The warm and seemingly carefree days of summer are through. With the exception of an unusually warm day or the odd warm spell, it is now time to dress in layers when you’re out in your garden. Fall colours start to set in as burning bushes turn fiery red and chokecherries turn burgundy in your yard. Deciduous trees paint forested areas with shades of yellow, orange, red and brown. Migrating birds like swallows and kingbirds as well as butterflies that travel farther south begin their journey. You are grateful for fall hardy perennials that still hold their blooms, like New England asters and wild yarrow. There is still some work to be done; it’s not over till it’s over!
- Start putting out winter bird feeders and suet containers.
- Create a brush pile to provide shelter for birds over the winter.
- Take down nesting boxes and clean them with a stiff brush and boiling water (wear a mask). Make any needed repairs.
- Clean out and repair bat boxes.
- Pest-proof your house. Once you ensure that any intruders are gone, seal all entry points to your attic or chimney.
General Gardening Chores
- Set out traps for slugs—they breed in the fall.
- Compost raked leaves in a temporary wire enclosure if they overflow your compost bin. Alternatively save your leaves for adding to your compost bin as the level goes down, in which case you can store them in a garbage bin with the lid on.
- Spread leaves in a carpet under trees and shrubs to form a protective mulch; don’t leave them on the lawn, which can damage the grass.
- Water the mulch down a bit to help it stay in place. This can be a permanent mulch and a fine place to grow wildflowers.
- If you’re experiencing a dry autumn, water any young trees.
- On a warm day, drain and smoothly coil your hoses and take them inside.
- Empty and cover any rain barrels before the temperature drops below freezing.
- Clean out old flower pots and sterilize with a mix of one part bleach/vinegar to nine parts water.
- Use burlap to wrap and protect plants from road salt or areas where ice may accumulate or drip. If deer tend to strip your trees or shrubs, a burlap barrier will protect from this as well.
Planting and Pruning
- Plant coniferous trees such as pine, cedar and spruce in the early fall, when the leaves start to change colour, or late spring, once the soil warms.
- Plant perennials in sparse areas; transplant those that are looking unhappy.
- Divide crowded perennials such as black-eyed Susan, cardinal flower, evening primrose or coreopsis.
- Divide and transplant if you wish to share with friends or if you notice the centre of the plant getting bare.
- Seed your lawn as late as six weeks before the first frost.
- Though you should do most of your pruning in spring in Canada, repair storm damage or remove dead branches at any time. DO NOT use pruning paints to do this, however, as modern research shows they often cause more harm than good.
- Move potted plants indoors or bury them in the garden soil.