There’s a cycle in the garden and in landscaping that’s directed firstly by the health needs of the plants and then by the esthetic needs of the homeowner. It begins in spring with pruning, edging, weeding and cleaning of plant material that was left the previous fall. Depending on the amount of pruning required, this can take a while. For example, having pruned roses in the fall minimally to avoid winter damage from wind, I like to do the final pruning in spring. I like to clean hydrangeas in spring and then there are all of those paniculata types to be pruned.
After spring cleaning, we begin adding to the garden: spring annuals, new perennials, trees and shrubs, soil amendments, summer annuals…
Then we merge into summer maintenance, keeping the plants happy in the heat and looking their best with deadheading and constant weeding (unless you have surrounded them with some good mulch).
We are now sliding into fall, which means vegetable and fruit harvest! When fall gives way to cold, the cleaning will begin again, followed by winter hibernation of gardener and plants. Then the cycle begins again.
During the fall aspect of the cycle, gardens and pots are looking tired. They have worked hard all season and are getting ready for a well-deserved and necessary rest. The gardener may be tired and anticipating the arrival of winter as well. But there are things to do that will make the garden look fresh and vigorous again.
The most rewarding act is cleaning the garden of dead and unneeded plant material. Deadheading is still required and stems that have bloomed their last should go. This will usually leave a fresh clump of leaves and may even enable more blooms. Many plants will have a new plant growing at the base of the old foliage. Annuals can often be cut back somewhat, which also encourages blooms. All dead leaves should be removed. This alone will freshen the garden. Hostas may have leaves with scorched edges, holes or breaks. When these are removed, there will usually be new leaves remaining.
Removing plants that you no longer like and transplanting them elsewhere will free up space and remind the gardener that a new season will come, bringing new possibilities
If you have not removed those yellow bottom leaves from tomatoes, do it now. I grow tomatoes in cordons, which makes this easy. There may be tomatoes ripening on the plant after removing almost of the leaves. Leave them and they will ripen. Mildewed leaves on squash and cucumber plants may be removed. Garlic should be planted next month. Next, remove all stakes no longer needed. New trellises can be built at this time for roses you might plant now or have planned for spring planting.
Take stock of what you liked this year and make notes and definite plans for next year. This makes ordering for next year much easier. Be sure you make a map of your planting scheme for reference next year. I always think I will remember where I planted the tomatoes etc. next year at planting time, but I don’t!
Dead wood can be removed from trees and shrubs now. Not only will this lessen spring pruning, it will make the plants much more beautiful throughout the winter. Don’t remove live wood now.
This is a good time to check the garden centers for sales on plants, pots, outside furniture, sculptures, and all sorts of do-dads. The selection in spring is larger but the prices now are significantly lower. Bulbs for fall planting are coming into the garden centers. If you add them now, you can plant a spring surprise for yourself. But remember…deer eat tulips.
Jeanelle Myers is a professional gardener, landscaper and consultant. For gardening discussion you can call her at 631-434-5067.