Fall is here which means cool weather and frosty mornings are headed our way. Unfortunately for your plants, there’s no heater or jacket that can help keep them warm, and as a result, some of your plants will begin to look a little sad once temperatures start to drop. If you’re like many gardeners, that means it’s time to hack everything back! Well…maybe not. If you have any of these plants listed below, you’ll want to avoid cutting them to the ground later this fall, or in some cases, cutting them back at all.
- Azaleas: prune these once they’re past flower, but before the fourth of July.
- Rose of Sharon: likes to be left alone for the coming winter and instead cleaned up in the early spring.
- Lavender: Wait until March! Cut out any dead wood at the end of winter to ensure the best new flush for your lavender plants.
- Montauk Daisy: (Nipponanthemum) Cut this woody perennial back to six inches from the ground this fall, rather than all the way to the ground.
- Russian Sage: (Perovskia) If the shape or health of the plant has been compromised, cut it back aggressively this fall, to roughly six inches. If not, leave it alone until early to mid-spring, removing any dead wood and cutting back to where you see new growth emerging. Remember, it’s a late-breaking plant, so give your sage a little extra time to start growing.
- Rhododendron: like azaleas, rhododendrons can be pruned once they’re past flower, but before the fourth of July.
- Roses: like to be left alone for the coming winter, and instead cleaned up in the early spring.
- Geum: Remove any damaged or dead foliage now, but leave the majority of the plant for the winter. You can repeat this process again in April, removing any leaves with winter injury, and even divide it around April or early May, every three to four years, but if you need to cut it all the way back, wait until after it’s past flower.
- Perennial Hibiscus: cut this plant back to about six inches from the ground this fall… not because it will grow from the stump, but rather to keep a marker for you to remember you have this plant. Perennial hibiscus won’t be back in your garden until at least June!
- Summer and Fall blooming Clematis: Wait until spring to clean up any dead wood on these plants, once you start seeing a little new growth.
- Ornamental Grasses: Keep these around all winter to protect the base of the plant, where the new growth will emerge in spring. Don’t cut them back until March at the earliest, or April at the latest.
- Panicled Hydrangeas: like to be left alone for the coming winter, and cleaned up in the early spring.
- Lilacs: prune after they’re past flower, but before the fourth of July.
- Evergreens: can be pruned in mid-spring after the plants have begun to flush lush new growth.
One of the most common questions we get here in the fall at Van Wilgen’s is, “Why are my pines turning yellow? Are they sick?” The answer is, thankfully, no. All trees and shrubs renew their foliage annually in the spring and summer and shed old, unneeded foliage in the fall. While this is most apparent on deciduous trees and shrubs, such as maples and hydrangeas, which shed the entirety of their foliage annually, evergreens like pines, spruces, and holly shed as well as a part of their regular life cycle. Most evergreens hold their needles or leaves for two to three years before shedding, so what you are seeing is actually evidence that your tree is growing, thriving, and aging normally.
We have so few fall days to get outside and enjoy the little bit of warmer weather we have left. Grab the whole family and finish up the last of the fall chores together. Working as a family will make all the work seem lighter. Heck, have some fun while you do it. And…of course, enjoy some pizza and your favorite beverage when all done!
THE LITTLE ONE’S TO-DO LIST:
- Help mom & dad rake up leaves.
- Jump in leaf piles just raked up by mom & dad.
- Rake leaf piles again.
- Keep the dog out of the newly raked leaf piles.
- Dig up all summer bulbs such as gladiolus, cannas, callas, and begonias if mom has not done it already.
- Take several breaks to check Snapchat & Instagram. After all, what would fall clean-up be without social media to document it?!
- Clean out all the old veggies from the vegetable garden so mom can get going with the final veggie garden steps.
- Help dad with pruning out all the brittle, dead wood from the smaller shrubs around the foundation.
- Help mom cut back most of the perennial flowers. There are a few exceptions that you should leave to prune in the spring such as Russian Sage, Ornamental grasses & Roses. If you cut them now, mom might yell at you. (I forgot, us moms never yell)
- Complain a little that you are tired and hungry. Stand in the kitchen with the refrigerator door open, stare at it, and hope a snack will jump into your mouth.
- Tie up ornamental grasses (optional) if you want them to be easier for dad to cut back in the early spring.
MOM & DAD:
- Your little ones took all that time to rake & jump in the leaves, so now it’s time to give the lawn its last mow of the year. Mow it shorter than 3 inches but do not scalp!
- Put down Fall Lawn Fertilizer. So important. Do not forget this last step, multi-tasking moms & dads.
- Apply lime on your lawn & cleaned up veggie garden. You will have the best yard on the block with the proper pH.
- Don’t just feed your children. Feed your plants too! Fertilize trees & shrubs now!
- If moles & voles are an issue, put down a granular repellent to sit under any upcoming snow. Yes snow is coming
- If keeping weeds down is a priority, mulch your garden beds & cover your veggie garden with chopped straw or winter rye.
- If you have fruit trees, put them to bed with a horticultural oil spray all over the branches & trunk.
- Buy your Wilt-Pruf, so you will be ready to spray evergreens, roses & hydrangeas before winter sets in.
- Give big hugs & kisses to your kids (if the teens let you) for all their help. Pig out on pizza and enjoy a cool drink.
Come see us at Van Wilgen’s. We would love to help!
*Greenview Fall Lawn Food or Espoma’s Organic Fall Winterizer
*Soil Doctor’s Lawn Lime or Encap’s Fast Acting Lime
*Holly-Tone, Plant-Tone, or Tree-Tone
*Mulch or Mainely Mulch
*I Must Garden’s Mole & Vole Repellent
*Bonide’s All Season Horticultural Oil