Transition to off-season gardening
5 tips to transition your garden from summer to fall
It’s about that time again—the warm air is turning to an autumn breeze, and your summer garden faces the imminent first-freeze. Don’t wait for those first leaves to fall before you start preserving your precious plants. Ideally, you’ll want to get to work about six weeks before the first hard freeze. Here are five easy tips to take your garden from summer to fall.
1. Assess damages
This can be telling of your growing season’s success, and helpful as you prepare for next spring. Identify plants that have outgrown their space and need to be divided, and check for disease.
2. Remove annuals and spent vegetable plants
This can eliminate future pests and diseases that thrive on dead plant material, and you can use your spent produce for compost. You can save seeds from most annuals and plant again next year. You’ll want to remove weeds and leaf debris as well to make the area as anti-pest and disease-resistant as possible.
3. Cut back perennials and mulch
Because the roots survive, these persistent plants will be back next year even though the growth above dies. Trim down spent foliage and add mulch to bare areas. Depending on the types of plants in your garden, you might also be able to leave some foliage standing tall to take on the cooler temperatures. For instance, garden mums, anise hyssop, red-hot poker, and Montauk daisies are more likely to survive through winter, as their tops collect leaves and snow for insulation and moisture. And seeds of Echinacea and Rudbeckia attract and feed birds, which is always a plus because the birds can act as a natural pesticide!
4. Prepare your lawn
This six-week timeframe is also the best time to sow cool-season grasses (fescue, rye) providing them the opportunity to develop a good root system before freezing temperatures arrive. You’ll also want to fertilize any turfgrass. Like bears hibernating for the winter, your grass can also store nutrients in the form of carbohydrates over the cooler months.
5. Consider planting some cool-weather annuals
Some plants that typically do well in cooler temperatures include: calendula, African daisies, pansies, snapdragons, petunias, swiss chard, geraniums or cyclamen. You’ll want to make sure you add them to the soil before it gets too cold though, as the roots need time to establish before winter sets in.