Gardening doesn’t stop just because it’s fall

When summer turns to autumn, the garden seems to take a backseat. But there’s still plenty of action underground, so this is no time to rest.

First of all, your plants still need water. Though their thirst subsides as temperatures cool, perennials, trees, and shrubs in colder regions actually need extra water in early fall to prepare for (and successfully emerge from) dormancy.

In cooler zones, plant pansies for a touch of fall color. They will die back in winter but will bloom again next spring until the heat of summer takes care of them. In warmer zones, pansies will continue to thrive as long as winter temperatures don’t climb above 80 degrees.

Add other seasonal blooms to the garden or containers as well. Chrysanthemums, asters, and motley ornamental cabbage and cabbage are good choices.

You can also start planting onions. In areas that experience winter frosts, that means hardy plants like tulips, muscari, daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, snowdrops, and snowdrops. To the south, see amaryllis, caladia, calla lilies, cannas, daffodils, dahlias, elephant ears, gladioli and bulbous begonias.

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Those who garden in the southernmost parts of the US, like southern Texas and Florida, can plant another round of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.

There is no need to pull up declining crops if they are still producing. Take what you can from them until they die off on their own, then clear the beds of plant debris.

Planting a cover crop like clover or rye in uncultivated vegetable beds helps suppress weeds, control erosion, and add nutrients to the soil. When spring comes, simply turn over the soil and plant your next garden. However, avoid using legumes in beds where you intend to grow legumes such as beans or peas.

Dispose of diseased plants in the trash and create a compost heap with healthy plant parts. Create layers of fresh materials such as kitchen scraps from fruit and vegetables, grass clippings, weeds that haven’t seeded, coffee grounds, cornstarch packing peanuts, horse manure, and rabbit and bird droppings. Alternate them with dry items such as leaves, twigs, shredded paper, and straw (never used cat litter, dog poop, fats, meat, dairy, or other animal products).

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To speed up decomposition, sprinkle some nitrogen over each layer and keep the pile slightly moist by turning it over with a pitchfork from time to time. You can enrich your floor with “black gold” until next summer.

To prepare for spring planting, test the pH of your soil now and add additives like lime and compost if necessary, which will work deep into the soil over the winter.

Avoid fertilizing anywhere except in the South, where some lawn grasses may benefit from an early fall application of a slow-release product. However, be aware of local fertilizer restrictions to protect the ecosystem and avoid wastage (and possible fines). For example, during the rainy season in the south, nitrogen is likely to be washed through the soil into groundwater; in the north, cool temperatures prevent the absorption of fertilizers, which can also get into the groundwater there.

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Both scenarios pollute our valuable resources and waste money since unabsorbed fertilizer is of no use to your lawn or plants anyway.

Southern gardeners should now feed citrus trees, but not in rainy weather. Use a slow-release product to provide long-lasting nutrients and avoid leaching and runoff.

Rejuvenate the lawn, but aerate it first. Sow once a week and water lightly every day until it is 3 inches tall.

Transplant and divide spring and early summer perennials and ground covers, but don’t disturb late bloomers until spring.

Fall is a good time to plant trees and shrubs. In cold zones, it’s best to wait until the trees near you drop their leaves. Water well and mulch.

Cool season crops such as beets, radishes, leafy greens and broccoli can now be grown in many temperate climates.

Finally, do your future self a favor and keep an eye on the weeds. Pulling them up by their roots before setting seeds will significantly reduce their numbers next year.

You will thank yourself in the spring.

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