Your Fall Gardening Checklist
By, Rob Sproule
There’s a saying in retail businesses that you “close to open.” Each evening before the team goes home, the floors are swept, coffee is prepped, and signs are put out for the day ahead. The next morning, the team can focus on the customers.
Your garden is closing for the year, and it’s twilight headed into a long night of winter. Take a few extra hours now and, in March and April when the melting snow reveals freshly composted beds and tulips popping out of the ground, you’ll thank yourself.
Here are a few things for your close-to-open Fall checklist.
Do you have an iris that looks like a donut? Or a bare spot along the fence where a tree should be? It’s surprising to many, but Fall is the best time to roll up the sleeves and play garden surgeon.
Fallen leaves bring dormant root systems, which is essentially your anaesthesia in that it reduces stress on the patient. When transplanting, prep the new hole first. Dig as large a root ball as possible to disturb as few roots as possible. Toss in a fistful of bonemeal and surround the root ball with loose, rich soil so the fibrous roots can dig in a bit before winter. Water it well enough to make it an ice-cube after freeze-up.
The same goes for planting trees. A hole twice the root ball’s diameter and loose soil backfilled in. Water well and voila, you’ve got a new spring tree!
Here are a few more planting tips for trees: https://salisburygreenhouse.com/fall-tree-planting/
Plant Fall Bulbs
Alberta gardens are like teenagers: they wake up late and grumble the whole time! In April and May, even as we’re dreaming of summer colour, our gardens are a bleak brown. That’s when tulips and other fall bulbs, which felt like a chore in October, become glorious.
Pick some sunny spots through your perennial beds. Plant in groups of 5-10; tulips aren’t meant to fly solo. Plant 2-34 inches down, pointy side up. Water and forget until they become the first vibrant smile of spring.
Want to dig deeper into Fall bulbs? Here’s the dirt: https://salisburygreenhouse.com/767/
Make your Bed
Making your bed in the morning is a great habit to get into. It starts the day right and you know you’ll thank yourself when you crawl in that evening.
Your garden is the same. Come spring time, the only thing you will want to do is plant, so amend in the fall after harvest. Fork in nutrient rich compost or bagged manure to about 6 inches deep, especially in areas you’re planning to grow tomatoes, corn, squash, and other greedy nitrogen suckers.
Deal with your Pots
I have a dozen big ceramic pots around my yard and I move them as little as possible. You won’t need to drag your glazed ceramics into the garage if you follow key prepping tips.
Get all the old roots out. If you’ve planted annuals, most of the soil will come with them. The bottom half can be full of soil as long as it’s dry (that’s important).
Make sure it’s dry and the pot’s outside is free of dirt and mud. You can either wrap it with bubble wrap (making sure it’s well sealed), or leave it. The gamble with leaving it is that if a freak rain/ freeze happens you might get cracking. Honestly though, I haven’t wrapped my ceramics in 10 years and have had minimal (although some) cracking from water freezing.
Put the Rake Away
As easy as it is to “forget” to give the lawn that last mow, it’s vital that you do. Head into the winter with a shaggy lawn and, especially with a big snow year, you’re leaving mice, voles, and a variety of other varmints with a cozy under-the-snow love nest.
Unless you’re yard is inundated with large trees, you can put the rake away. I run right over the leaves with my mower and grass-cycle it. The leaves release natural nitrogen as they break down, as long as the mulched leaves aren’t so thick to cover the grass entirely.
Service your Mower
I often forget this one. Your lawnmower needs to be serviced and sharpened at least annually, but if you wait until spring it’s going to be a long wait! Take the time to sharpen it up, get some gas in the jerry can, and store it properly. When you go to fetch it for your first mow, it will be like finding a $20 in your pocket!