As summer days come to a close it is time to survey your gardens and prepare them for winter. Step back and take a good look at them. Are there any glaring bare spots that may need more flowers next year? How is your mulch? Do you have perennials that are in desperate need of dividing?
After you have gotten the answers to these questions it is time to give some extra attention to your flower gardens so that they are healthy and strong for the coming winter.
Here are some tips to help you prepare your gardens for winter:
Just as spring is a great time for dividing and planting, so is fall. The temperatures are cool enough that they won't over stress your flowers. I have a that gives step-by-step instructions for the division process.
This is also a wonderful time to shop at your local nurseries; their stock is usually in need of either planting or dividing, so many will offer discounted prices. I almost always wait until the end of the season to buy my perennials as you can save as much as 50 percent. The downfall is you will have to wait for next season to see your newly purchased plants in their prime. Still, if you are a bargain hunter like me, it is a purchase you can brag about.
When you are going through your garden, this is a good time to inspect your mulch. If there are any bare spots or it is lower than 3-4 inches, this is the time you want to add another layer to provide some winter protection.
As a general rule of thumb, any plant that dies all the way back to the ground such as: daisies, mums, astillbe and even hosta, should be cut all the way back to within 3 inches or so from the base of the plant. This will also help with spring clean-up. Any plant that blooms on "old wood" such as: hydrangea, certain species of roses, lilac and others should not be cut all the way back as they will not bloom the following year.
When planting spring bulbs, try to dig a hole that is approximately 3 times deeper than the bulb you are planting. This will help ensure a strong root system and a wonderful show of blooms in the spring. If you would like a mass planting for a border or to highlight a certain area of your garden, dig a large hole and place your bulbs in together. This will save you time and also provide a magnificent display in the spring.
Make sure to keep watering your gardens even after they appear to have stopped growing. They may not look like they are doing much above the ground, but below they are busy growing strong roots that will store much-needed nourishment for the coming winter. This is especially true if you divide and plant or purchase any new plants. I try to have all my plantings done by the end of September to give them at least 4-6 weeks of growth before the ground freezes for the winter.
This is also the time to overseed your lawn. Mow your lawn on its lowest setting and be sure to rake to remove any clippings left behind. Raking will also loosen the soil underneath, making it easier for the seed to germinate and grow. Remember: the seed will not grow if it is not in direct contact with the soil, so you may want to use double the amount of seed as you would a new lawn. This will help to ensure good contact.