I know it’s overused at this point, but it’s a phrase that jangles around in my head every morning as I watch the weather forecast and plant my day.  

As a gardener, weather rules my day to day life and this fall it has been a little difficult to get all of my fall tasks planned and then executed with all the rain.  

But rain or no, it’s time to put our summer gardens to bed for the season, assess what we have (and what we’d like to add) and set ourselves up for happy healthy gardens next spring.  In my opinion, fall is arguable the most important gardening season we people in New England have.  Good preparation now can save us loads of time and effort in the spring.  Here’s a basic checklist of what I look for and do in fall gardens. 

  • As I cut back all my soft perennials, I’m mindful of how the plant will regrow next year and I cut the stems to a length I know won’t interfere with next year’s growth or leave me with a mess at the base of the plants that come up.  It’s much more time consuming to have to pick this year’s debris out of next spring’s soft new foliage.  Also, raking over new growth in the spring often damages it.  Better to get it done now!
  • Pruning shrubs like hydrangea, roses, spirea, willows and viburnum, just to name a few, is ideal now too.  With most of the leaves gone, we can see the basic form and structure of the plant.  We can identify problem spots such as crossed branches, sucker growth, or weather damage.  And we can assess the basic health such as the condition of the bark, how much new growth was put on this season and if next year’s bud sets look healthy.  
  • Once perennials are cut back and shrubs are pruned, it’s important to actually look at the soil.  Weed!!  Allowing weeds to overwinter simply means we’ll have weeds in abundance next season.  Compost in a fall garden is a great idea, especially if there are new plantings or transplants.  
  • With gardens freshly cut back and cleared out, it’s a perfect time to really SEE our gardens.  Perennial clumps that should be split are more obvious now.  Plants that have become too crowded can be moved.  Empty areas or areas that need a little more color can be seen.  
  • Last but not least, it’s NOT TOO LATE to plant! Fall planted material does amazing in gardens.  Without having to spend energy on flowers and foliage, plants can just settle into their space. 

Happy Gardening!