October 22, 2012
Plant trees and shrubs. If you install most deciduous trees and shrubs before mid-November and keep them watered, they will have time to establish roots before the ground freezes. But wait to plant evergreens until spring.
Plant spring bulbs. Daffodils, crocuses, tulips, and other spring-blooming bulbs can be planted as long as the soil is not frozen. Plant them so the bottom of the bulb is at least two times as deep as the bulb is long; deeper is better. Water well and mulch.
Compost. Fall, with plenty of leaves, frozen annuals and other garden debris, is a great time to stoke up the compost heap or start a new pile.
Tidy up if you like. Whether to cut down the dried stalks of perennials is largely a matter of taste. If you find the stalks attractive, leave them standing. If you like a tidier look, cut them back. But leave ornamental grasses so the seeds can feed the birds and you can enjoy the way the grasses move in the wind and capture fallen snow.
Water. Trees, shrubs and perennials need to store water in their root systems to survive the winter, and this drought year has left the soil dry deep down. Evergreens and anything you have planted within the last two years will be especially needy. Keep watering until the ground freezes.
Remove diseased foliage. Remove all leaves and stalks from any plant you suspect may have been diseased, including trees such as crabapples that have apple scab. Dispose of diseased plants in landscape waste bags, not in the compost. A home compost pile likely will not get hot enough to kill disease pathogens.
For more information about gardening in fall, click here.
Looking for answers to your plant questions? Call The Morton Arboretum Plant Clinic at 630-719-2424, come in (with plant or insect samples if applicable) between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., or visit us online.