Take advantage of lovely fall weather to do these five tasks, which will make next year an even more glorious one in the garden!
1. Plant new additions.
Fall is ideal for adding new perennials, shrubs, and trees to the garden. Cooler temperatures and plentiful rainfall help them establish before winter chills.
Plant at least six weeks before the ground freezes to allow your new plantings to put down roots. In central Indiana, try to wrap up most planting by Thanksgiving. Dormant (balled-and-burlapped) trees can be planted in November and into early December.
Fall rains can make the soil soggy. Avoid digging in or walking over very wet soil; it damages the soil structure.
2. Dig and divide perennials.
When your perennials start crowding each other or developing a bald spot in the middle, it’s time to dig and divide! Fall is the best time to divide perennials that bloom in spring and summer.
To divide a plant, first cut back the top growth. Dig up the entire plant, then cut the root ball into several pieces. Toss out any sections that look moldy or shriveled. Replant healthy sections—ones no more than about 1/4 the size of the original plant—in fresh soil, adding some compost to the planting hole if you have it.
You can easily share divisions of plants. Wrap the roots in wet newspapers until they can be planted in their new home.
3. Add some spring-blooming bulbs.
Order bulbs early, then plan to plant after the first frost in October. You can plant into December, but we don’t recommend it—planting is much more pleasant on a sunny October or early November day! Snuggle any leftover bulbs into pots and force them to bloom indoors in early spring.
4. Mow leaves into the lawn.
Don’t waste beautiful fall days bagging leaves; use them to build soil instead. Mow light layers of leaves right into the lawn to return nutrients to the turf. For heavier leaf falls, chip leaves by mowing over them twice, then rake them into beds as mulch or pile them up to make leaf mould. Chipped leaves also make great mulch for spreading over cardboard when sheet mulching (see below).
5. Sheet mulch new beds.
If you’re planning to expand your garden next season, create new beds the easy way—with sheet mulch! Laying down wet cardboard or newspaper and covering it with mulch in mid-fall ensures that the bed will be ready to go in spring. Get detailed instructions for sheet mulching here.
And enjoy the season!
Fall is one of the loveliest times in the garden. Enjoy the spectacular colors of tree foliage backing your fall-blooming plants. Take an early morning stroll and admire the work of frost on the edge of leaves. Be sure to take time to experience your garden up close in fall; you’ve earned it!