Fall Gardening Fall Gardening

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The end of the summer doesn't have to mean the end of your colorful garden. There are plenty of options for your garden with fall-blooming flowers. Fall gardening will put you in the spirit of the season, and is a superb way to enjoy the beautiful outdoor weather before the frosty wintertime sets in and you'll rather be looking out at your lawn through a window with a cup of hot cocoa. There are certain garden activities best performed in the fall and endless ways to make your autumn garden just as colorful and bright as the falling leaves around you.

Naturally the mum is the first thing that springs to mind when one thinks "fall flowers." The mum, or chrysanthemum, is perhaps the quintessential plant of the autumn season and is available in an array of lively colors and varieties that will immediately brighten up any garden. You can choose from a variety of flowers ranging across the spectrum from mums with long, narrow petals, to wider and more compact flowers, in many shades of yellow, pink, red, orange, purple, bronze and white.

As a plus, mums are perennials that can come back year after year to flower each fall if the proper care is taken. Blooming mums go dormant when the weather becomes cold, and then resume their growth in the spring. Be aware, although mums are hardy plants, if inadequate care is taken they might not survive the extreme cold of some winters. For a robust variety of mum more likely to live, do not purchase from a florist, but rather look to a garden center or nursery that specializes in outdoor plants.

When planting in the fall, give extra attention to watering and protecting the plants for the winter. It's best to choose a sunny and well-drained location that is prone to good air circulation. One of the most important steps is carefully mulching the dormant mums, with about 4 to 6 inches of chopped leaves or straw. Applying a mulch is best in late November or early December. Mulching helps to protect the plants from poorly drained soil as a result of the continuous freezing and thawing of the ground in the winter, the biggest threat to the mums' survival. It is especially important to take special care of newly planted mums. Read more about Mums here.

There are plenty of options in plants besides the mum to bring color to your garden. The aster is considered the other classic autumn flower. Asters work well as a border in a garden because of the magnitude of color they offer when purchased in large quantities and planted in dramatic arcs. They come in such colors as white, lavender, blue, bright pink, purple with a yellow eye, and medium blue. Like the mum, the aster is a perennial that will come back and flower in the fall if cared for correctly. Together, mums and asters can form the backbone of an enduring, brilliant autumn garden to look forward to every year. Read more on Asters here.

The tough little pansy is another great choice for a fall garden and will be left blooming after all the other flowers in your garden have died off. It will also be amongst the first to bloom again come spring. A lot of pansy varieties are biennial, and they will flower all fall into some of the winter and then bloom early the next spring. Pansies have been bred in a rainbow of colors, ranging from gold and orange though to purple, violet, and a blue so deep as to be almost black. They are quite a hardy plant, growing well in sunny or partially sunny positions. Pansies normally have two-year life cycles. The first year they only produce greenery; they bear flowers and seeds in their second year of growth, and afterwards die like annuals.

Most gardeners buy pansies as packs of young plants from the garden center and plant them directly into the garden soil. Gardeners interested in rarer cultivars can plant seeds indoors in early November for plants ready in the spring. Under good conditions, pansies grow to 9 inches (23 cm) high, and the flowers are two to three inches (about 6 cm) in diameter. With pretty, delicate-looking petals that boast many different colors and patterns, the pansy is a surprisingly tough cookie whose hardiness and longevity make it a quite versatile flower that is perfect whether planted in gardens, window boxes, or pots. The variety known as "Icicle Pansies" is particularly strong, able to last all winter long when planted in the fall despite the most harsh, bitter weather.

Though these are the three most common flowers for the fall, there are still a variety of other kinds of flowers and plants available to light up the garden. Fall perennials are worth seeking out and investing in for their durability. For flowers in a variety of colors to add to your garden consider softly-hued Japanese Anemones (think whites, pinks, and reds), petite yellow-petaled Coreopsis (also available in deep burgundy and white), and Ceratostigma, a variety of Plumbago with lovely clusters of small flowers and shiny dark green leaves that turn red later on in the fall. For less traditional-looking blooms, there is Cimicifuga, with its tall slender dark stems and tiny creamy white flowers, Perovskia, more commonly known as Russian Sage, an herb but with stand-out deeply colored purplish to blueish flowers, and Sedum which offers unique, small star-shaped flower clusters in neutral white, yellow, pink, and burgundy tones. Sedum also works well as a ground cover.

Possibilities for an autumn garden do not merely include flowers. Think about incorporating tall, wispy ornamental grasses whose neutral colors serve as a nice contrast to the vivid colors of the flowers. Decorative peppers also bring a nice variety to a garden, and come in bright shades of yellow, red, and orange. They are multi-purpose; harvest them at the end of the season and throw them into a recipe. Other vegetables that give your fall garden a unique look are ornamental cabbages and kales.

Fall is the best time of the year for many gardening activities. For instance, it is a great time of the year to get shrubs and trees planted in the ground. It is also the time of the year to plant all your bulbs for the spring, so start thinking ahead about your garden for next year. Plants like peonies, poppies, and irises should also be planted in the fall season. Find out more about planting and selecting your fall bulbs.

You should begin to prepare your garden and yard for the winter in the autumn months. Dig up and store tender bulbs from your summer garden, and cut back the worn-out perennials and biennials. Now's the time to divide and transplant perennials and put down ground covers where need be. Any sensitive or fragile perennials should of course be transferred inside the home or into a greenhouse. Make sure to apply dormant fertilizer to trees, shrubs, ground covers and vines. If you live in a warmer climate, cease watering to induce dormancy.

Of course in most areas of the country, the fall season will have you raking up bags and bundles of leaves from your lawn and garden. If you think ahead, you can make use of these plentiful falling leaves to make compost to feed your garden in the spring. Compost can be great for a garden, and leaves are a wonderful natural organic resource, rich with nutrients that your garden plants need. You can compost them yourself to make rich humus soil for the garden. This can be done by packing leaves into wooden bins, or something as simple as a wire cage. Make sure to keep your compost bin moist consistently without being too wet. Turn the compost piles every couple of weeks. It will take about six months to produce sufficient humus, but the process can be accelerated somewhat by adding a source of nitrogen; granular fertilizer, manure, and green grass clippings can be good suppliers of nitrogen. Read more on composting here.

There are plenty of gardening activities to keep busy in the autumn months. Preparing a garden of fall perennials is worth the work and investment as it will last you year after year. As the weather cools off it's an ideal chance to get outside and work in your garden. While it is a great time to give your garden a striking and colorful look for the season, it's also an important time to prepare your plants for the winter and begin thinking ahead about your spring gardening.

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