Fall Gardening Secrets

No matter where you live or what your climate may be, Mother Nature does not care whether you live in Connecticut or California. Each year you and your garden will experience the fall season. Although you might not get the extremes of temperature, your yard still goes through a yearly growth cycle. And Fall is the perfect time to discover my fall gardening secrets.
Whether you garden as an opportunity to learn something new or just venture out to experience the great outdoors, you probably already have an appreciation for this time of year. Over the years I have adapted my gardening secrets to a proven list for every season, and they have become what I do year after year.

So here are my Fall gardening secrets — I think they’re clever, simple, and rather innovative, but all attainable.

Update your planters and window boxes with perennials

  • As annuals lose their luster, I fill my window boxes and planters with perennials with texture and interest that will last me through the winter season.
  • Another benefit? In the Spring I am able to transplant them into my garden. Good for my window boxes, and even better for my ever-growing garden.

Get chrysanthemums to come back year after year

  • Mums are in abundance, and easy to pop into planters, urns, and window boxes. They are a perfect replacement for the annuals we have enjoyed since spring.
  • Hundreds of thousands of hardy mums are produced yearly in Delaware. What you purchase have been recently dug from the field or they may have been grown in pots. But getting these hardy mums to come back next year requires a special trick. When the flowers are spent, take the plant and transplant it in the garden. Then ignore it; it will completely die off. Early next Spring, simply remove all the debris by cutting the plant all the way down to the ground. Keep watering it, and watch it return.
  • Mums require a good deal of water and fertilizer, so a weekly application of soluble fertilizer is a good practice.
  • You can repeat this year after year for a great show with the same plant.

Inventory your garden to select plants that can double-duty as decorations through the season

  • Tall grasses make an excellent replacement for cornstalks. You can keep them in the garden for Winter interest, but because you will need to cut them down in the Spring anyway, I like to cut them now and use them for Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations in place of traditional corn stalks — which most of us have to buy. I love this look. My favorite tall grass is the zebra grass because it is variegated and has such great “cat-tails”. After cutting them, I wrap the middle of the bunch with garden twine — it’s a great festive look, and it comes from my own garden.
  • Small garden decorations of stone and concrete can give terrific decorative value indoors — so bring them in and let their weathered beauty show. Why have these garden details covered by leaves or snow when you can look at it every day?
  • Sedum flowers are a wonderful resource for Fall flower arrangements. Long-lasting and perfect for adding texture. I love to use roses packed tight together with sedum flower and tied with rubber bands (which get hidden in the vase). An amazing display.
  • Magnolia leaves make simple but stunning place cards for fall dinner parties, so collect them now. A metallic Sharpie is all you need for writing the name. Simply tuck the stem end of the leaf into the napkin holder.

Shop sales: it’s the perfect time to create, change add to a garden

  • Everything is on sale, as garden centers — big and small — reduce their inventory for the end of the season. Fall savings can be anywhere from 20-75% off.
  • Individual plants may not look pretty but are totally worth the price. Remember, you are planting for next Spring. The rewards will be worth it.
  • I always do a quick check of where I want to fill in spaces in my garden, and then go shopping; this lets me sleep contentedly through Winter!

Replace or add fencing–but only with pressure treated posts

  • Most fencing companies do the bulk of their business in Spring and Summer, so prices can be much cheaper in the Fall.
  • Because the garden has finished its growing season, there are fewer plants for workmen to trample when fencing is being installed!
  • Important tip: Take advantage of the lower-priced time of year to upgrade any rotting posts to pressure-treated posts (rather than cedar) as they will last longer than any other wood post you could use. Cedar works fine for fence boards because they are not submerged in the soil. Ruling out using metal posts, the best wood post would be a pressure-treated post.

Hairspray your hydrangeas

  • No matter where you live in the US, there is at least 1 type of hydrangea that grows really well there.
  • They are a perfect flower to bring inside to remind you of your blooming garden long after the flowering season is over.
  • The hydrangea flower will naturally dry on the stalk, so you can cut bunches and bring indoors–but don’t put them in water, just allow them to set. To keep them from crumbling I do something my grandmother taught me: give them a spritz of aerosol hairspray for years of enjoyment.

And there you have it. I hope you learned something with my tried and true tips. Now, back to gardening!