Fall Into The Future

Fall Into The Future

In the fall many gardeners and home landscapers are anxious to wrap things up. We’ve coped with winter and gypsy moth larvae in the spring, seen drought-stressed plants all summer, and are watching our perennials brown and go to seed. So it’s natural that we’re ready to clear things out, dust off our hands and declare the lawn and garden season finished. But by doing so, we miss out on several opportunities to create wonderful landscapes in the future.

Here are three simple things that you can do this October that will reap great rewards next spring:

  1. Plant bulbs. An hour or two tucking bulbs in your garden results in weeks of enjoyment next spring. Bulbs delight us when we see them first appear and when they’re in full colorful bloom in the weeks to come. Planting them isn’t tricky: scatter some organic fertilizer such as Bulb-tone or Flower-tone over the area, plant the bulbs 3x deeper than their height, cover with soil and water well. “Dig, drop, done!” as the bulb growers say.
    When planting bulbs in containers there are two things that are important. The first is good drainage, and this is best accomplished with fresh soil. If you pot bulbs in old soil that's filled with the roots of annuals, they are likely to rot. The second thing that can help is having a container completely filled with soil...if there is filler in the bottom of a pot the drainage may not be as good. Use a large pot for your bulbs and you'll have a display such as this one that delighted me for two months! I bought a bag or mixed hyacinths and another of tulips at Country Garden the previous fall and planted them in these large livestock troughs.

    When planting bulbs in containers there are two things that are important. The first is good drainage, and this is best accomplished with fresh soil. If you pot bulbs in old soil that’s filled with the roots of annuals, they are likely to rot. The second thing that can help is having a container completely filled with soil…if there is filler in the bottom of a pot the drainage may not be as good. Use a large pot for your bulbs and you’ll have a display such as this one that delighted me for two months! I bought a bag or mixed hyacinths and another of tulips at Country Garden the previous fall and planted them in these large livestock troughs.

     

  2. Amend beds and lawn with an application of compost or composted manure. Spreading a light layer (between 1/2 to 1 inch) of compost is one of the most important things you can do for all parts of your landscape. If desired, you can sprinkle an organic fertilizer such as Plant-tone down first, then top with the compost/manure. Your garden will be off and running with new life next spring. Note that you can spread such amendments right over the remains of this year’s mulch as long as the mulch isn’t deeper than 2 or 3 inches. Then top with a fresh layer of 1 to 2 inches of mulch next spring.
    This is how a lawn looks when top-dressed with compost. You can shovel out a light layer and then rake to smooth it out. If needed, seed bare places after the compost is applied. This is especially important for those lawns that have dead areas due to the drought.

    This is how a lawn looks when top-dressed with compost. You can shovel out a light layer and then rake to smooth it out. If needed, seed bare places after the compost is applied. This is especially important for those lawns that have dead areas due to the drought.

     

  3. Use those leaves! The leaves and pine needles that fall on your lawn and landscape are gold for your soil. Mow them and allow the pieces to stay on your lawn, or collect the chopped foliage for top-dressing around shrubs and trees or on vegetable gardens.

    Don't waste nature's primary soil amendment! Chop these and use them around shrubs and trees, or let the small pieces fall on the lawn.

    Don’t waste nature’s primary soil amendment! Chop these and use them around shrubs and trees, or let the small pieces fall on the lawn.

Autumn is one of the nicest seasons on Cape Cod…take advantage of those crisp, sunny days to fall into the future!

15 Comments

  1. Bob Bartholomay on September 29, 2016 at 7:46 am

    CL,
    Thank you for the lesson on pruning last Sunday. I also attended last year. I think I am finally getting it. I have been afraid to make a cut and my wife complains that our shrubs are out of control. Your talk was very entertaining. This year I got to Country Gardens early and got a seat. This blog confirms my fall activities. I have already bought 2 bags of Narcissus (from Country Gardens). I always shred my leaves. I need to try the composted cow manure.
    Bart

    • CLFornari on September 29, 2016 at 7:58 am

      Bart – So glad you found the pruning class helpful! And I’m glad that you’ve been shredding your leaves and already buying bulbs. The pleasures of the fall season! Keep in touch.

  2. Julia Oliver on September 29, 2016 at 9:03 am

    C.L., I so value your wisdom, humor and your ways of expressing everything related to gardening. I regret not knowing about you sooner. Thankyouthankyou. Your Biggest Fan, Julia

    • CLFornari on September 29, 2016 at 9:19 am

      You’re sweet, Julia. Thanks!

  3. Joan Kennelly on September 29, 2016 at 10:33 am

    I loved your talk on Sunday. Also I try never to miss you on Saturdays on XTK. You are a gem. Wish I had known of you earlier in my so called gardening life. I try but not very good at it. And the landscapers I have had aren’t very good.

  4. Patricia Ripley on September 29, 2016 at 11:04 am

    Did your trough have drainage holes or just filled completel filled with new soil?

  5. Amy on September 29, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    Unfortunately we were unable to attend the pruning seminar will you be doing another one?f

    • CLFornari on September 29, 2016 at 4:33 pm

      I always teach pruning in the fall but might consider a class in March or April next year…stay tuned to our events calendar for 2017 once it comes out!

  6. Cat Logan on September 29, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    Hi, Even with what I consider good drainage, my potted spring bulbs always rot. Would I have better luck if I potted them up, put the pots in sealed paper bags and stored them over winter in an unheated garage? In the spring I would slip the pots into the larger decorative pots.

    • CLFornari on September 29, 2016 at 4:32 pm

      It would be better if you potted them up in soil in plastic pots, keep outside through November and water, then move those into the unheated garage until the end of Feb or early March (depending on weather) – water when dry. Then in spring as they start breaking dormancy transplant to the larger containers outside.

  7. Emily Woudenberg on September 30, 2016 at 8:31 am

    Great tips for fall, and thanks, C.L! My question concerns fertilizing right over last season’s mulch. I have read somewhere that it is better to use twice as much fertilizer when you scatter it right on top of last season’s mulch, presumably because the thick mulch “absorbs” some of the fertilizer. Is this true? I use shredded pine bark mulch, and it varies between 1 inch – 2.5 inches thick around my shrubs and beds.

    • CLFornari on September 30, 2016 at 8:41 am

      Emily
      The idea that mulch “absorbs” the fertilizer and makes it unavailable to plants doesn’t make sense. Some of the nitrogen from the fertilizer might get used in the decomposition of the mulch, but that’s no reason to use twice as much of everything else. When you think about it, the mulch and fertilizer are both breaking down and amending the soil from the top down, which is how nature does it. So use the same amount of fertilizer you normally would and you can put it on top of the mulch. If you have mulch that is over 2″ high don’t spread more mulch on that are next spring – let it decompose. Ideally, mulch shouldn’t be thicker than 2″ at any time on the surface of your beds.

  8. J Lamb on October 5, 2016 at 5:26 pm

    Great talk on pruning last Sunday. It was our first time are ding one of your events, but won’t be the last.
    I love your trough full of hyacinths and tulips. Could you please tell me where I might be able to purchase the trough and Spart Pots.
    Thanks so much.

  9. Emily Woudenberg on October 8, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    Thank you, CL, for answering my question regarding fertilizer and mulch! Glad to have your opinion.

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