Enjoy a Brighter Fall Garden in 5 September Steps
by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
Snippet: What should I do to my garden in the fall? Fall vegetable gardening. When should I start my fall garden clean-up? Autumn gardening tips. How do you enrich garden soil in Autumn?
Preparing the garden for fall. What should I add to my garden soil in the fall?
August is the hottest month in the gardens. Vegetable and flower gardeners relish in the bounty the heat and monsoon rain offers. Others long for the calm, cool Autumn nights Arizona is so famous. September is a transition month with some critical garden needs at hand. Keeping up with fall maintenance assures both the health of your garden in spring and a shorter maintenance list later.
September starts a season of change with the most pleasant mountain weather. The hot summer days are behind us; spring wind has abated, with nothing but warm, bright days expected through November. Enjoy all the gardens have to offer. Albert Camus famously wrote, “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
Here are the Top 5 Autumn tasks you should complete in the garden.
- #1 Fall Planting
Fall is for planting significantly larger shade trees like maple and aspen. The same is true for larger spruce, pine, and ornamental grass. You will find a large selection of evergreen spruce, pine, and pampas grass best planted in Autumn. As days cool, kale, lettuce, arugula, mustard greens, and spinach proliferate. Sow seeds directly into the garden, cover, and keep moist to encourage sprouting. Beets, radish, broccoli, and cabbage can be sown from seed, as well. You will find cool-season vegetables and organic herb starter plants at Watters Garden Center through October.
- #2 Harvest and Clear Space
Harvest time is undoubtedly the most rewarding season for vegetable growers. While your lettuces and radishes may be passed, tomatoes and squashes are just getting started. Harvest is almost daily in Autumn for cucumbers, broccoli, carrots, and cabbages.
September can turn any landscape (edible or not) into a mess of falling, brown plants trying for one last round of blossoms. Remove brown spent leaves from your plant, including old flowers. The cooler temperatures often yield one last flush of fragrant growth. Go crazy, thin, and clean overgrown plants. Bare ground invites more weeds and pests to grow next spring. Cover bare patches in the garden with a 2-3″ inch layer of Watters Premium Mulch, a cover crop, even fall plantings helps to keep the ground covered.
- #3 Preparing Mulch and Compost
If you haven’t created one already, a DIY compost pile is a simple weekend effort yielding superior returns. Add organic materials like rotted vegetables, plant scraps, and leaves to create a mulch pile used later as compost gold. Compost is often ready by spring, ready to spread and invigorating next year’s gardens.
- #4 Weeds & Dead-Head
Weeds are most prolific in September; don’t let them go to seed. Weeds become well-established, aggressive, and seedy, making next springs garden laborious. Stay on top of your weeds, especially in the fall, for less work next year. If a portion of your yard is incredibly weedy, apply a generous application of Watters “Weed & Grass Stopper.” This weed preventer keeps weed seeds from germination. The strongest over-the-counter weed kill would have to be “Decimate” but Fertilome. A better replacement to Roundup, this concentrated weed killer truly decimates mountain weeds faster and without cancer-causing side effects.
Deadheading flowers is pinching the dried, spent flowers off your plant, so it reblooms and looks its best. Fall garden mums, aster, roses, marigolds, and more look their best through Autumn. Pinch off old, spent flowers to allow healthy new growth and buds to form. This one Fall task forces ever-bearing plants to keep producing flowers. And if you have an unruly perennial, pinching its flowers prevents it from seeding and out-competing other plants in the garden.
- #5 Tree & Shrub Maintenance
Lots of growth happens in Autumn, especially at the root level. Yet another reason Fall is an ideal season to plant new fruit and shade trees and evergreen plants. Give plants a deep soak at a weekly interval. Heavily mulch around the new plant’s roots for more roots and stronger growth next spring. Apply a 3″ inch layer of composted mulch over the roots or your new Colorado Spruce, Blaze Maple of Fruit trees for impressive growth next year.
#1 Most Important Autumn Task – Feed everything in the yard before Halloween! Fall plants are storing up food much like bears do in winter. Encourage better Autumn growth and heartier hibernation by feeding everything in the yard with 7-4-4 All Purpose Plant Food. This local plant food is especially important for stressed plants and those new to the gardens.
Until next week, I’ll be helping locals plant better fall landscapes here at Watters Garden Center.