It’s fall, and there is much to do

Finally, it is here. The gardener’s best season: autumn.

Frankly I thought we would never get here, so long did summer heat and humidity last this year.

But when the temperature drops and the air sparkles, energy soars to get things done.

Tasks such as raking up twigs that seemed onerous just a month ago now are attacked with gusto.

It’s the season for bulb buying and planting, setting out new shrubs and trees, moving perennials, fretting over newly seeded lawns and tidying up.

That is a lot more to think about than just raking leaves, which is the task many people think of first in fall.

The reason fall is such a great time for planting, especially for trees, shrubs and perennials, is that it allows these plants to begin growing roots even as the stems and leaves above ground wind down into dormancy.

This root growth continues through much of the winter, which allows the plant to break dormancy in spring with a better root system. This enables the plants to tolerate the stress of summer heat much better.

Those are big jobs, deserving of careful thought and planning to make the right choice of plant and placement. Careful thought means considering how your selections balance the four seasons. I believe it is a mistake to sink most of your money, effort and space into a single season, such as spring. The modern garden marketplace has plenty for each season. You just have to look.

While planting trees and shrubs can be the heavy lifting of gardening, other tasks are simpler. Look over your shrubs for bits of dead wood to snip out quickly. These are easier to spot while leaves are on the plants.

However, pruning of plants that bloom in spring and early summer should not be done until after the flowers are over next year.

Such evergreens as hollies, boxwoods and ligustrum should be pruned in late winter before new growth begins.

Bulb shopping is well under way as garden centers are stocked with delights. Bulb planting has a long season, and late October through November is a great time to set out bulbs because the ground is cooler. And don’t overlook the opportunity to plant bulbs in containers because that is a great way to enjoy them. Planting in a pot of soil is also much easier than digging a bed in the ground. If you are buying pansies and violas for flowerbeds, get some extras to top pots that you plant with tulips and daffodils.

Keep an eye on new grass you planted in September and water it regularly. Try to avoid walking on the tiny seedlings now. But once the leaves fall, rake them gently to keep from smothering the little grass.


Q. You mentioned planting tulips and daffodils in pots. But what about hyacinths? I love the scent, and it would be nice to have them by the front door

A. Hyacinths do very well in containers, and you should go ahead with your plans for them. Set the bulbs close together but not touching in the pot.

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