- Author: Lanie Keystone
Everything about fall connects us to the passing of time in the most visceral way. Nature's colors shine intensely before making way for less bright schemes; time slows down as the days become shorter and our shadows grow longer; we reach for a sweater as a chill fills the air; and, if we're lucky, some rain might even come our way. While some might view autumn as a dormant time, others feel the sense of enormous possibilities that will soon arise if we tuck our gardens in properly for “a long winter's nap.”
This is the time of year when all of our preparations will “bear fruit” in the spring and summer and make those possibilities a reality. Here are some important autumn tasks to ensure our gardens have the important rest that they deserve and be able to greet us in full glory just a few short months from now.
- You might be tempted to give fruit trees one last dose of fertilizer before winter. Or maybe give them a quick pruning. Resist that temptation! Although your intentions are good, either action may encourage a flush of tender, new leaves that will be susceptible to frost or freeze damage this winter. Wait to prune until winter dormancy or after the last frost date in the spring.
- Plant natives and other plants adapted to our dry summers now. Warm soil plus winter and spring rains will give frost-hardy trees, shrubs, and perennials a great start next spring.
- Think about planting a winter garden—there's still time! Add compost to refresh and replenish the soil before planting seeds and transplants.
- In late October or early November, as the temperature cools and the days grow shorter, adjust lawn and garden irrigation for fall. When the rainy season begins, usually after one or two inches of rain, turn off the irrigation system completely.
- If you are lucky enough to have deciduous trees, save those fall leaves to add to your compost pile. Or, place them directly under garden plants for free mulch. The leaves, shredded if possible, will break down to add nutrients to the soil structure and also help keep the soil from crusting, compacting or eroding.
These few basic tasks will help begin to get the garden ready for those cozy late fall days and nights. And, they will pay off by giving that extra boost in promoting and fulfilling all of nature's extraordinary possibilities that will be abundant in the spring.