Autumn in the Garden

Fall is in the air! This is my favorite time of year. Cool days, fall colors, bright sunshine, football………what’s not to like?
That being said, perennials don’t look so great this time of year. I get lots of calls in late summer and fall about leaves with burnt edges and holes in them. Not to worry, the leaves won’t be long for this world. They’ve been through a long, hot dry summer and bouts with bugs and dry wind. It’s not unusual that you’d see a few tattered leaves. But as I mentioned, those leaves are temporary and will soon be gone. The bugs and disease that cause these effects are also likely gone. Bugs that attack leaves aren’t as serious as bugs that bore into stems. Foliar feeders are usually only a temporary nuisance and totally natural. Bugs gotta eat too!

It’s tempting to cut back the “ugly” perennials this time of year. It’s fine to cut off the old faded flowers but it’s best to leave perennials up for the winter. They do have a certain appeal with frost in the foliage. Particularly ornamental grasses! But more importantly the above ground foliage helps protect the roots for the winter. Especially when they trap that wonderful insulating snow! Cut them back hard in spring to allow the warming spring sun to heat up the ground. Here’s a fun tip…………………..the easiest and best way to prune back ornamental grasses is to burn them off on a calm day in early spring ! However, of course, this is only possible for beds far from buildings and out of the city.

Fall is also a good time to prune the straggly shoots on evergreens and thin out trees. However, flowering shrubs are best pruned right after they flower. Pruning the spring bloomers now is OK but you will reduce the numbers of flowers for the following year.

What about leaf raking? This is a moving target since trees drop leaves at different times. Oaks don’t drop their leaves until December! Leaf raking is optional and depends on your situation. If you are in the country you can let the wind blow them away. In the city this might not be appreciated by the neighbors. Leaves are actually nature’s way of mulching in the fall for winter insulation. As for the lawn I’d just mow them and let them decompose.
But for those big piles in the corners you might need to rake and compost them.

If you’ve got “tender perennials” like hardy bananas, cannas, etc., you can use those leaves to mulch heavily over them and help them to overwinter.

Don’t forget the watering this time of year. Yes the cool fall temps and occasional rains will reduce the need for watering but we still see some dry periods. It’s important that plants are well moist before freezing up in winter.

Enjoy every day !