Mar Jennings' Fall Gardening Secrets

August 30, 2014

No matter where you live or what your climate may be, each year you and your garden will experience the Fall season. Mother Nature does not care whether you live in Connecticut or California. Even if you don't have the extremes of temperature to indicate it, your yard still goes through a yearly growth cycle, and this is the perfect time to discover my fall gardening secrets.

If you're a gardener, whether you embrace it as an opportunity to learn something new or just venture out to experience the great outdoors, you probably already have an appreciation for the time of year. Over the years I have adapted my gardening secrets to a proven list every season, and they have become what I do year after year. So here are my Fall gardening secrets—I think they're clever, simple, and rather innovative, but all attainable.

Updating your planter and window boxes with perennials.

  • Fall time is normally when the garden goes to rest, and annuals lose their luster. Every Fall I take the opportunity to fill my window boxes and planters with perennials that give me texture and interest through the winter season.
  • I benefit from this in the Spring as I am able to transplant them into my garden. Good for my window boxes, and even better for my ever-growing garden.

Getting Chrysanthemums aka mums to come back year after year.

  • Fall is a time of year that, no matter where you live, mums are in abundance, and easy to pop into planters, urns and window boxes. They are a perfect replacement for the annuals we have enjoyed since spring.
  • Hundreds of thousands of hardy mums are produced yearly in Delaware. When you purchase these plants they are either plants that have been recently dug from the field or they may have been grown in the pots. But getting these hardy mums to come back next year requires a special trick. When the flowers are spent, take the plant and transplant it in the garden. Then ignore it; it will completely die off. Early next Spring, you will simply remove all the debris, by cutting the plant all the way down to the ground. Keep watering it, and watch it return.
  • Mums require a good deal of water and fertilizer, so a weekly application of soluble fertilizer is a good practice.
  • You can repeat this year after year for a great show with the same plant.

Do an inventory of your garden to select which garden plants can do double-duty as decorations through the season

  • Tall grasses make an excellent replacement for cornstalks. You can keep them in the garden for winter interest, but because you will need to cut them down in the Spring anyway, I like to cut them now and use them for Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations in place of traditional corn stalks—which most of us have to buy. I love this look. My favorite is the zebra grass because it is variegated and has such great "cat-tails". After cutting them, I wrap the middle of the stalk in garden twine—it's a great festive look, and it comes from my own garden.
  • Small stone and concrete garden decorations can give terrific decorative value indoors—so bring them in and let their weathered beauty show. Why have this garden detail covered by leaves or snow when you can look at it every day.
  • Sedum flowers are a wonderful resource for fall flower arrangements. Long- lasting and perfect for adding texture to any flower arrangement. I love to use roses and the sedum flower packed tight and tied with a rubber bands. An amazing display.
  • Magnolia leaves make simple but stunning place cards for Fall dinner parties, so collect them now. A metallic Sharpie is all you need for writing the name, and then simply tuck the stem-end of the leaf into the napkin holder.

Perfect time to create a garden, change a garden or add to a garden.

  • Everything is on sale, as garden centers—big and small—reduce their inventory for the end of the season. Fall savings can be anywhere from 20-75% off.
  • The individual plants may not look pretty but are totally worth the price. Remember, you are planting for next Spring. The springtime rewards will be worth it.
  • I always do a quick check of where I want to fill in spaces in my garden, and then go shopping; this lets me sleep contentedly through winter!

Replace a fence or add a fence but only with pressure treated post.

  • Most fencing companies do the bulk of their business in Spring and Summer, so prices can be much cheaper in the Fall.
  • Because the garden is finished is growing season, there is less for workmen to trample when it's being installed!
  • Important tip: Take advantage of the lower-priced time of year to upgrade any rotting post to pressure-treated posts (rather than cedar) as they will last longer than any other wood post you could use.
  • Cedar works fine for fence boards because they are not submersed in the soil, for the same reason it would be one of my last choices for a wood fence post. Ruling out using metal posts, the best wood post would be a Pressure-treated post.

Hairspray for your hydrangeas

  • No matter where you live in the US, there is at least 1 type of hydrangea that grows really well there.
  • They are a perfect flower to bring inside to remind you of your blooming garden long after the flowering season is over.
  • The hydrangea flower will naturally dry on the stalk, so you can cut bunches and bring indoors. To keep them from crumbing I do something my grandmother taught me: give them a spritz of aerosol hairspray for years of enjoyment.

And there you have it.

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