Dropping Temps Signal More Garden Chores

By Susan Albert | October 22, 2021
Image by onepony
by Susan Albert
October 22, 2021

I prefer the cooler days of fall and spring for gardening. I’ve always maintained I am a fair-weather gardener. During the dog days of summer, I do the minimum in garden chores, such as watering and weeding in the morning. When it’s hot and muggy, plus mosquitoes out for a meal, you’ll find me indoors working. 

There’s no better time than autumn to start a garden bed, especially if the soil needs amendments. After adding compost and/or manure, let it sit all winter and, come spring, the soil will be ripe and ready for planting. 

If a fall vegetable garden is started in late summer, it needs tending, no matter how chilly the weather. Vegetables like beans, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, lettuce, onions, and potatoes can be harvested in fall. When planting seeds, look on the seed packet for the number of days to harvest, then check a calendar to see if the vegetables will be ready to pick before the first frost. If it’s a little bit later, the produce can be covered on chilly nights. 

Fall Means Planting Bulbs, Winterizing

I love to select bulbs to plant in fall. Some of my favorites include daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths. Even though daffodils and hyacinths return for years, I still add a few new ones to the mix each year. And although they are supposed to come back, some don’t. Or they only return two or three years. No matter, I enjoy picking out new varieties. Where I live, it’s best to wait till November to plant spring-blooming bulbs, so you may see me in jeans and sweaters, sometimes even a light jacket, to plant my bulbs. 

I also plant any end of season bargain perennials and any decorative fall mums that I want to keep. Mums sold in the fall often aren’t hardy like the garden mums sold in spring, so they may not return. 

When winterizing, certain plants need to be dug up after the first freeze has knocked down the foliage, such as canna lilies. Then the foliage and dirt can be removed, and the rhizomes stored for winter. It can be chilly while digging those up, so I try to wait till a nice day if I can. 

Other winterizing chores include bringing in container plants I need to overwinter or taking cuttings (which takes up a lot less room indoors.) Of course, that needs to be done before the first frost. My tropicals such as desert rose and plumeria come in before the temperature gets below 60 degrees. 

Before a hard freeze, I like to move some containers from the deck or yard to a southeast corner of the house. I sort of push them partway under the deck for more protection. I did this with my Spanish snapdragon last year and the foliage stayed evergreen. When the nationwide deep freeze was forecast in February, I moved a few plants from the protected area into the garage, including the Spanish snapdragon and my blueberry bush, which is in a large container. 

Then during the winter, if rain or snow doesn’t fall and the soil is dry, you may see me out watering plants wearing a coat if a hard freeze is forecast. Dry plant roots freeze much quicker than moist roots. I’m sure drivers passing by get a chuckle out of that vision!

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