Ask Elaine: Fall Garden Maintenance

Are there any garden tasks that I need to do to get the garden “ready for bed” this winter?

Thank you,

Dear Lily,

There is still a lot to do in the garden before the snow flies. The Laurelwood Arboretum staff will be working up until Thanksgiving. Here is a sample of some garden activities that might apply to you and your property:[su_row][su_column size=”1/2″]

  • Test your soil every 3-5 years. You need a different test for different garden areas (turf, vegetable garden, flower bed, etc). Rutgers Cooperative Extension sells kits for $20.
  • Keep watering the plants until the ground freezes (one inch per week).
  • Bring houseplants in after a thorough inspection.
  • Place houseplants on a pebble tray with water to increase humidity.
  • Finish planting spring-flowering bulbs, trees, shrubs, roses, perennials and garlic bulbs by late October.
  • Pot up spring bulbs for forcing and keep cool.
  • Complete lawn seeding by October 20.
  • Rake or mow and compost shredded leaves. Do not allow leaves to accumulate on the lawn.
  • Put stakes in ground for burlap screens of evergreens by November/early December.
  • After the first hard frost, dig up your tender bulbs (cannas, gladiolus, dahlia, etc), wash to remove soil, air dry and store in a dry, frost-free place. Peat moss helps to remove moisture.[/su_column][su_column size=”1/2″]
  • Remove frosted tender annuals and compost them.
  • Sow seeds of hardy annuals and perennials that need a cold treatment outdoors for spring flowers (annual poppy, alyssum, larkspur, Nigella, pansies, foxgloves, sweet William, hollyhocks, coneflower, black-eyed Susan, columbines, etc).
  • Sow herb seeds for a windowsill garden inside.
  • Finish dividing perennials and herbs by mid-October.
  • Add organic matter to vegetable and flower beds (your own or purchased compost).
  • Leave the foliage of herbaceous perennials. The foliage helps to protect the crowns of the plant through the winter and may provide a winter home for beneficial insects. Some bird species love the remaining seed heads of several perennials. The exception is bearded iris and peonies, which should be cut back and discarded because of possible insect problems.
  • Clean, sharpen and oil tools.
  • Turn off water sources of outdoor spigots.
  • Wrap tree trunks with chicken wire for protection against deer antler rub.
  • Dig a hole for your “live” Christmas tree before the ground freezes.[/su_column][/su_row]

—Elaine Fogerty
Executive Director


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