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preparing your yard for fall
- fall bed preparation -
Digging in soil conditioners such as steer or sheep manure, gypsum, composts or peat moss into your soil in the fall will save you time in the spring. Think of all the energy saved for next spring's planting. Turn over the soil with a spade; being careful not to tear or disturb any existing roots. Then dig in the soil conditioners using a garden fork. Large lumps should be left in the soil at this point. Frost helps to break soil into a less dense soil structure, ideal for plant growth and moisture retention. Turn again in the spring, shortly before planting and break down large lumps with a garden fork. You can also add a slow release fertilizer for an added boost. Be careful not to walk on the area that has been freshly turned.
- fall lawn preparation -
A little preparation in the fall encourages early spring growth in your lawn. As the days get shorter and the temperatures drop your lawn will stop growing. Now is the time to mow your lawn for one last time. Set your mower to cut 1-2 cm. higher than normal, mow the entire lawn, apply a slow release nitrogen fall/winter formulation fertilizer, and then water the entire lawn thoroughly. This will ensure an ample supply of nutrients and moisture for early spring growth. If fall turns into an Indian Summer and the lawn dries out, continue watering your lawn until freeze up. Remember to drain outside taps or any items that are stored outside; for example, sprinklers, nozzles, or hoses. These items can be damaged by freezing water. Leaves should be raked off the lawn before any permanent snow falls. If leaves are left on the lawn they will become wet and form tight layers, which can provide ideal conditions for mould diseases. Fall can also be a good time to treat weeds in your lawn as most weeds grow fairly actively in the cooler temperatures. The fewer weeds you end this season with the fewer you will begin with next spring.
- fertilizing -
Fall fertilizer applications are important. The slow release, low nitrogen fertilizer you apply in the fall develops strong roots, which enables grass and plants to over winter well. Fall fertilizers are stored in the root system over the winter and provide nutrients for early spring growth.
By putting some time in now your lawn and garden should be primed and ready to go come spring! Can't wait.
Now that fall is upon us it is time to prepare your herbs for winter, and maybe even bring your herb garden inside. Even hardy perennial herbs will probably benefit from extra protection, while more tender perennials, and biennial plants, can be moved inside, nurtured and planted again in the spring.
Hardy perennial herbs, such as chives, sage, tarragon, and thyme, can certainly overwinter if they are planted in the ground, but mulching can help to prevent the freezing and thawing associated with Calgary's winters. A more consistent temperature through out the winter helps to reduce the stress on the plants and will help ensure a healthy plant come spring.
Any herb you can grow in your garden can be brought in to grow and enjoy all winter long. Herbs in pots can be brought at any time before freeze and placed in a sunny location, in some cases artificial light may be needed.
If you did not plant your herbs in pots you can still move them inside by either transplanting full plants into large pots, or taking cutting and starting new plants. Full plants should be potted in a deep container, with good soil and transplant fertilizer, allow the plant time to adjust, and bring plant in before first frost. If you would prefer smaller plants you can take cuttings about 4-6 inches long, dip in rooting compound, and place in small pot covered in clear plastic or covered planting tray and put in a sunny location. Again additional lights may be required.
Care for, and maintain, your herbs through the winter and you will have fresh herbs all winter long and healthy plants to put outside in the spring.
protect your tender perennials
Sudden increases in temperature during one of Calgary's Chinooks can cause a plant to break its dormancy and leaf buds developed in the fall can begin to grow. Then when the next cold snap occurs, it can't go back to being dormant again, causing serious stress or killing leaf buds. The plant would be fine during continuously cold weather but now it's stressed. The goal of protecting your perennials is to minimize the impact of Calgary's fluctuating weather.
Many of our perennials, shrubs and trees are cultivars of our native plants, so they are hardy here. The native ones can also suffer the same fate but are usually adaptable enough to come back. There is little we can do to prevent this type of damage on trees and shrubs, but mulching over the root area of perennials can keep the roots cold a little longer and lessen the chances of untimely leaf bud growth. Dry leaves and other fall plant debris make good mulch; compost and vermiculite can also be used.
Plant hardiness is expressed in zone numbers - the lower the number, the hardier the plant is. Calgary is generally considered to be zone 3-4. If you like challenges, some zone 5 plants can survive if covered with mulch and then a cloth cover such as burlap, held down with rocks to stop the mulch from blowing away during our Chinook winds. Snow is a good insulator and helps to keep plant temperatures more consistent. Click to see a zone map.
Most evergreens we grow are native here and can cope. Spruce, pine and juniper tolerate our dry climate and strange weather patterns amazingly well. Cedars, however, are native to climates where winter is consistently wet and cool. We can't give them that, and many don't survive our winters. Cedars have more chance of survival in climates that stay cold throughout the winter more. They are one evergreen that should be watered periodically until the ground freezes, but don't overdo it! They have a better chance in a shady spot than in direct sun and winter wind.
Hybrid tea roses may require some protection to survive our unpredictable winters. In the fall when they have had some frost, prune long stems back to about 12-18 inches. Give them water occasionally during a warm fall, as they are still not dormant and often still have green leaves. Do not cover too soon, as that will prevent the plants from exposure to cold, which is what signals them to become dormant. Before an expected hard frost, cover the plant with a Styrofoam rose cone with the top removed. Fill the cone with dry, well-packed leaves, vermiculite or straw and cover the opening with cloth, held down with rocks, or bricks, which allows air circulation during Chinooks. Uncover in spring when poplar trees are leafing out. Uncovering them too soon to see if they are alive may expose them to the next hard frost. Snow is an excellent insulator and may be piled on covered tender roses for added protection. Click for for information.
Any extra protection that you can give to your tender plants can help them to make it through the winter. With a little bit of thought, care, and of course, work in the garden you can help your plants, not just make it through the winter, but thrive in the spring.
Perennials are not maintenance free. In addition to staking, watering, and fertilizing in preparation for winter, some perennials will also require dividing when they outgrow their spots and for some perennials fall is a great time to do this.http://greengate.ca/perennial-care.html
If the flower quality and quantity drops in your mature perennials this may be a sign of overcrowding, and they may need dividing. Some may simply have outgrown the place they are in or other plants, as they grow, may be creating too much shade for sun loving perennials. Many perennials form clumps of stems. These stems are actually individual plants with their own root systems. Perennials cannot be divided if they grow from one central stalk. Early blooming perennials should be divided in early fall. When all the leaves have fallen, gently dig up the plant and separate the roots of the individual clumps to be removed. Replant the removed plants in an appropriate place in the garden. Later flowering perennials should be divided in the same way in the spring, as soon as they are showing growth.
Delicate tubers, such as Dahlias, can be dug up from the garden for use next year. These tubers may grow into clusters that can be separated, increasing the amount of tubers you have for planting in spring. Remember it may take a couple of seasons before your tubers are ready to be separated. When separating its important to ensure that each tuber has a portion of stem on it. Plant again in spring normally, according to your local seeding schedule. Tulip bulbs cluster and can be treated in the same way.
Dividing perennials, when necessary, will improve the overall health of the plants, by giving them the room they require to grow into healthy plants. It will also give you the added benefit of increasing the amount healthy, desirable, plants in your garden. Which is never a bad thing!