Think of Fall not as the end of the gardening season, but as the beginning of the next. Proper preparation now will ensure a happy Spring garden.
October is the right time to tend to the organic lawn. Using a thatching rake to clear away dead material supports the success of reseeding. Spreading perennial grass seed now, and keeping it moist for the first week or so to help it sprout, helps the lawn fill in any gaps that may have developed. This fills space that might otherwise allow for weeds. The fall seeding develops strong grass that will green up and be lush in spring--without chemicals.
October is also prime time to spread Bulb Tone to nourish next spring’s blooms. Amending the soil with acidifier or lime, depending on the pH of the soil and the needs of the plants, is another good Fall task. In my slightly acidic soil, I add lime around my Lilac, Peonies and Irises. I increase the acidity around the Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Mountain Laurels, Pieris, blue Hydrangeas, Hollies, Winterberry and Dogwoods. The usual soaking rains of November will help these minerals get absorbed into the soil in anticipation of the upcoming growing season.
Since much of my soil is a sandy loam and doesn’t retain moisture very long, for the last 2 years, I have been adding gypsum, too. Gypsum (Calcium-sulfate-dihydrate) is a soft mineral that loosens compacted soil and enhances its ability to retain moisture. My father-in-law recommended it years ago, but it was not something I ever saw or read about in gardening articles. Recently it has begun to show up in garden centers, and I’ve taken to spreading it Spring and Fall. Based on my observation, I think it is helping to improve the structure of my soil.
As the leaves begin to fall, we rake and shred them. Years ago I asked for a chipper/shredder for my birthday. People laugh, but this machine is a life-saver on a property like ours. It turns massive piles of leaves or brush into compact mounds of useful material. (The owner’s manual says this 6.5 horsepower unit reduces yard debris to 1/12th its original size.) The shredded leaves can be added to compost, but they make wonderful mulch just as they are. They insulate the plant roots through the seasons, enrich the soil and minimize the need for weeding. The chipped wood can be spread on pathways.
Tags: Azalea, Holly, Hydrangeas, Peony, Iris, Winterberry, Dogwood, Mountain Laurel, Pieris, Rohododendrons, Lilac, shredded leaves, mulch, rodents, fall tasks, organic lawn care, organic gardening, thatch rake, perennial grass seed, reseed, chipper/shredder, Calcium-sulfate-dihydrate, Gypsum, soil structure, lime, acidifier, soil pH, pH, acidic soil, Bulb Tone
I try to wait till after the leaves have fallen and we’ve had a frost to spread the mulch on my planting beds. By that time most of the rodents have found their winter lairs and won’t be nesting in my shredded leaves. Spreading an inch or two of shredded leaves is just like tucking the gardens to bed for the winter night.