Fall Tasks For A Better Spring

Don’t hang up your clippers and gardening gloves just yet! By doing some of your fall tasks now, your garden can be all ready for next spring. Yes, spring seems a long way off now but with a few extra fall chores, you may just be getting ready for your best garden yet! After all, the greatest gardens often start in the fall. Let’s look into a few ways to make this happen!

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Save Seeds

Now is the perfect time to collect mature seeds from your favorite garden varieties. The weather has been perfect for keeping those seeds dry. Some seeds to start out with could include beans, kale and nasturtiums. If you have seeds forming from open-pollinated plants, why not give seed saving a try? It’s a great way to save money and keep those special varieties for next year. You will also have some garden seeds to swap with your friends.

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Saving bean seeds.

I’ve got the seed saving basics outlined right here. Get the kids involved. They will love getting the big seeds out of the bean pods once dry. You can make a game out of hunting for the nasturtium seeds that are ready for drying.

Garden Cleanup 

Much of spring garden work can be eliminated by cleaning up as much as possible in the fall. A garden left in tact can be pretty when covered with snow or frost but it’s a huge mess come spring. Why not leave some plants for winter interest and photo ops while cutting down the rest? If you have dealt with disease or pest problems, cleanup is an excellent way to ensure that you get rid of the problem. We deal with tomato blight in our area so my plants need to be bagged up or totally destroyed.

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It’s a messy job!

Garden cleanup can be a hot topic but as a gardener, I love getting the garden put to bed every autumn. It helps with the following spring when things get really busy. I have put together some tips right here for fall cleanup!

Start A Compost Pile

Have you been dreaming about making your own compost? It may be the time to get started. With all of the garden debris from your garden cleanup, you could be on your way to a big start in composting! Most perennial plant matter and spent annuals can go right into the pile. Veggie garden vines and such can go in there too. Add in some fallen leaves and kitchen vegetable scraps for a balanced mix.

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A nice mixture of greens and browns for the compost.

Whether you purchase a contained composting drum or just build a square frame with wire, composting is one of the best ways to deal with garden plant matter. There are endless ideas out there for making your own bin. You can even keep adding stuff over the winter if you have access to it. Maybe this is the time to start that worm composting bin you’ve always wanted.

Season Extension 

How could I not mention season extension? If you planted a fall garden or have greens that are still doing well, give them some protection from the cold. Construct a cold frame or make a mini greenhouse over the plants. Kale, spinach, hardy lettuce or parsley. Many things can be overwinter and even harvested through the winter months. Yes, even in Maine!

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Floating row cover suspended over greens.

To learn all about 4 season growing click here. For some simple season extension tips, check this out. We have been growing in this way for many years and are thrilled with the results!

Plant Some Garlic

Growing your own garlic is fun and rewarding. Fall planted garlic is easy to grow and is super exciting to harvest the following summer. From mild to spicy hot, there’s a garlic variety for every palette. Even if you have a small garden space, a 3×3 area can yield a decent amount of garlic. Many of us use a ton of garlic in the kitchen. Why not try your hand at growing some for yourself?

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Red Russian seed garlic.

Did you grow garlic this past year? Then select some of your larger cloves to replant! You can find out the simple steps to growing garlic here!

Plant Spring Bulbs

What would spring be without the snowdrops, crocus and tulips popping up? Ever wish that you had more color in your spring garden? The stores are full of plump bulbs right now. The bulb catalogs are coming in the mail. You could plant some bright blooms near your doorway. Grab a bushel of sturdy daffodils for an amazing natural display on the edge of the forest.

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Bulbs ready for planting!

The possibilities are endless and only limited by your budget or ambition! Try growing some of the more unusual bulbs such as allium, fritillaria or some bizarre tulips. Frilly tulips, double daffodils or fall blooming crocus. If you do, your garden will be bursting with spring color! You can find more suggestions here.

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Last show before frost!

These are just a few fall tasks that will get you well on your way to garden success in 2018! Get out and enjoy that fabulous fall air. There is still so much beauty to behold! The air is cooler and the ticks are out. Be careful out there as you take in all that fall has to offer. I’ve been taking the greenhouse plants down with a little assistance from my little garden helper. Let’s just say that there is never a dull moment! Until next week…happy gardening!

Hilary|Everlongardener

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Beau is always in a tangle!

 

Plant Bulbs Now For Spring Color

After a long winter, what is one of springs greatest joys?  The spring color of fall planted bulbs!  We go out searching every day for that first crocus or snowdrop, anxiously awaiting any sign that warmer weather is coming soon!  The key is to plant bulbs now for spring color!

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Bulbs are relatively easy to grow.  Give them the right location and soil conditions, and you can have many years of bulb flower power.  If you are just starting out in flower gardening, bulbs may be a fool-proof place to start.  With so much variety, colors and types, the options are endless!

Bright yellow tulips!
Bright yellow tulips!

Uses In The Landscape

There are so many ways that you can use spring bulbs in your home landscape.  A rock garden can be a fine home for a few early bulbs nestled into the crevices.  Small plantings of scilla, crocus or dwarf iris may do the trick.

Grape hyacinth.
Grape hyacinth.

Naturalizing spring bulbs is a fabulous way to have a show of color in drifts on your property.  Daffodil, scilla or grape hyacinth are a natural choices here.  As long as the bulbs are not crowded by invasive weeds, bulbs can be planted on the edge of the woods and across meadows.  Bulbs can be planted in an informal way, rows are not recommended.  Dig random holes with a spade and place 4-5 bulbs in each hole.  Each year they should multiply.  Dividing larger clumps every few years is also helpful with establishing the desired look.   Another advantage of planting a distance away is that when the foliage dies back it won’t be that visible.

Daffodils naturalized along a roadway.
Daffodils naturalized along a roadway.

If you want to see cheerful little flowers when you go outside, try planting some near your entry to your home.  This will really dress up you doorway and add that ‘curb appeal’!  Mix with pansies or violas for stunning color contrast.

Pink Impression tulips, mass planting at local business.
Pink Impression tulips, mass planting at local business.

Add bulbs like tulips and muscari to your existing perennial borders.  The beauty of this method is that when the foliage of the bulbs is dying back, the foliage of the perennials is starting to emerge, disguising the ugliness a bit.

Salmon Impression tulip.
Salmon Impression tulip.

Container growing is a way to grow spring bulbs without taking up garden space.  If you are an apartment dweller, planting a display of spring bulbs in an attractive pot or barrel to place by your front door could be a space-saving solution.

Bulbs ready for planting!
Bulbs ready for planting!

In times past, bulbs were often used in more formal, geometric gardens.  Picture ladies in Victorian times taking a turn around the garden, inspecting all of the exotic spring bulbs their gardeners had planted the autumn before.  If you have the space and ambition, this can make your spring garden a real showpiece!  There are so many showy tulips that would be great candidates for this type of garden.  A visit to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in April or May is unbelievable.  The colors and shapes are astounding!

Tulip bulb.
Tulip bulb.

What Do Bulbs Like?

Generally, most bulbs prefer well drained, sandy garden soil.  Soggy, wet soil is not recommended here.  Full sun is a good idea although partial shade is fine.  If you are doing a woodland planting, the soil may be compact and full of roots.  Dig a hole with a spade and remove all roots.  Add some compost or peat moss in with the bulbs.  Then apply some bulb food.  Bulb fertilizer is usually sold anywhere bulbs are sold.  I like to use Bulb Tone.

A flood of flower bulb catalogs!
A flood of flower bulb catalogs!

What To Buy?

It seems like when fall hits there is no shortage of spring bulb catalogs in the mailbox.  Every hardware store and garden center seems to have a bulb display.  There are many reputable companies out there to order from.  It is extremely easy to swooned by those glossy color photos of spring bulbs in bloom.    Fedco seeds offers a modest collection of bulbs.  There are many large companies such as John Scheepers, Van Engelen Inc. (a wholesaler) and k. van Bourgondien to name a few.  For something a bit more interesting, try floret.  Erin Benzakien, a cut flower grower, offers a wide range of gorgeous spring bulbs.  If you live where bulbs are available for purchase, choose plump, firm bulbs.  Make sure that you can see what you are buying.  Avoid moldy, bug-infested and shriveled bulbs.  They have endless bulk deals at the big box stores, just be sure you are buying healthy bulbs for the best results.

Tulip bulbs.
Tulip bulbs.

A List of Bulbs

There are so many bulbs to choose from.  This is just a quick list to get you started with bulbs.

Crocus are among the first to peek out of the ground in spring.  Coming in shades of purple, yellow, white and bi-colors, the possibilities are endless.  Perfect for existing gardens or naturalizing.  Spring blooming crocus work well in sun or part shade.  Plant 4″ deep and 4″ apart.  These should multiply quickly.  Great early bee food too!

Daffodils happily growing in a friends garden.
Daffodils happily growing in a friends garden.

Daffodils come in so many shapes and sizes.  All in the narcissus family, you can find large cupped, small cupped, multi-flowered, double, miniature and trumpet.  It’s a huge list.  You could be easily overwhelmed by a few pages of a bulb catalog.  Terrific for naturalizing , daffodils can find a place in any home garden!  Plant them 6″ deep.

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Tulips come in endless colors, shapes and varieties.  Parrot, double, mid-season, late-season, large, small…you get the picture.  Many tulips are great the first year then somewhat of a letdown in following years.  This is because often tulips are bred for looks not longevity.  Try to pick perennial types like Darwin tulips or species tulips.  Species tulips are very closely related to their wild ancestors.  Although they are shorter than the usual tulips, they put on quite a show in my garden!

Digging with a blob planting tool.
Digging with a bulb planting tool.
Placing the tulip bulb in the hole.
Placing the tulip bulb in the hole.

Squill or scilla come to us from Mediterranean regions.  With their shades of blue, purple and white, they can appear to look like a blue sea if planted at a distance.  Great for naturalizing, rock gardens or borders.  This early bulb likes to be planted 5″ deep and 4-6″ apart.

Muscari.
Muscari.

Grape hyacinth or muscari looks a lot like it’s name.  Little clusters of grapes!  Coming in purple, lavender, pink and white, there can be a place for muscari in every landscape.  Plant along with tulips and they will mark your tulip spots all season.  The foliage lasts all summer and is not unattractive.  Place muscari in the same holes as the tulips for a wonderful contrast at bloom time.

Snowdrops are the first to bloom out of the spring bulbs.  They thrive in sun or filtered shade.  Lovely in drifts throughout the landscape.  They like well drained, sandy soil.  They must be 4″ deep and 2-4″ apart.

These are just a few spring bulbs from a long list.  Just a few things to get you started or maybe a little nudge to get you to add to your existing plantings!

With a little bit of forethought and not too much work, you can make a bulb display that will definitely be something to look forward to.  This fall, I’ve added to my daffodil patch, replenished the tulips and added a few more crocus.  Nothing major but certainly something to think about through the winter!  We’ve had some cooler weather this week.  It even snowed yesterday!  I’ve got the hoop house ready and I now have a thermometer to keep track of high and low temps.  Thanks for checking out Everlongardener this week.  Don’t forget to check me out on Instagram and Facebook!  Maybe you will pick up a few spring flowering bulbs on your next shopping trip!

Hilary|Everlongardener