October and November may not be busy gardening months, but there are a few things that need tending and some strategies you can take from this point forward.
Perennial Plant Care
Perennials are those plants that come back every year, but you need to cut them back to about three inches from the ground to ensure that they will bloom next year. Garden debris should be removed as well to prevent disease.
Some plants should not be cut back in the fall, rather that work should be undertaken early next spring. Ornamental grasses should be left until next spring. Black-eyed Susans and coneflowers can be cut back in the spring — leaving them in place ensures that birds have something to eat all winter long. Garden mums — so popular and very pretty during the fall — can also wait until the spring advises the Purdue University extension service.
Mulch for the Winter
Applying mulch before winter sets in can benefit your garden, provided you time your application just right. Specifically, mulch should be applied only after several killing frosts have taken place and the ground has cooled according to Cornell University.
By waiting until the ground has cooled, you will ensure that plants are not “fooled” into blooming early especially if weather conditions are mild. Apply a 1 to 2 inch layer and gradually remove the mulch when your plants begin to grow again in the spring.
Planting New Perennials
Orange, yellow and red are among the top fall colors, something that you can enjoy before the first killing frosts arrive. The best flowers for adding autumn zest to your garden are chrysanthemums, available in the colors mentioned as well as in white, yellow/gold, orange/bronze, coral, pink, salmon and lavender.
There are other flowers that also thrive throughout the fall including coleus, Mexican sage, blue asters and sedum. Add these to your garden now and enjoy them until the first killing frost arrives. Then prune back as outlined above.
Winter Plant Considerations
Although your garden is largely quiet from December through February, there are some plants that do quite well during the winter, even where snowfall is a regular occurrence. Winterberry loses its leaves during the fall, but produces bright red berries for the winter, much loved by birds. Firethorn produces similar bright orange or yellow berries that stay around deep into winter as does holly.
Pansies, one of the first flowers you see in late winter can also be planted in the fall and live throughout the winter. Ask your florist about cold hardy pansies and understand that if winter is especially cold, they likely will not survive.
See Also — 7 Quick and Easy Fall Yard Projects