Salvail: Fall into garden cleanup mode

Experienced gardeners know that doing the majority of garden cleanup before winter is best.

The importance of a strong fall cleanup cannot be overstated. Experienced gardeners know that doing the majority of garden cleanup before winter is the best way to get a jump on next year’s gardening.

The plan in a nutshell is to cut back all herbaceous plants and divide or move as needed.

The moving of plants that are too close to each other or to walkways helps keep the plants inside the beds where they belong. Another part of the process is to adjust the distribution of seasonal plant blooms. If you have a plant that blooms early in June and it’s one you like, now is the time to divide it and multiply your yard’s performance by adding some repetition.

A good rule of thumb is to have at least three of each plant in your plantings to get the seasonal most of your landscape. Pick plants that have an extended bloom for each season or add/change out some for others that are recommended.

One thing I typically do is leave the pruning of shrubbery to the late winter or early spring. Woody plants and trees store food in their stems that is needed to help with the overwintering process.

Another reason to leave pruning of woody plants until late winter is that branches can also develop infections in cuts made in the fall and may be susceptible to frost injury.

Leaving these plants mostly intact for the brunt of winter is best for their health.

Light trimming in the fall to remove the occasional bad hair day type branch is acceptable even though it is just cosmetic.

The same rule applies with roses: Just a quick tidying to look acceptable for the winter and then a good pruning in spring is best.

Once your garden is tidy, well weeded, plant adjusted and cut back, it’s time for a good surface mulch to keep the plants protected and suppress those nasty weeds.

The ornamental grass question always arises in the fall—to cut or not. The decision is up to you. Many people love to see the grasses with snow on them and enjoy watching the birds hide in them, while others prefer a neat tidy look and cut them off in early November.

When spring comes there is always lots of gardening to do but with a strong fall clean up you will have a garden that is ready to pop with minimum effort.

Oh yeah. Don’t forget to plant some fall bulbs while you’re at it. Alliums are one of my favourites, give them a try.

Happy gardening.