by Debbie Green
By autumn, even the most enthusiastic gardeners find their landscapes in decline. Looking out on weeds, tired annuals, insect-or disease-damaged plants, and piles of falling leaves, you may want only to put the garden to bed for the winter.
Instead, use cooling temperatures to get energized and improve your landscape!
Some Things Need to Go—Or Not!
Do clean out damaged or diseased plants, removing them completely if they are beyond help, along with any weeds that are going to seed. Bag these as trash to help reduce diseases, pests and weeds the following year.
Next, decide what plants need cutting back or tidying. Many perennials have new growth at the base that will carry them through winter and look fresh if you cut older foliage back. Some age gracefully, though, with attractive seed heads that feed the birds; such reseeding plants will fill out informal flowerbeds or meadow plantings. If you don’t want plants to reseed, gather interesting pods or ornamental grasses for indoor fall arrangements. Note some perennials, such as Chrysanthemums, survive best with their stems intact; leave marginally hardy plants alone until late winter.
In woodland gardens, leave those fallen leaves rather than raking them out; just pull away any large leaves smothering young plants. If you must rake, rather than bagging leaves, shred, and either compost them or reapply the shredded leaves to your garden beds.
What to Add?
If you have spring and summer-blooming plants that need dividing or relocating, or you want to add new trees, shrubs or perennials to your landscape, early fall is a good time to make changes. Establish new planting areas where you have too much lawn to mow, or on slopes where cheerful flowers will be a welcome alternative to weeds. Include some reseeding perennials such as Echinacea and Rudbeckia or ground-covering native plants, such “Green and Gold” (Chrysogonum virginianum).