The weather has been steadily getting cooler; the western portions of Kansas and Nebraska have had freeze warnings and even snow! It is time to prepare our gardens and yards for winter. Here are some great tips to get your autumn work going!
- Spend time with your kids!
If you have kids, spending some quality time with them this fall is the thing to do. As days get shorter and cooler, it will be harder and harden to spend time outside, and kids get restless if indoors too long, at least, my kids do. Rake up a big pile of leaves let them play in it. Even little kids like to help rake up leaves, so get them their own tools to help you. Play catch or tag or wrestling or whatever. Take them to an arboretum (Grimm’s Gardens or Arbor Lodge State Park) to gather colorful leaves for mounting or pressing. Do a nature craft with them. Enjoy life with them!
2. Plant trees, shrubs, and perennials!
Fall is a great time to plant! Even after a freeze, but before the ground freezes, plant, plant, plant! Plants put in in the fall will grow quicker, as the soil is still warm and roots take hold better. Plants are going dormant, putting extra energy into roots and root growth. There is less danger for transplant shock when planting in the fall as the plants go dormant. However, be sure to water them deeply and especially if the weather turns dry like it has many years, be sure to water through these spells.
3. Leave those leaves!
While it is important to not leave big piles of leaves on your lawn, leaves can be mulch mowed on the lawn to add organic matter. If you must remove leaves, put them into your compost pile, spread them over your vegetable garden beds, or offer them to your neighbors. Leaves carry extra nutrients taken up by trees and shrubs during the year and we should take care to try and return those nutrients to the soil instead of having to add extra fertilizer each season.
4. Leave perennials in place!
Most perennials and grasses look good through the winter, especially when snowfalls come. Also, many insects overwinter in the stalks of perennials. While many would say no to more insects, remember that many insects play multiple roles in the garden. If you remove all the perennial debris, you may be removing beneficials such as butterfly chrysalis’, lady beetles, wasp eggs, and bee larvae. Other insects, while feeding on plants, are often food for the larval stages of beneficial insects. Wasps for instance, eat a large number of caterpillars of both moths and butterflies, and all wasps are great pollinators. I would recommend removes dead leaves of hosta, daylily, iris, peony, and any diseased plants.
5. Prepare your vegetable gardens now!
Vegetable gardens are best prepared for spring by work in the fall. Layer leaves and grass clipping, add compost, and till in. I like to build permanent raised beds for my garden, and add lots of organic matter that will break down in the winter freeze/thaw cycles. Sawdust mulch from Grimm’s is a great addition to any garden bed. Add bone meal and blood meal and till in. If you prepare now, you will not have to till in spring and risk damaging soil structure when soils are cool and wet.