Let’s start off with THE most important element of good gardening: Soil.
Soil is life-sustaining.
Simply put; you cannot have a good garden without good soil.
How, you may ask, does one acquire this luxury?
It’s easier than you may think.
(Begin by not referring to it as “dirt!”)
Rather, think of soil as alive, its organisms have a starring role in plant health so whether you nurture edible or ornaments ~ or hopefully a duet of the two ~ you’re gonna need to build a commitment to maintaining healthy soil.
It was a brutal summer for most everyone’s garden this past season: searing temps and generally speaking, drought. Which often led to invasive insects that sensed opportunity with the compromised plants…
Therefore, smart gardeners need to take all the necessary steps to protect and nourish the soil and their gardens.
What To Do
This time of year you can rake (or yes, blow) your leaves into the garden beds.
Reduce weed growth
Moderate soil temperature
Maintain soil moisture
When leaves decompose they nourish and enrich the soil. They feed its microbes and organisms.
Saving our leaves can reduce soil infertility and lessen our dependence on synthetic fertilizer.
Why do we dislike leaves that have fallen to the ground?
Leave the Leaves!
It’s Free compost! Plus, raking creates a healthy lawn. You'll eliminate damaging lawn thatch (dead grass tissue above the soil) as you rake.
Remember the leaf layer is a micro ecosystem. The leaves nurture soil; the leaves form an insulating blanket ensuring a more constant temperature. Remove big, mat-forming leaves (sycamore, oak, maple ) and shred them.
We should mulch leaves, not banish them. Here are some ways you can do this:
- Chop them up using a lawnmower
- Use a leaf shredder
- Use a leaf vacuum
- You can compost them in a pile or in a compost bin
When you pull out the annuals or dig up bulbs, including your dahlias and ranunculus to store until next year, be gentle with your soil, it’s advised to not rototill or double-dig the soil.
You want to maintain the rather delicate network of fungal threads.
Compost, Compost, Compost!
There is no better way to build healthy soil.
- Upcycle your leaves, food scraps (no meat or bones) and turn.
- You will create a tasty soil mix of organic materials that you can readily apply to your garden beds.
- If you use purchased mulch in your garden beds, please lay in organic, not dyed, mulch. A top dressing is good this time of year.
Many recycling municipalities often offer it free. Work your compost into the soil.
Especially when you plant the garlic this time of year. Think of it as giving your garden beds an energy booster bar!
Here’s a tried and true Autumn To-Do List ~ Reconsidered.
I suggest reconsidering because there are some things that you may not have previously considered or maybe you were just following what you saw your neighbors do…
In any event, this is a Fall Garden list of what you’ll need to do to help ensure a healthier, happier garden.
Cut Back on Cutting Back - Clear Out Garden Debris but not everything. Don’t think of autumn clean up as vacuuming your home. Critters over-winter in the plants and leaf litter.
- Remove Diseased or Damaged Vegetation
- Leave Plant Remains to Provide Protection against freezing temperatures.
- For marginally Hardy Perennials, Tender Ferns, or Mums, they benefit from leaving old foliage to provide crown insulation.
- Leave the deadheads on your perennials, especially hydrangeas!
- The birds and other pollinators, including animals, enjoy the seeds throughout the fall and winter.
Not to mention many dried flower heads, like hydrangea, add winter interest to the landscape.
Leaving them on also protects the plants, because for plants with hollow stems, if you cut off the heads the stems can fill with water and can freeze thus killing the plant.
Leave ornamental grasses & seed heads: butterflies, insects spend winter in plant stalks. They are a kind of pollinator hotel.
Plus the grasses look so glorious with snow topping their fluffy, flower heads, offering that much-needed four-season interest.
- Plant Spring Bulbs! Add hot cayenne pepper flakes to the just-planted bulbs to help ward off the digging squirrels. (reapply as needed; again in the spring to ward off the rabbits)
- Harvest & Store Edibles
- Prune roses, blueberries, and evergreens. December is also a good time to prune evergreens ~ not those that flower in spring, including rhododendrons and some azaleas, as you will be cutting off the future buds and blooming.
When it comes to your blueberry bushes, cut out the old wood and remove crossover and low angled canes.
- Weed ~ Sigh. There’s always something to weed out. But if you can remove invasive weeds that may have taken hold over the growing season, do so. It’s often easier to see these thugs once the leaves on the deciduous trees have fallen and exposed the vines. Or pulling pesky weeds from garden beds once the annuals have been removed and composted.
- Don’t put weeds into the compost.
Prepping for Pollinator Plants
I wanted to tell you that It’s been my honor and pleasure to trial some very interesting plants from The Michigan Bulb Company.
They loved my Garden Glamour blog (who doesn’t?!). Further, the company noted they want to “provide gardeners of all skill levels with reliable, affordable and thoroughly enjoyable plants.” And who better to tell their story?
They contacted me in late spring to collaborate, and together, we selected some of their outstanding portfolio of plant offerings ~ and there is a lot to choose from.
We agreed on Curtain Call Pink Anemone, Creme de La Creme Phlox (ooh la la), Kniphofia, and of course, the butterfly magnet: Asclepia, our native milkweed.
Link over and peruse their site for the very valuable information about growing plants, starting with your Zone and what’s appropriate and recommended for your area.
I’ve posted on my Instagram and Twitter about their excellent shipping and packaging of the plants.
If you don’t Follow me, I invite you to. Smile. You can find me @gardenglamour on Twitter and @gardenglamourbyduchessdesigns on Instagram ~ was hacked earlier this year :( on IG so this is a new account.
All The plants arrived healthy and happy.
The company provides not only top-tier TLC but also colorful, easy to understand instructions.
Notwithstanding the biblical summer weather that was: too heavy rain early in the season, followed by no water and hotter than Hades up until almost autumn, I tended my trial plants with the love of a dedicated godmother: watering and prodding them on.
It was a team effort.
The anemone did bloom; the others grew gracefully but hadn’t produced the hoped for blooms. Panic set in. I pride myself on my persnickety gardening prowess, after all!
Fretting that my plant parenting skills had skipped a beat, I was greatly reassured when the good gardening sprites at Michigan Bulb Company reassured me that “...sometimes the plants may not fully bloom the first year, as they may be setting their roots. So while they look perfectly healthy,” they added, “It may be another year before they fully bloom.”
Whew! And that my friends, is yet another reason to purchase plants from Michigan Bulb Company: They have your back. You can Trust them.
They’ve been at this for a very long time. And their plants are sure to create better gardens.
According to the company: “Dormant plants are not only the best for planting, they are also the best for shipping. We learned many years ago that the most reliable way to provide our customers with healthy, ready-to-grow products is to ship them dormant plants.”
For more information, check this out:I know you’ll be with me for the next chapter of growing these splendid plants; seeing them in full bloom. Stay tuned.
Gardeners are a patient and hopeful cohort.
At this time of year, there are still so many plants to enjoy in your gardens, in the parks, and at your local botanical gardens.
Look for interesting foliage. You’ll notice there is a palette of plants that finish out the season. Nature’s "Finishing Touches," if you will.
This way you can record your wish list for spring planting.Or if you are in a zone where you can plant now ~ dig in!
Here’s a list of some of my favorite trees and some native perennials, perfect for most every home garden:
Acer Shirasawanum ‘Jordan’ Japanese maple
Threadleaf maple acer palmatum 'Threadleaf’
Highbush cranberry viburnum trilobum
Virginia Sweetspire Itea
White Snakeroot eupatorium rugosum
Most are Native plants and all are glamorous.
Happy Autumn gardening!