We can all breathe a huge sigh of relief as the cool weather arrives. Too hot to use your porch or patio this summer? Not now. It's time to gather around the firepit with friends, and open the windows for the fresh fall breeze.
But don't forget those Autumn gardening chores! Here's what you should be doing now.
Plant spring bulbs.
Your bulb order should have arrived by now and it is a perfect time to plant them. Do not wait too long to plant and when planting, make sure they are not planted too deeply. A general rule of thumb for bulb planting is to plant twice as deep as the bulb size.
Plant trees and shrubs.
The arrival of cool weather means less watering and less stress on plants. This is an ideal time to plant trees and shrubs.
In the Mid-Atlantic, white tail deer pressure ramps up as the temperatures drop and there is less food available for them.
After planting, be sure to add deer fencing to the new plants. This will reduce deer browsing on the foliage. Also, around this time of year, bucks will rub their antlers on young trees. So, fencing or caging is important for protecting the bark of newly planted trees.
There are some species of trees that deer avoid feeding on because they are less palatable. Though no plants are totally resistant to deer browsing, some are less palatable to deer and are less likely to receive heavy damage.
• Sweetbay Magnolia
• American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)
• American elderberry
• American Beach (Fagus grandifolia
• American Holly
Clean up fallen leaves–but not all of them.
Cleaning up the garden is necessary but think about using these leaves as mulch. Of course, you’ll want to remove them from the lawn to avoid smothering the grass, but a quick mow of the lawn will chop the leaves up. If the mower chops them finely enough where the next rain will make them settle, just leave them. However, if they are still thick, blow them back into the beds. It will make wonderful mulch. As for the garden, you can let the leaves lie until a late winter or early spring cleanup or blow them out, chop them up, and blow them back in.
Design for fall interest.
Do you have enough fall interest in the garden? If not, now is the time to decide what you can plant to make your fall garden shine. Perennials such as native black-eyed Susan and ‘Matrona’ upright are wonderful, tried and true additions for a fall garden when everything else is ready for bed.
Harvest cool weather crops, green tomatoes, and herbs.
By now, some of those cool weather crops can be picked. Fall veggies such as greens and radishes should be ready. And don’t forget about the rest of your tomatoes. Frost does not usually hit the Mid-Atlantic until mid- to late October, so get those green tomatoes inside for relish and pickling. Also, any annual herbs such as basil, parsley, and dill can be picked and dried.
Source: Michele Christiano is a horticulture assistant at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.