“Autumn is the second spring when every leaf is a flower.” — Albert Camus Work in the garden is far from over. Besides garden cleanup, planting bulbs, dividing perennials, harvesting and preserving your bounty, there is another enjoyable chore that you may not think to do now: fall flower planting. Mother Nature allows certain flowers to germinate at the exact moment when outside conditions are right leading to earlier blooms. It is an easy way to get a head start on your spring garden.
You can plant lupine, milkweed, poppies, rudbeckia (Black-Eyed Susans), pansies, violas, cosmos, hollyhocks (biennial), larkspur and bachelor buttons. They are just a seed packet away or maybe a friend will share some with you. If you sow the seed near the first frost date, they will germinate next spring.
When you are doing garden cleanup this year, think about the importance of your soil. Healthy soil needs to be organic, fertile and aerated. When removing your plants from the garden, don’t pull them out by the roots unless they are weeds. Cut them above the roots. The roots of the plants add organic material to the soil. The roots decay and aerate the soil by leaving small open area to break up compaction.
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If you are growing winter squash this year, leave them on the vine until just before frost and leave on at least a 2-inch stem for better storage. Butternut squash if hardened off probably will last about one year. You can also cut back your parsley, chives and tender herbs and pot them up for winter use. The reason I cut them back is they transplant better and adapt better to the indoor environment. They will start to grow again after a few weeks.
It is also time to bring coleus, geraniums, begonias and caladium indoors. When I bring coleus in I usually cut them back to about 1 inch, clean off soil and repot. This helps with transplant shock and they will soon start growing again. If you have amaryllis that spent the summer outdoors, bring them in and put them in a cool, dark area for about 3 months to rest. Do not water until you bring them out again and you should get blooms around Christmas.
My Christmas cactus spent the summer outdoors and I usually bring it in about the time of the first frost. It has had the required 15 hours of dark so it usually blooms in late October. If your cactus was kept indoors, you need to place it in the dark with no artificial light overnight and it should bloom in about 8 weeks.
If you haven’t fertilized your lawn all summer, you need to do that in the fall. Some people only fertilize once a year and fall is mandatory. It is the most important time to fertilize.
Don’t forget to save your leaves for a nice mulch next spring. If you don’t have a compost bin, use black plastic bags to save the leaves.
Contact Phyllis Both by email at Phyllis.email@example.com or by telephone on Monday mornings at the Sauk County UW-Extension office, 608-355-3253.