Summer has come and gone and the kids are back to school. It also means the days are getting noticeably shorter and generally cooler. As part of our 2015 Complete Home Maintenance Tasks Calendar, this month make the most of what is left of the warm weather, grab your garden gloves and start planting for next year’s spring garden.
“This is the perfect time of year to take stock of what worked in your garden this summer and what didn’t,” says Linda Rushlow, owner/horticulturist of Urban Patio Designs. “Maybe you’ve noticed that a plant hasn’t done as well as expected, whether it’s because of too little sun or too much sun. In either case, perhaps it is time to move it to a better spot in your garden.”
In addition, if you noticed your annuals are looking a tad sad and droopy, pull them out.
“It doesn’t mean though that you still can’t have beautiful colour in your garden or planters for a few weeks this fall and winter,” Rushlow says. “Asters are gorgeous fall plants that come in an array of colours such as purple, yellow and red. There are also mums, pansies and heather that last through much of the winter.”
This is also the best time of year to purchase your bulbs because at most garden centres the selection will be at its premium. However, Rushlow cautions not to plant too soon because the province has experienced an unusually hot summer this year.
“Typically, we could be starting to plant our bulbs during the first two weeks of September, however, this year I’d advise not to do it until later in the month,” adds the horticulturist. “The soil is too warm right now and if you plant bulbs in soil that is too hot the flowers will come up too soon.”
Having said that, when you plant depends largely on where you live in BC. The ground will freeze faster in the Cariboo, for example, than it will in the Okanagan or the Lower Mainland.
“In Cache Creek you can probably plant your bulbs a couple of weeks earlier than in Vernon,” Rushlow adds. “Spring-blooming bulbs, cool-season vegetables, perennials, trees and shrubs can all be planted in the fall.”
The window for fall planting ends about six weeks before your area gets hit with a hard frost, usually late September or October (although it could be later this year because of our particularly warm summer weather).
“I suggest you check with your garden centre to find out what weather zone you are in so that you can more accurately know when to plant your spring bulbs,” she adds. “I remind my clients that all spring-blooming bulbs need a period of cold dormancy to bloom. So, by planting bulbs in the fall you can make sure you have a beautiful spring display in your garden beds or planters.”
Rushlow’s Top Bulbs to Plant in Fall
If you’re wondering what you can plant in the fall, the answer is almost anything. Here are eight wonderful bulbs to put in the ground during the early fall.
- Winter aconite
- Grape hyacinth
- Siberian squills
“If you have a problem with deers coming into your backyard, the last five on my list of bulbs are deer resistant,” Rushlow adds..
Rushlow’s Fall Tips for Gorgeous Spring Gardens/Containers
- If you have dead plants, clean them out of your garden or planter.
- Check your plants for insects, especially because this summer was tough on plants, causing them to be stressed due to lack of water.
- If the soil is looking compacted, add a layer of compost or nutrient-rich soil. “Perhaps your garden beds need a new layer of mulch,” she says. “Also, I don’t advise reusing potting soil because it doesn’t come with lots of nutrients … throw the old soil into the compost and start fresh.”
- Fertilize over your top soil with some bone meal. Rich in nutrients such as phosphorus and calcium it’s good for many types of plants and soil.
- Don’t get rid of your coffee grounds – place them in your compost and then spread a little on your gardens and in your planters.
- Plant bulbs at a depth three to four times the height of the bulb. A one-inch bulb needs to be planted about four inches into the ground, pointy side up. “If by mistake you plant them upside down, they will still grow but they will be stunted and a bit deformed,” she adds.
- If you are planting bulbs in pots, rather than “soldiers in a line,” group a bunch of them together, say eight, for that wow factor.
- In planters, mix and match a variety of bulbs and layer them as well.