Why the end of summer is the perfect time to plant
It’s autumn and this is no time to panic – there’s lots of time for that. But there are a few jobs around the garden that could use your attention. While there is some strength in the sun and being out of doors still feels comfortable, we have a few suggestions.
Our garden priorities for mid-Fall
1 Leave the leaves. Let us start with what not to do. Do not blow your leaves, with a leaf blower no less, into a pile, shove them into a paper bag and drag them down to the street for the city to pick up. Instead, rake them onto your garden. That’s it. Just let them sit there all winter until the earthworms pull them down, drowning them in the existing soil and digesting them into nitrogen rich earth worm poop. In other words, let the worms do the work. Your garden will look much better for their efforts. And this takes a lot less effort than the alternative. If you have too many leaves, run your power mower over them before you rake them onto the garden.
2 Plant Holland bulbs. This is a job for planners. You plant dormant, rather unattractive tulip, daffodil and hyacinth bulbs this time of year and wait until spring for something to happen. We are here to assure you that your investment is not wasted. Come spring, you will feel great joy when your crocus emerges from the depths of the recently frozen earth. They arrive, like trumpets, blowing colour into an otherwise brown, dreary landscape. “Spring is here!” they announce. And so, life and hope and joy abound. But only if you plant the bulbs now.
Bulbs should always be planted in quality, well-drained soil, about three times as deep as the bulb is thick, measured from top to bottom.
3 Fertilize your lawn. Your application of lawn fertilizer this time of year is the most important of the year. The fall formula of lawn fertilizer should be 12-0-18, with less nitrogen (the first number) and more potassium (the third number) than the fertilizer you applied earlier in the season. The potassium provides nutrients to the roots of your grass plants, beefing them up for the long winter ahead. The result is a stronger lawn that recovers from winter-related stress much better than unfertilized lawns. Apply just before the snow flies.
4 Dig and divide. Many of the perennial plants that have established over the years in your garden are ripe for dividing and moving around your garden. Hostas and daylilies are perfect examples of plants that divide very well this time of year. Dig out the whole plant, cut it in half with a sharp shovel or spade. If it is big enough, say, the size of a large pie plate, divide it again, into quarters. You may think that you will get wedge-shaped plants next spring but not so. Through some miracle, they appear in late April looking healthy and just like any plant that you might have purchased in a round pot. Be sure to plant in quality soil.
Water them thoroughly after planting.
5 Prune trees and shrubs. This is the perfect time of year to prune a cedar hedge, large spruce or pine, deciduous trees including maples and birch (which bleed come spring if you leave this job much later). Flowering shrubs that have finished blooming late this season should be pruned now. Rose of Sharon bloom better next year when pruned now. We do not prune ornamental grasses or hydrangeas until spring. And we postpone apple pruning until late winter.
Remember to sit and absorb the remaining weeks in your garden before the snow flies. Allow the effects of nature to seep into your bones and be absorbed by your hard drive. Come winter, you will want to retrieve these images.
Mark Cullen is a Member of the Order of Canada, and provides gardening advice to more than two million Canadians each week. Ben Cullen’s specialty is food gardening. markcullen.com; Facebook @MarkCullenGardening and Pinterest @MarkCullenGardening