This is the time of year when plant life starts to become dormant, sort of shielding itself from the colder temperatures to come, and it’s also the time to do a fall clean up of your yard. Even though it might be tempting to cozy up on the couch, taking care of your lawn and flower beds now makes for an easier and prettier spring.
Lawn maintenance at this time of year is simple: Colleen Zimmerman, Nursery & Perennial Buyer at Terra Greenhouses in Burlington, recommends that you fertilize with a product that doesn’t contain nitrogen, rake the leaves and, if the temperature is anywhere above seven degrees, add some grass seed.
The grass also needs a good final haircut before it goes dormant. “Don’t cut it too short,” says Zimmerman. “But you don’t want it so long that the blades will trap moisture (and cause mold).” After cutting the lawn rake up the windfall of debris and grass clippings. “Any leftover clippings can get matted down with snow and cause mold,” explains Erica Lowartz-Cozzarin, Store Manager of Sheridan Nurseries in Mississauga/Oakville.
Put Blooms to Bed
Perennials are relatively easy to tidy up. Lowartz-Cozzarin says that if the leaves can be easily pulled out, it’s time for them to go.
“Things perrenthat are woodier and that you can’t just pull out easily, should be left and not cut back until there’s new growth in the spring,” she explains. Let ornamental grasses and lavender be, since they give your yard interest during the winter. Softer plants such as daylilies and hostas will die right back and should be pulled out. “If you leave the hostas there, the leaves attract voles and they do a lot of damage in the wintertime. They love hostas!” she says. Plants that have become too big can be split at this time of year too.
“If you have any roses you can trim them back slightly (but not all the way to the ground),” says Zimmerman. Hybrid tea roses will weather with a bit of extra soil around the base to cover the crown of the plant. Avoid pruning lilacs or magnolias; Lowartz-Cozzarin says you’ll be pruning off the new blooms. She also suggests leaving a bit of growth – especially plants that have seed heads, which act as food for wildlife. “You do want to leave some things in your garden so that when there’s a snowfall they’ll catch the snow and help insulate the plants, and they’ll winter better.” Plants that are located close to the road can be covered to avoid being damaged by salt spray.
This is actually a great time of year to plant bulbs. “This is a perfect time to plant because the ground is at a good temperature and the bulbs will go dormant,” says Lowartz-Cozzarin. She is partial to tulips, which also happen to be a favourite of squirrels. Combat them with daffodils or narcissus, she advises. “To keep animals out of your garden, buy daffodil bulbs, grate them and spread them into your flower beds. It repels animals because they can sense the poison.”
Up in a Tree
Tender trees such as cedar, boxwood and yews should be protected from the elements. Lowartz-Cozzarin recommends a product called wilt-pruf, which holds moisture in the tree. Trees that aren’t native to this area, such as Japanese Maples, should be covered with burlap.
By doing some preventative prep work in the fall, you’ll be setting yourself up for a really great gardening season next year. So, time to get off that couch!
By Becky Dumais