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If you are around me very long, you know I love God, summer, growing things, thrift stores, ice cream and my family (not necessarily in that order). But as the wheel of the year turns, I also enjoy the leaves changing colors, dropping to the ground and rustling in the wind. I’m fond of the drying out of plants and the emptiness of the garden following the harvest that reminds us to rest.
Even though the temperatures don’t always feel like fall, the calendar and the shorter days remind us that autumn is settling in. Now is a great time to ready your planting areas, so I’ve put together some fall to-dos for those victory gardeners who aren’t creating a fall garden.
• Divide and/or plant perennials.
If you have plants that spread and spread, now’s the time to divide and replant them. I have a huge basil plant that I’m splitting. Perhaps you have one or two herbs that are a little out of control. I’m planning on giving some to my daughter, bringing part in to overwinter inside and letting the rest go to seed.
Dividing also goes for flowers that have bulbs or rhizomes like irises. This is one of my favorite to-dos. Just make sure you don’t cut or damage their rhizomes in the process, as that can lead to diseases in the future.
• Collect seeds.
If you grew any heirloom varieties this year, your hard work is about to pay off! Growing heirloom varieties of plants means you can save their seeds, store them and plant next spring.
The easiest plants to collect from are those with large seeds like beans, peas and sunflowers. Getting the seeds from popular heirlooms like tomatoes is more difficult, but it can be done. I’m happy to report my lavender has produced a lot of seeds for me to save!
• Start making compost.
Once you’ve harvested anything that’s going to ripen, you need to pull all the dead plants out. Vines, stalks and browned, shriveled leaves need not go in the trash or burn pile, however! All your plant refuse is a great candidate for a new or existing compost pile.
Aside from dead plants, there are plenty of other materials hanging around your yard just begging to be composted.
All those leaves you raked up? Compost pile.
The final bag full of mowed grass clippings? Compost pile. Cardboard shipping box from Amazon? Compost pile. A pile of your neighbor’s chicken droppings? Compost pile. (Also, introduce me to said neighbor.)
• Spread finished compost.
Fall is the absolute best time to nurture your soil. Adding compost, manure or even just a mulch of fall leaves now will reward you doubly next spring. Between now and then, your garden has months to slowly break down everything and make nutrients available for plants. It gives earthworms and other decomposers ample time to work. It also prevents you from burning your plants by belatedly adding fertilizer once they’re already in the ground next spring.
• Inspect and store tools.
Once you no longer need your hoes, spades and rakes, you’ll eventually need to put them away for the winter. Make sure you take a few minutes and inspect them before you do! This will ensure you have plenty of time to either repair or replace broken tools. (Gardening things are on clearance now, y’all!)
• Mulch and cover tender perennials.
Have you ever wondered why someone wrapped perennials in burlap? You might have also seen little teepees of plywood or straw bales standing guard over small trees. While it looks a bit odd — young trees, those with thin bark, or arborvitae, are prone to winter problems from ice and salt damage, sunscald and winter burn.
Fall may not be the most exciting time in the garden, but each season is important. Giving the soil, and your soul, a chance to renew, restore and rebuild is vital to growth in the next season.
Happy (future) planting!
DeeAnn Rivera is a Spring Hope resident who blogs at VictoryGardenGal.com.