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      October 2017 Back Fence  OVER THE BACK FENCE -OCTOBER-2017   October 2017 Back Fence

"Just before the death of flowers,
And before they are buried in snow,
There comes a festival season
When nature is all aglow."
-   Author Unknown


Sadly, our Orioles have gone south; the juncos will soon return to the south-us! - for the winter; this signals the beginning of winter, so we must begin to prepare our gardens for their long sleep! Whatever effort we put into our garden now will make for a lovely spring garden when the snow melts! Here is a handy-dandy reference guide as to what to do in the fall garden!



1. SIZE UP!  Look at your garden as a whole, to see what should move, what doesn’t grow well where it sits, what is overgrown for its spot, what really grew well that you may want to expand, what colours or plants you did not care for, or loved, and so forth. Take pictures, so you will remember where things are, in the spring.

2.TRIM UP!  Late fall is a good time to shape shrubs and trim trees. Sap has stopped flowing, so the plants won’t suffer. Trim the tops of spent flowers, to about 6 inches from the ground; these stubs will trap snow and protect the crowns of the plants. Roses should be trimmed back also; rambling roses only have to have their longer canes trimmed back to 3 feet or so, to prevent breakage from winds.

2. CLEAN UP!  Get rid of all dead material (except what you wish to use for winter bird food or eye appeal). Pull out annuals. Collect seedpods from those you will plant next year, or trade to friends (e.g. cleome, sweet peas, zinnias, poppies). If iris have become infected with root rot or bore, discard all of this. Weeds, of course, should also be discarded, not in your composter! Pull out extra plants that have appeared on their own. Rake leaves onto the garden or use in the composter, when you have completed all the other steps!

4. DIG UP!  Now that you have an idea what should go or stay, spade up the extras, to give away, move, or discard. Replant perennials or bushes that are in the wrong spot re shade or sun. Get rid of plants you felt did not measure up to your expectations.  Dig up soft bulbs such as calla, canna, and dahlia, clean and dry them, and store in a cool, dark, dry place until May- do not leave them where they will freeze. Labelling them as to colour now will save a lot of confusion next May!

5. DIVIDE UP!  Now you have extra perennials to plant! Re-arrange them on the lawn, before digging in, to be sure you have correctly apportioned the colour, size, etc, evenly. Late fall is an excellent time to divide plants such as iris, peony, phlox, echinacea, hosta, sedum, etc. Spring bulbs can also go into the extra space you have found! Remember that squirrels HATE baby powder, so shake your bulbs in baby powder before planting, and then sprinkle some on the top of the ground also. Squirrels know what disturbed ground in the fall means- new food! – so outsmart them! You may also plant daffodil bulbs in alongside tulip bulbs, to fool the varmits, as they detest the taste of daffodils!

6. HILL UP / COVER UP!  Cover the crowns of roses with soil, then leaves, to prevent winterkill; uncovering in May. Cover the garden with leaves or mulch to protect the plants from frost and varmints. You might also protect young trees by surrounding them with chicken wire or other plastic materials available in nurseries.

7. WATER UP!  Lastly, be sure to give everything a thorough soaking before frost, especially on young trees; they need the extra moisture to get through the long winter. When you have finished all that, put your feet up and relax on the back deck with a nice hot cup of cider, and a fresh piece of pumpkin pie!

Yours in gardening,  Lynn Near