Tips & Techniques
Countdown to Betterdays

Top Fall Gardening To-dos

Gardening

By Marty Ross

Fall isn’t really the end of the gardening season—it is the beginning of a rich, colorful and very beautiful time in the garden. The heat is off, and so is the pressure. Cool days and an endless blue sky encourage you to enjoy the beauty you have created in your own backyard. There’s still plenty to do; you may think it’s time to clean up and put everything away, but your garden still needs your attention. These necessary garden tasks will hardly seem like work.

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Seed pods are one of the under-appreciated pleasures of a garden in fall. Goldfinches and chickadees visit coneflowers and black-eyed Susans, perching right on the flower heads to pluck out the seeds.

Plants with heavy seed heads sometimes fall out onto the lawn. Stake them up into the garden tableau and maintain their beauty well into the season. A package of bamboo stakes from a garden shop and a ball of twine are all you need.

Healthy plants weather winter better than plants under stress, so don’t let plants dry out in the fall, thinking that the gardening season is over. If rain is not forthcoming, keep watering the garden as long as plants are growing.

Gilmour’s Elevated Sprinkler extends from 24 to 40 inches tall. It can water an area up to 50 feet in diameter, but turn the pressure down low and it’s just right for flower beds 4 to 6 feet wide. The sprinkler’s spike base—less than two inches on a side—is perfect for flower beds. Even in crowded beds, this sprinkler finds a foothold.

Plants in flower pots and container gardens will keep blooming and looking good until frost if you take care of them. Keep watering as long as the days are mild and the plants are still green.

Gilmour’s Thumb Control Watering Nozzle is a versatile tool you’ll use for all kinds of container gardens. The gentle Garden and Flower settings refresh plants without damaging stems or knocking off blooms. Use the Clean or Soft Wash settings to clean off dirt that might have splashed up on flower pots and to rinse off your digging tools when you come in from the garden. The thumb-control lever lets you adjust the flow of water—or turn it off—without running back to the spigot.

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Herbaceous perennial plants die to the ground in the winter and emerge again in spring. It’s easy to lose track of your favorites—or of plants you’re just getting to know. Take a few minutes to go around the garden in fall and mark the spots where perennials such as Joe-pye weed, baptisia, hostas and phlox are growing. In spring, when you see shoots poking out of the soil, you’ll know they’re desirable plants, and not opportunistic weeds.

Annual flowers last only one summer, but they are among the most colorful and hardest-working plants in the garden. To encourage them to keep blooming through the fall, cut off the spent flowers of zinnias, marigolds, cosmos and other annuals as the flowers fade.

Take a small pair of sharp snippers into the garden every time you go outdoors. Nip off the faded flowers and you’ll have bright annuals until a hard frost brings their season to an end. This is a great way to appreciate your garden up close.

While you’re maintaining your annuals, take your hedge shears with you into the garden to prune tall flowers or foliage that flops out of flower beds and gets in the way. Summer’s lush growth shouldn’t be allowed to completely obscure the neat edges you have worked so hard to maintain. A few passes with sharp hedge shears will help keep the garden looking tidy until frost.

Since watering throughout the fall is still important, make it easier on yourself and your flowers. Put a soaker hose to work in areas where garden beds are full of flowers and you don’t want to weigh them down by watering from above.

Soaker hoses provide gentle, even watering right at the roots of your flowers and vegetables. They’re easy to weave among the plants in a bed early in the season, and they can remain in place all season long. Gilmour’s flat soaker hose weeps gently along its length and practically eliminates water loss to evaporation.

Newly planted trees and shrubs are particularly vulnerable to freezing weather and drying winds during their first winter in the garden. It is important to continue watering in fall, and to replenish the mulch around them to insulate the soil in cold snaps.

Watering with a blast from a hose can expose their roots. Instead, use a watering nozzle and choose a setting that waters gently around the crown of the plant. The Shrub or Garden setting works well. You can control the volume of water with the thumb-control lever at the top of the nozzle.

The days are getting shorter, and there is less time to be outside, but fall gardening tasks don’t really take that long. At this time of year, you want to savor every moment in the garden, enjoying the beauty of asters, mums, goldenrod and other fall flowers, and helping keep plants healthy so they will weather the winter without any problems.

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