Fall gardening offers unexpected gifts. It is like a savings account or investment, do the work today and reap the bounty later. While spring and summer gardening have their own benefits–fall is invigorating for me.
Temperatures have cooled off, leaves are changing color and it’s just pleasant to be outdoors. The bonus payoff of fall plantings is not only are you staging next season’s garden, but you get to ponder on it all winter— the unexpected gift.
Winter watching I call it, standing at my window on frosty days wondering what’s going on in my garden. Often, I’m pushed to bundle up and go out there and take a peek. A word of warning on peeking at a garden in the midst of winter–it all looks like dead frozen popsicles. But have faith, it restores once early spring arrives.
Below are 5 of my most rewarding fall gardening chores. Those that I benefit from all winter and when spring comes–I’m pretty pleased with myself for the gardening chores I tackled last fall.
All-time favorite 3-season container
Click here to see how easy it is to plant this beautiful container pictured above!
My gardening theology is strong in protecting the most precious gem we have been given, the soil. Soil and all the good things that live in it are vulnerable during winter if left unprotected, Mulch provides a layer of protection between the soil and the harsh elements. Plus, it makes the garden look neat and tidy even if you have left the seed heads and other dead growth for wildlife and beneficial insects (as you should.) I use a variety of different mulches including: bark chips, leaves, pine straw and field straw. Depending on what is being mulched I like to use a layer of newspaper or biodegradable film under the mulch to further block light from encouraging weed seeds from sprouting. The depth of the mulch depends on which mulch used and what you are mulching. In general 2” to 4” is what I aim for except with field straw which I go deeper because it packs down.
Cover cropping is mulch for the garden with benefits. It is a carpet of plants grown from seed that protects the soil as well as provides habitat to beneficial garden and more. These plants are turned into the soil to add organic matter and in some cases even add nitrogen to the soil. Click here to view my video about cover cropping.
Planting pansies and other hardy annuals like snapdragons, bachelor buttons, bells of Ireland and others in fall is the best kept secret in gardening if you ask me. Well, you can ask a whole bunch of folks that have now read my book “Cool Flowers” which tells all about this great group of forgotten flowers. Want to learn more? Checkout Cool Flowers and my online study!
Perennials, Shrubs, and Trees
Fall and early winter is the perfect time to plant trees, shrubs, and perennials. Fall planting means the plants can focus all of their energies on growing great roots during winter and becoming well established before spring. When spring planting occurs the plants have little time and energy to become well established because they are busy growing stems, buds and blooms. Do them a favor and plant in fall and early winter!
Fall gardening offers unexpected gifts and is my favorite time to get out and garden—why don’t you join me!
Lisa Mason Ziegler is a commercial cut-flower farmer in Newport News, Virginia; she lectures and writes about organic and sustainable gardening. You can email Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org , call her at 757-877-7159 or visit her website www.shoptgw.com .
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