by LJ Hodek-Creapeau, Circkles Managing Editor
By autumn, most gardeners are ready for a break, unless you’re like me and you prefer working in cool weather instead of the hot spring weather of the Southwest, and you are looking for things to do in the fall that will ease your gardening workload come spring because you have so much to do in the spring it’s just crazy. Or, maybe you are just bored now that growing season is over and looking for something productive to do. Here are a few autumn chores to ease your spring burden, keep you feeling like you are gardening when the season is over, or just to stave off the boredom of the bad weather months.
Spring or Fall Fertilizing?
People often ask us if it’s best to fertilize in the spring or fall. Well, that depends on the usage for the area you are fertilizing or the plant you are fertilizing. If you are fertilizing with manure, you should do it in the spring because the high nitrogen content of manures causes new top growth and you don’t want to encourage new, green growth that will be nipped by fall frosts and then frozen over the winter.
If you are fertilizing to try and promote root growth, that is best done in the fall since the roots do the majority of their growing over winter. You want to use a good compost to loosen up the soil around the roots, allow for good water retention and to give added nutrition to the root area. Work in your compost around trees, bushes and plant roots down to as far as you can without disturbing the roots.
Boost Your Mulch and Compost
Autumn is a good time to work on that compost pile so you will have plenty ready to go for spring. All those leaves you are raking up; throw them in the compost pile. All the dead debris from your garden plants; throw those in the pile. You don’t want to leave plants to die in the garden because bugs like to overwinter in them and lay eggs on them that will be just waiting for spring to eat your new crops. Also, cleaning up your backyard orchard of fallen fruit and debris will discourage mice and other rodents from living in your orchard and snacking on your young tree trunks over the winter.
When the weather is cool is a good time to also trim trees. It’s best to trim and shape trees and bushes in the fall to encourage new growth in the spring. Or maybe you have some trees that need pruning of dead broken branches or they need to be cut down. You can rent a wood chipper and make mulch out of those branches and cut trees, and mulching your plants in the fall will keep the frost from damaging the roots easily.
You’ve heard people talk about spring cleaning for centuries, but I prefer fall cleaning since I will be closed up in my house all winter. Having a clean nest over the winter is healthier and just feels good. I clean my windows, the screens and dust from top to bottom once I am no longer opening the windows because it’s too cold outside. I clean out my frig and throw the old produce in the compost pile. I wash all my curtains, bed and couch coverings and anything else that has collected dust over the summer from having the windows open. Keeping the house dust free over the winter is a very good idea since it will be closed up and you will be forced to breathe the air inside for months.
Spruce up Your Winter
Nothing says you have to give up gardening completely just because it’s snowing outside. Start some culinary herbs in pots that you can use for cooking, some winter flowers like Christmas cactus or Easter lilies, or anything else that will add some color and spruce up the inside of your winter home.