Gardener's Notebook - Time for fall ‘to-do’ list work

Gardeners, we’ve had our frost, but hopefully there will still be some nice weather ahead so that we can do what we have to do in our gardens before the colder weather really arrives. Do you have a “to-do list” for fall? Let’s compare and see if our tasks are similar.

Number one is to clear the garden. Before you begin, do a quick walk-through and see if there are any seeds that you want to collect: dried up peas or beans, and flowers like poppies, calendula, bachelor buttons, columbine, or any other seeds you may want to save. Place them in envelopes, label them, and store them in a cool, dark place.

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Next step, pulling out the old plants, raking up the plant foliage that has fallen, and pulling out any weeds that were lurking under or among the plants. If you have a large compost bin or pile, the old plants can be added to the compost.

But do not add any plants that showed signs of disease: those should go in the garbage, as well as any weeds.

Are there any plants that you want to move? Fall is a good time to relocate perennials or plant some new ones to add to your collection. We moved quite a few perennials this year, and at first the changes we made seemed like a drastic move away from what the garden was, but once it was done, it looked much fresher and we wondered why we hadn’t done it before.  If you have any plants that you think should be divided or in a new location, this is a good time. And be sure to label them! Get some sticks, attach a flag of masking tape with the plant name on it, and put them in place now before the leaves freeze into nothingness and we are standing in our gardens saying, “What was it that we moved here?”

As the weather progresses towards fall, the age-old discussion will come up: to cut or not to cut perennials down for the winter? Many gardeners do both. We like to leave any perennials that have seed heads, because not only do they add interest to the winter garden, but they also provide a winter treat for the birds. Other plants, like daylilies, get messy if left till spring, so we like to cut them down now, to about six inches.

Speaking of on-going discussions, how do you feel about “to till or not to till”? That is the question! I’ve done a lot of reading about this lately, and while many gardeners like to the look of a black-velvet garden as we go into winter, much information says that too much tilling can destroy soil structure and make it weaker. Tilling in the spring is thought to be enough, while a simple topical clean-up in the fall is healthier for the soil. As a very expert gardening friend told us recently, “don’t feed the plant, feed the soil!”  So if we do a good clean-up, let the soil remain intact so that the good bugs, worms and micro-organisms can do their thing, and perhaps scatter compost on our cleared gardens, we’ll be going into winter with a very good start.

It’s still too early to begin wrapping any shrubs that need that little extra care, so once we have done our cleaning and cutting, we can sit down with a cup of tea and know that we have done what we could. For now!

The Yorkton and District Horticultural Society has not yet planned any meetings at this time. Things are different, aren’t they! But be sure to visit our website at where we will tell you what is happening with the group, as well as give you a chance to see interesting articles and pictures!

Thank you to our friends at Yorkton This Week for their ongoing commitment to bringing us great local news. Let’s pray for health for all. Have a great week

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