Days grow shorter and frost spells are just around the corner… Here’s a checklist for gardening in fall before it starts getting cold.
In more detail:
In an ornamental garden
“On Saint Michael’s feast, warmth rises to the heavens”.
What does this saying tell us? From end of September onwards, you can start bringing your geranium indoors and protect frost-vulnerable flowers. Use mulch or plastic films for this, depending on how you strike the balance between being environmentally friendly and practical. Pick the last flowers to prepare ornamental dried flower bouquets. Hydrangea flowers, for instance: after picking them, douse them with hair spray and they will keep for much longer.
If you must move those rose trees that have taken up too much space, now is the time. Prepare the ground well because their roots need loose, rich soil to spread fast. Place them in a sunny spot that isn’t scoured by drafty wind.
You can also plant spring-blooming bulbs (tulips, crocus, hyacinths, narcissus, etc.). Don’t bury them any deeper than twice their height. Try to find a planter that is specifically designed for planting bulbs, since the usual pointed vegetable planter tends to leave an air pocket beneath the bulb. Pull summer-blooming bulbs out and store them in a metal box after having dried them and sprinkled them with sulfur (works great to propagate dahlia).
If you’ve got any time left, mow the lawn one last time and rake dead leaves away. Spread compost atop future flower beds. Trim and prune conifer hedges for the last time of the season, or replace them with mixed hedges that offer more variety and look surprisingly different as seasons roll on.
If you’ve set a water basin up, pull out the remaining dead leaves from the bottom and cover it with a net. To provide fish with oxygen if ever the basin freezes over, keep an old playball or a faggot (the bundle of twigs, mind you) upright to break the surface and keep it from hardening entirely. When the cold winter will have settled in, think to feed the birds with fat and oil-rich seeds: rape, sunflower, millet, etc.
In the food garden
Start picking autumn fruits (pears, apples…) on sunny days. Store them in a dark and well-ventilated room. After the harvest, rake fallen leaves and mummified or rotten fruits to burn them. Don’t throw diseased plant parts in the compost. Go ahead and plant new fruit trees, preferably varieties that resist diseases.
In the vegetable patch, harvest whatever is left and freeze everything you can’t eat or preserve immediately. Fertilize the soil for the following season or add green manure.
By Pierrick Le Jardinier