With cooler temperatures and more frequent rainy days, flower gardening season will soon be coming to an end. It’s time to get the garden cleaned up for the winter. These 10 Fall Flower Garden Cleanup Tips will give you a head start in the spring for a fresh new gardening year.
Some gardeners wait for the spring to clean up their garden, but a fall garden clean up can help prevent pests, weed seeds and diseases from causing problems in your garden over winter and into the spring.
10 Fall Flower Garden Cleanup Tips
1. Annuals that have stopped blooming can be removed
Annuals do not come back from season to season, so they can all be pulled up. Add them to your compost and fill the spaces with new top soil.
2. Cut wildflowers for drying and harvest seeds
If you have a wildflower garden, now is the time to cut any wildflowers you want to dry. Next, remove all dead stalks and weeds and rake soil gently. You can plant new wildflowers in the spring, but most often wildflowers come back well on their own. I purchased all of my wildflower seeds from West Coast Seeds. They have so many varieties to choose from, like Bee Garden Blend, Hummingbird Blend, and Pacific Northwest Blend. It’s easy and rewarding to make your garden a pollinator haven. Just add some native plants, such as anise hyssop, lavender and lupine and some wildflowers.
You can also harvest fully ripened sunflower seeds at this time. Cut the stem a few inches from the head. Remove the seeds by rubbing the seeds from the head with your hand. Dry the seeds fully and store in an air tight container for planting next year. I put mine in mason jars and store them over winter in the garage.
3. Perennials and flower bulbs
Cut back perennials to six inches above the soil. Leave the dried stems and seed heads as they provide nourishment to birds and other wildlife. Even if some of your perennials did not do well this year, do not remove them. Remember that perennials Sleep, Creep, then Leap! They need time to grow strong and show their full splendor.
Divide and store any non-hardy bulbs like dahlia, iris, coneflower, lily, peony, etc. Lay out the bulbs to dry on newspaper or a tarp, then tap all soil away from the bulbs. Next, place the bulbs in a slatted crate box between layers of newspaper and wood chips. I label each layer with the name and colour of the flowers. Keep the bulbs stored in a dry, cool location, such as the garage or cool basement. If you have bulbs that have grown too large and are overcrowded in the garden, you can divide them by gently twisting and pulling small bulbs from the base of the plant.
4. Spread compost and mulch
Spread a layer of compost and mulch throughout your flower garden to provide a layer of nutrients, prevent weeds and protect tender perennials from frost. Two or three inches is sufficient.
You can use your own compost, or buy bagged compost to add to the soil. Bags are sold at nurseries or it can be purchased by the yard and delivered from local garden suppliers or landscaping supply companies, like Art’s Nursery and Klassen Landscape Supply.
5. Fertilize, prune and protect roses
Fertilize roses twice per month, starting in September, until the first frost. This will strengthen their roots to prepare them for winter. Roses can be trimmed back by a third. Spread soil or mulch around the root area. Wrap more vulnerable delicate roses in burlap.
6. Trim and plant new flowering bushes and shrubs
The fall is the best time to trim overgrown areas and remove any dead limbs. Long, dangly limbs can easily break under the weight of heavy snow, so it is best to cut them back. Trimming also stimulates the plant to produce new growth in the summer that will result in more flowers. This is also one of the best times of year to plant new bushes and shrubs, as the cooler weather puts less stress on the plant. Flowering bushes and shrubs such as Gardenia, Hydrangea, Hibiscus and Azalea are excellent additions to any flower beds in your garden.
At this time of year, many garden centres offer deep discounts on leftover bushes and shrubs. Last year I found so many beautiful plants for my garden from Devan Greenhouses Ltd. at 75% off!
7. Remove weeds and bag fallen leaves
Take the time to remove weeds and rake up any fallen leaves. Leaving old leaves and debris in your garden can create a home for mice, rats and moles that can damage your garden or even enter your home. Old plant material is also a breeding ground for disease and fungus that can infect new plants in the spring.
8. Prepare flower beds and plant spring flowering bulbs
Create a spring flower bed. Flowering bulbs prefer full sun, so prepare the flower bed in a well-drained garden area that has full or partial sun. Mix bone meal or superphosphate into the soil. Add some water-soluble fertilizer.
Once temperatures are cooler, usually from September to November, you can plant spring flowering bulbs, as long as the ground is not frozen. Plant bulbs pointed side up to a depth three times their diameter. Replace the soil on top of the bulbs and water the bulbs. Continue to water only when soil is dry.
You can also plant bulbs in large containers filled with potting soil. They can be stored in a garage or cool basement over winter. Water about once per month, or when the soil is dry. You can bring them outside in the spring to bloom in the pot or transplant them into your garden.
9. Clean pots, containers and tools
Wipe pots, containers and tools clean to remove any dirt and debris. You can apply a light layer of oil to tools to help keep them from rusting over the winter. I use WD-40 Multi-use Product.
10. Plan next year’s garden
Survey your garden and think of the possibilities! First identify what didn’t go well and keep that in mind for next year. Sometimes you hope to encourage a certain flower or plant to grow, but the soil or weather conditions were just not ideal. That’s ok. Move on and try something new. Remember what worked well and go for the gusto. This summer my cosmos performed out of this world. They grew to 4 feet and I had blooms all summer long.
You can also take pictures of your flower garden beds now to help you plan how you can add to, move around or take out next year. Garden Planners are great for recording and keeping track of your gardening. Plan ahead and you are sure to succeed next garden season!
I hope you found these 10 Fall Flower Garden Cleanup Tips helpful. Have fun growing an amazing flower garden!