve garden soil for next spring.
Take advantage of the autumn sunshine and spend some in your annual and perennial beds. Annuals should be pulled out of the ground with the roots included. Dead stems and foliage should be pruned on most perennials and wildflowers. Of course, this task is garden specific as some people prefer to leave certain herbaceous ornamentals such as tall grasses uncut to enjoy their winter interest. Seed heads of achillea (yarrow), echinacea and rudbeckia and other perennials are also important food sources for many of our overwintering bird species. Fall is also a great time to divide perennials and plant new perennials. Applying 2” of organic mulch to these newly planted perennials will help retain the soil temperature to encourage root growth and prevent heaving of plants over winter’s freeze and thaw cycles. Tender bulbs and tubers such as tuberous begonias, cannas and dahlias should be dug up and stored after the first frost.
Be sure to take advantage of other great sources of organic material abundant this time of the year. Rather than disposing of fallen tree leaves just run the lawn mower back and forth mulching the leaves into the lawn. You can also put the shredded leaves directly into your garden or compost bin.
Fall is also an excellent time to do corrective pruning of your trees and shrubs. Corrective pruning encompasses removal of dead, damaged, or diseased branches and the elimination of limbs that may be causing structural problems. Structural problems include branches that may be rubbing, those that are growing back to the center of the tree, and those with abnormally narrow crotch angles. As leaves drop from deciduous woody plants, it is easy to inspect and identify defects in your trees and shrubs. When not obscured by foliage it is easier to see canker formations, rubbing branches, splits or cracks in wood.
Putting your garden to bed this fall is just as important as any other growing chore you perform throughout the season.