The temperatures are dropping the rain is moving in and the leaves are falling, all signs that it is time to put the garden to bed. Diligence with this fall task will not only save you some work next year, but also leave your yard and gardens looking neat and orderly throughout the winter and ready to flourish next spring.
So what exactly does it mean to put the gardens to bed? It’s a combination of cutting some plants back, cleaning up leaves and debris, and some pruning. However, heavy pruning should be saved for the winter months if you can.
What it means to cut plants back is cutting back the foliage and spent flowers on perennials and ornamental grasses to anywhere from 2”-6” from the ground or base of the plant. The benefit of doing this in the fall is it keeps the garden looking clean during the dormant period and allows the plant a fresh start the following spring. Another plus is, if the cut back is done in the fall or even winter months you don’t need to navigate around any new emerging foliage.
In regards to shrubs, cut back often amounts to trimming back spent flowers and light pruning. Often times shrubs like hydrangea for example, which have large flowers, are cut back so that should we get snow and ice the weight from said snow and ice doesn’t load the flowers causing the stems to bend and the branches to break.
I’ve also found that lavender benefits from a fall haircut. Cutting back the spend flowers and giving it some shape will assist in preventing it from getting overgrown and haggard looking.
As for raking up the leaves, there are some that believe they should be left in the garden. Although I think it is a great idea to compost the leaves or take them somewhere where they can be composted, leaves will not break down in your yard and gardens fast enough to be beneficial in the immediate future. These leaves will make a mess of your yard and gardens, create habitat for rodents and possibly annoy your neighbors as the leaves from your yard blow into their property.
If you cut back your perennials and ornamental grasses prior to leaf cleanup you can often rake right over the top of the aforementioned perennials and grasses. This will make leaf cleanup much easier.
Although putting the garden to bed for the winter can seem like a sad task, I see it as the first steps to beautiful garden next year.
Contact Wheel & Barrow Landscape Design & Maintenance to assist you with your garden and landscape needs.