For gardeners, fall is a time for reflection — and preparation for the next garden season.
One of the first jobs is fall planting. This includes hardy bulbs that stay in the ground year after year, including crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths, snowdrops, and tulips. Choose large, healthy bulbs. The larger the bulbs, the better the flowers. Select a location that will receive a full spring sun, except for snowdrops that thrive in semi-shade. Spring bulbs like a soil that is slightly sandy, well-drained so the bulbs do not rot, with lots of compost mixed in.
Plant the bulbs in mid August to early September. Place the pointy end up at a depth three times the height of the bulb, about six inches apart, watering once. It is best to plant in clumps, four to six in each clump. Add about two inches of mulch to reduce the impact of the freezing and thawing.
Fall is also the time to plant garlic. The hard-neck variety thrives in Zone 3. Garlic likes a well-drained soil. Do not over-water, as wet soil will rot the bulb. Plant in mid September. To start, break cloves from a garlic head and plant each clove about eight inches apart, with the pointy end up about three inches deep in loose soil. Cover the area with two inches of straw or mulch.
After you have harvested your produce, you can clear up the mess and prepare for next year.
Do a deep weed cleaning. Remove all weeds, digging them up by the roots. At the same time, divide flowers that have overgrown their area; for example, when an iris has expanded beyond the space you allocated for it.
Remove dead vegetation from your garden, placing it into your compost box or bin. However, don’t cut down flower growth; let it continue to store food for the next spring’s growth. Leave the seeds for the birds. Leave some of the fallen leaves and other vegetation in your perennial flower garden to be removed next spring, as it protects a variety of cocoons, overwintering queen bumblebees, worms, and beetles, all of which may benefit your spring and summer garden. In the spring, leave the debris until the average daytime temperature reaches 10C.
Remove fallen fruit from around your fruit trees. This should be done immediately after the fruit falls. Fallen fruit provides a haven for larvae that become fruit flies that will infest your fruit next year.
Refresh your soil by placing as much compost as you can onto your raised beds and flower beds. One five-gallon pail of compost for each 80 square feet of a garden bed is a recommended amount. Work it into the top few inches of the top soil. Don’t worry about it getting the compost down any further, as beneficial insects will bring it down. If necessary, adjust your soil pH, especially for blueberries and potatoes.
Mulch your perennial flowers, strawberries, fruit bushes, and fruit trees. Mulching protects plants, bushes, and trees from damage from thawing and freezing cycles.
An easy way to make mulch from fall leaves is to mow a pile of leaves with your lawn mower, catching the shredded leaves in your mower bag. They are then easier to spread.
Shred tomato stalks and leaves with the lawn mower, catching them into the mower bag, and dig them into the soil where next year’s tomatoes will be planted. Tomato plants are somewhat cannibalistic.
Water your berry bushes, fruit, and other trees generously.
Repair your raised beds.
Fall is a good time to stock up on your spring needs. Get things like potting soil, seed-starting soil, organic fertilizers, and tools. Many stores will have sales on these items.
Remember crop rotation; record what and where you planted this year, and plan what and where you will plant next year.
The more you do in the fall, the easier it is to start up in the spring.