As the temperatures begin to dip, it’s time to start prepping your garden for autumn and winter. To get an idea of what we should be doing before it gets too cold out, we talked to Sharon Carr and Ryan Sniegocki at Hocott’s Garden Center—and also asked what they’re growing this fall. “I do Indian Hawthorns and twice-blooming azaleas in my front yard,” Sharon says. “In my side yard, I have loropetalums, and in my backyard along my fence, that’s where I have all my edibles. I have a little vegetable garden back there where I grow cabbage, kale, swiss chard, pansies, and mums.”
Read on for three items to add to your to-do list to prep your garden for the colder months.
1. Cut back your perennials.
Depending on the size of your garden or beds, you can cut back your perennials as early as the end of September or as late as the first freeze.
Ryan: I wait until they’re very ugly to cut mine. Even when they’re starting to yellow out, they’re still absorbing light and getting nutrients. So if you cut them too quick, what you might be doing is messing up their blooming cycle for the next year. I wait until the first freeze, and they after that they really wilt and turn brown. That’s when I go out there and cut everything down. Even after you cut them back, they’re still under there and they’re growing. The root system is the thing you care about.
Sharon: I cut mine at end of September because I don’t have that much room. Ryan’s right; if you have a lot of room, you can let them go until later. You do want to cut them all the way back to the ground. If you have just one bed, you can cut those perennials back and top dress—put some soil lightly and plant your something like pansies around them.
2. Prep your beds.
Fall is a good time to prep your soil because the ground is drier. Plus, the beds have all winter to soak in any added nutrients.
Sharon: The main thing in getting ready for the winter is to prep your beds properly. Add new soil; I recommend Super Soil plus Fertilome potting soil and mix that all together. Then add Plant-tone down in there, which is the king of the kings for feed during the winter. That makes you have really strong roots.
3. Plant fall bulbs.
Bulbs planted in the fall that bloom in the spring—like tulips, daffodils, crocus, and hyacinths—are best planted in October and November when the soil has begun to cool.
Sharon: I plant my bulbs right after Thanksgiving. I just dig a small hole and stick the bulbs down in there between my pansies.
Ryan: The end of December is too late for bulbs. Plus, the ground is frozen, so it’s harder to plant. And depending on what you buy, they’ll come back year after year. Tulips, they’ll sometimes come back; daffodils, they’ll come back like clockwork.