Time to tidy up the garden — you’ll get some exercise, too
By Carol J. Nelson
For The Taos News
It is always difficult, and a little sad, to see the end of summer coming to our gardens. Perennials look spent and dried out and the weeds have begun to take over parts of the garden where we might have once never allowed a sprig to develop.
This is the time, however, to appreciate fall foliage and the colors that autumn brings to the Southwest. Aspens show their beauty on the mountainsides and chamisa, sunflowers and wild asters decorate the roadsides. This is also the season where grasses begin to take center stage in many gardens and show off their seed heads in the fall breezes.
Our gardens are now requiring fall tidy time. Sharpen your clippers and get out the garden rake because it is time to give your garden a second show and prepare for winter’s harsh snows. With careful plant selection and placement, most gardens can have another career after summer is over. Review your garden, looking for trouble spots and remove old blossoms and dried foliage. Remove any spent stalks back to their base but leave any that still look vigorous. A lot of perennials will carry on until a hard frost. Remember to compost spent foliage and flower heads. Weeds and any diseased plants, however, must be disposed of in the trash.
As you move through your garden, keep an eye out for any plants that may have outgrown their spots. These will need to be divided. Plants with crowded roots dry out quickly, are more disease- prone and don’t bloom well. Be sure your cutting tools are very sharp and clean. Take up as much soil as possible without harming any adjacent plants and minimize root exposure to the air. Keep dug up plants hydrated with wet burlap or newspaper if you are not working on them immediately. When replanting the divisions, use a mixture of potting soil and compost and water immediately upon replanting.
Fall is also a good time to focus on your potted plants. Remove the plant material and rinse the pots out with a hose and brush out any remaining dirt. Porous terracotta pots, as well as ceramic pots, will need to be stored in a garage or shed. Place the pots on a pot carrier or wooden slats so they are lifted off the ground in order to keep frost from cracking the pots. You may want to wrap the pots in newspaper in order to minimize chipping.
These are just a few ideas for fall cleanup. If you are interested in more gardening information and meeting like-minded gardeners in the Taos area, consider joining the Los Jardineros Garden Club. Membership information is available by contacting Mary Short at (575) 758-1590 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nelson is a master gardener and member of the Los Jardineros Garden Club.
The weather is still warm enough to put the garden to sleep and get some exercise in the process.
Courtesy Los Jardineros