FALL GARDEN TASKS
From Garden writer Margaret Roach on her blog, A Way to Garden, and altered to Zone 9 gardening.
TREES & SHRUBS
CLEAR TURF OR WEEDS from the area right around the trunks of fruit trees and ornamentals to reduce winter damage by rodents.
BE EXTRA-VIGILANT cleaning up under fruit trees, as fallen fruit and foliage allowed to overwinter invites added troubles next season. So will mummies (shriveled fruit hanging on the trees). Best to pick and remove (though I confess to leaving mine hanging for the birds, who adore it).
BE SURE TO WATER trees now through hard frost if conditions are dry, so that they enter dormancy in a well-hydrated state. Evergreens (needled ones and broadleaf types like rhododendron, too) are particularly vulnerable to desiccation and winterburn otherwise. (Although, here in Houston we don’t have to worry much about that!)
ALWAYS BE on the lookout for dead, damaged, diseased wood in trees and shrubs and prune them out as discovered. This is especially important before winter arrives, where weaknesses left in place invite tearing and unnecessary extra damage. Remove suckers and water sprouts, too.
VEGETABLE, FRUIT & HERBS
PREPARE A SEEDBED NOW for peas and spinach for next spring, to get a head start on such early crops. Spinach can even be sown now through Thanksgiving, for super-early spring harvest; not the peas, of course.
AS VEGETABLE PLANTS (and annual flowers) fade, pull them to get a start on garden cleanup. Before composting the remains, cut them up a bit with a pruning shears or shred, to speed decomposition.
PARSLEY AND CHIVES can be potted up and brought indoors for off-season use. A few garlic cloves in a pot will yield a supply of chive-like (but spicier) garlic greens all winter for garnish. Determined types with really sunny windowsills can sow seeds of bush basil in a pot, too. I rely on frozen pesto cubes instead. I also freeze a lot of green herbs, from sage to parsley, this way.
IF NEXT YEAR’S GARDEN plans include a patch of strawberries or asparagus or cane fruits like raspberries, do the tilling and soil preparation now so they can be planted extra early come spring.
PAY SPECIAL ATTENTION to areas to cleanup around roses and other flowers that are prone to fungal diseases; don’t leave any debris in place.
DON’T COMPLETELY DEADHEAD FADED perennials, biennials and annuals if you want to collect seed (non-hybrids only) or wish to let them self-sow for next year’s show. Some plants must be left in place or seeds shaken around during cleanup to insure the next generation. Plants with showy or bird-friendly seedheads, like coneflowers, also get a stay of execution.
LAST CALL FOR BULBS! Remember our “early, middle, late” mantra when planting. And think drifts, not onesies and threesies.
PREPARE NEW beds for future planting by smothering grass or weeds with layers of recycled corrugated cardboard or thick layers of newspaper, then put mulch on top.
START A FIRST POT of paperwhites, and stagger forcing more every couple of weeks for a continuing winterlong indoor display.
REST AMARYLLIS BULBS by putting them in a dry, dark place where they will have no water at all for a couple of months. In September, I put mine in a little-used closet; do it now if you haven’t.
KEEP MOWING TILL THE GRASS stops growing, and make the last cut a short one. Let clippings lie on the lawn to return Nitrogen to the soil, unless they are long and wet, in which case, rake and compost.
COMPOST HEAP & MULCH
START A LEAVES-ONLY PILE alongside your other heap as a future source of soil-improving leaf mold, or when partly rotted for use as mulch. Running over dry leaves (and other dry non-woody material) with the mower to shred will reduce the area needed for such piles.
Top up mulch in all garden beds as they get cleaned up gradually in fall and re-cut messy bed edges.