The beginning of October is a good time to plan for spring. From fall garden maintenance to planting bulbs, what you do in October will reflect in your garden in April. Here are six tips for fall gardening that lead to a better spring garden.
1. Fertilize the lawn with a slow release fall and winter lawn food.
In Western Washington, our cool weather grasses respond best to a fall feeding. By fertilizing now you will be encouraging deep root growth over green top growth. Grasses with deep roots are more drought tolerant so you will need to water less next summer. A fall fed lawn will also grow thicker to block out spring weeds.
2. Weed now or pay by pulling later.
The cooler weather means shot weeds are popping up and this white flowered weed will send seeds shooting all over the landscape if you don’t get control of it now. The good news is you don’t have to pull every weed if you use smother power. This weed needs sunlight so a mulch of wood chips or a compost of bark will smother shot weed and other invasive weeds that pop up in the fall.
3. Rake leaves from the lawn.
Big leaf maple leaves may be the worst offenders when it comes to smothering a lawn by blocking sunlight, but cedar, fir and alder foliage knocked to the ground by fall wind storms also will weaken the lawn. But don’t get rid of all those fallen leaves because ...
4. Save fall leaves for a good spring tonic.
You can pile stacks of fallen leaves behind shrubs, store leaves in plastic garbage bags (poke the plastic full of air holes) or just let the leaves lie on top of the soil the way nature intended. Fallen leaves provide winter homes for salamanders, newts and frogs, but also decay into a rich spring soil supplement called leaf mold. The remains of your fallen leaves can be added to potting soils, new garden beds or just spread about the base of trees and shrubs as a natural way to improve your soil.
5. Compost summer annuals and potting soil.
Recycle petunias, begonias, lobelias and all your other summer bedding plants into your soil if you don’t have a dedicated compost pile. Used potting soil can be dug into your soil and recycled as well. Potting soil often contains small pieces of white perlite that helps to add air and drainage to wet Western Washington soil.
6. Protect your summer blooming bulbs from winter rains.
Dahlia tubers left in the ground can be saved from rotting if you cut them back and cover the area with sword fern fronds or a tarp to keep out winter rains. Canna, eucomis and gladiolas are other summer bloomers that tend to rot in our climate, so protect them from moisture if left in the ground.
7. Move potted sedums to under the eaves. Bring tender plants indoors.
Too much rain will rot sedums and succulents. Even storing them under the branches of a cedar or other evergreen will help protect them over the winter.
8. Bait for slugs and snails.
Invest in a pet safe slug bait such as Worry Free Slug and Snail bait and you will have less slime in the spring. Good garden clean up especially of soggy and rotting foliage also will deny slugs spots to overwinter.
9. Uproot tomatoes, squash and beans to cut back on overwintering disease in the vegetable garden.
Removing the rotting remains of summer veggies also will cut back on overwintering cabbage worms and other insects.
10. Plant spring blooming bulbs, shrubs and trees.
Fall is for planting in Western Washington, so adding spring blooming bulbs plus new shrubs and trees is the most important tip to do in the fall if you want a more beautiful spring.