“Leave the Leaves” – instead of raking or blowing them to the curb, use your mower to mulch your leaves. Using the bagger attachment, mow over a pile of leaves a couple of times to reduce them to finer particles that you can then distribute around your plants – they’ll act as a bit of a blanket against extreme cold temperatures, as well as add nitrogen and texture to your soil. Free, organic mulch – what could be better than that?
• Perennials – most can be cut to the ground after the first frost or freeze reduces them to mush. But some, such as ornamental grasses, butterfly bush, black-eyed susan, and coneflower, should be left standing to protect the crown of the plant or provide food for birds. Give us a call or Google your particular plants to get specific care instructions if you’re unsure.
• Pruning – just step away from the pruners, loppers, and hedge trimmers. Fall is not the time for this important gardening task, unless you spot a dead or crossing branch. Wait until late winter/early spring, as pruning causes the plant to put out new growth at the cut site, and that new growth will then get killed during cold winter nights. Instead, bring your pruning tools into the garden center and let us clean and sharpen them for you – free in the month of November, $5 per tool the rest of the year.
• Use frost cloth or other protection in the vegetable garden. Your broccoli, cabbage, and collards can take a little frost, but hard freezes are a different matter. Make an overnight tent with frost cloth, but remember to remove it before the sun hits it. Apply the cloth before dusk to trap the day’s heat, and be sure it goes all the way to the soil surface. In lieu of frost cloth made specifically for this purpose, sheets or blankets can work, or inverted plastic nursery pots can also provide a measure of protection.
• Potted houseplants should already be indoors by now, but in protected locations may be able to withstand brief dips below freezing. The same is true for tropical and marginally-hardy plants in the ground. To increase their protection from freezing, mulch heavily around them – the mulch acts as a blanket.
• Fall is also a great time to pick up new plants at bargain prices. Come in and check out our sales, and stock up! The saying “Fall is for Planting” seems cliché, but let’s examine why it’s true – in the Piedmont, we typically have mild winters, and planting in fall gives us 3 seasons of mild temps and wet conditions compared to summer’s hot, dry weather. So, plants get well-established, putting down deep roots for several months before the summer extreme arrives.