Getting Ready for Fall - and for Spring

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The recent hurricanes and tropical storms brought us power outages and flooded basements, but they also brought a boon for gardeners.  The ground is no longer dried out and unfriendly to plant roots. The next couple of months are the perfect time to plant for next spring. While the shrubs, trees, and flowers are looking worn and tired as they prepare to lose their leaves, the ground is still warm. Plants put into the ground in the next couple of months will have time to grow strong roots and be ready to take off next spring.

The bonus is that the new plants will be well established and it won’t be such a battle to provide them with enough water to counteract the blazing sun and heat of spring and summer.  They can’t be ignored next spring, but they won’t have to be babied either.  While plants in containers can be planted any time the ground isn’t frozen, September and October are the optimum months for almost all of them.

It’s also time to begin garden cleanup. Frazzled, tired perennials that detract from your plantings can be trimmed back now without damage.

At this point, cutting things back is cosmetic—though plants that have gone to seed may provide food for the birds into the winter if they’re allowed to stay.  Some, like chrysanthemums, are of course just coming into their own and can be encouraged.


However, don’t get out the pruning equipment quite yet. If they haven’t yet been pruned, most woody plants are better pruned while they’re dormant in the winter.  More on that in a future blog; timing of pruning for flowering shrubs can make the difference between more flowers and no flowers for the season.

by guest blogger, Jessica MilsteadJessica has been a Charles County Master Gardener since 2002 and is certified to evaluate gardens and landscapes for their adherence to Bay-Wise principles.
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